Last fall, as singer/actress/budding businesswoman Hilary Duff was turning 18, she wanted to take a month off from her various projects because she felt exhausted and overextended. But one year later, she's still going nonstop, launching a perfume, guest-editing the October issue of Seventeen magazine and debuting a new video — all at the same time.
How much stuff can one Duff do?
"It's funny because I don't think we ever just sit around the table [asking], 'What else can we fit on the plate?' " she said. "There's so many things I could do, but I have so many opportunities, I can say, 'Mmm, that's not such a good idea,' or 'I don't think I'll enjoy that.' If I have to put a lot of work into it and I'm not going to love it, I won't do it. I have to focus on the things that I love."
Which means — for now — her music, movies, clothing line and new perfume, called With Love. Duff wisely maximized the media exposure for her latest product offering with a bit of well-executed synergy, so her face graced the cover of Seventeen and her video for "Play With Fire" was in the "TRL" voting lineup around the time of the fragrance's September 14 launch (see "Hilary Duff: Psychedelic Dance Star? Singer Shoots Trippy Clip For New Single").
But while Duff might have learned a few business tricks over the years, she's not interested in keeping them to herself: Part of the reason she wanted to take over Seventeen was so she could impart to her peers some of the financial wisdom she's accumulated while building a brand.
"So many of my friends have started getting credit cards, and the banks don't really tell you how this works, like 'Do this, but don't do that,' " she explained of why she made sure pages like "How to Get Rich! (While You're Still Young)" were included in the issue. "So it was important for me to put financial info in there, to let kids know that you have to pay attention to certain things and not fall into a trap. It's only been within the last two years that I started to get interested in my business and my money and how investments work. I had no clue before. But I've learned so much just sitting with my business manager."
But even Duff admits she's got a long way to go before she understands — or can even do — it all.
"I don't do the contracts," she said. "I have a lot of great people that take care of me and keep a tight look on whatever's going on. But I keep my eyes and ears open. I want to know, because it is me and my business. And it's been eye-opening to see how everything works."
Her fascination with how things work — whether it's making a magazine, a perfume or a clothing line — is what motivates her moonlighting, more than any bonus cash or fame that comes with each new project. "People think perfume just appears in the store somehow. They don't think about it, but the process is amazing," she said, rattling off the steps her team took making 115 versions until they finalized the scent for With Love. "I'm kind of a perfectionist," she admitted.
For Hilary, the magazine and the perfume were opportunities to reveal parts of herself that she feels get overlooked when it comes to her movies and music. When she's making a film, she said, she's just playing a character, and when she's onstage, she's "a little bit bigger" than her normal personality. "I think people see me a certain way," she said, "and they don't know me or how I am."
The real Hilary comes across in the little remarks scribbled to readers throughout the October issue of Seventeen, she said, alerting them to health and financial topics she cares about, as well as the various notes in the perfume. "All the things I like in my life, we put them in the fragrance," she said. "Of course I'm older and I'm growing up, so it captures that. It's pretty sophisticated. It's definitely not 'sweet and happy.' It just matches my personality and my taste, so I'm just sharing it with somebody else."
Duff's not ready to stop there. She's already planning her future as a clothing designer ("Hopefully, when I get older, I'll get to have a high-fashion line that's a little more exclusive," she said). And wide-eyed at the thought of being a real editor or perfumer, she's eager to explore the career opportunities her celebrity affords her — as long she gets a few perks along the way.
At Seventeen, she got a necklace that reads "Editor," but Elizabeth Arden, the company that makes With Love, one-upped the magazine by giving Duff a chemist's lab coat with her name on it. "I want this to be my job," she giggled at the thought of it. "I'm already bugging them about doing the next one."