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Hilary Duff rose to fame quickly. But behind-the-scenes she was facing some secret struggles.

For millennials, Hilary Duff was one of the most prominent figures of our childhoods.

We watched her on Disney and rushed to theatres for The Lizzie McGuire Movie, we sang along to her albums and we were extremely invested in the Aaron Carter/Lindsey Lohan/Hilary Duff love triangle. Those were the days.

Duff was best known in the early 2000s as the squeaky-clean Disney star and in subsequent years, was held up as an example of a Disney star that avoided going ‘off the rails’ like so many of her peers did.

Although Duff’s public image was never majorly tarnished, it would be naive to suggest the 31-year-old’s life in the spotlight has always been smooth sailing.

hilary duff aaron carter
Hilary Duff and Aaron Carter at The Lizzie McGuire Movie premiere in 2003. Image: Getty.

In 2001 Duff began dating Aaron Carter, then dumped her for Lindsey Lohan before breaking up with Lohan to get back with Duff. It became a thing, with tweens around the world far too emotionally invested in the love triangle.

Duff and Carter continued an on-again-off-again relationship for three years before calling it quits for good because he cheated with her best friend. That was 15 years ago, but still, we haven't forgiven him.

Then in June 2004 Duff moved on with Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden, causing controversy at the time as she was 16 and he was 25. They dated for two years before breaking up in 2006.

Hilary Duff and Joel Madden
Hilary Duff and Joel Madden at her 18th birthday party in 2005. Image: Getty.
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Reflecting on this time in her life, Duff told Health she struggled with body image throughout her teen years and felt the pressure to 'fit in' with a body-image obsessed industry.

"When I was 17, I was totally obsessed with everything I put in my mouth. I was way too skinny. Not cute," she said.

"And my body wasn't that healthy - my hands would cramp up a lot because I wasn't getting the nutrition I needed.

"That constant pressure of wanting something different than I had? I regret that. I feel like there was way too much time spent thinking about that."

But unlike other Disney stars - think Lohan and Miley Cyrus - Duff didn't have a 'wild' phase or go off the rail. If she had struggles, she kept them private.

"At 19, I did a massive friend cleanse," she told Cosmopolitan.

"That was really hard, to sit down with people and say 'We can't be friends anymore.' They were like 'That's f**ked up; you're a b**ch.'

"But having a good reputation was important to me. That's not to say I didn't screw up and do little naughties here and there."

After years of being tied to Disney and her role as Lizzie McGuire, Duff began transitioning from 'teen' to 'adult' actress in the mid-2000s.

Her most obvious attempt to shred her Disney image came in 2007, when Duff posed on the cover of Maxim, accompanied by the words "from the queen of teen to breakout sex symbol".

hilary duff maxim
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This was at about the same time she started dating hockey player, Mike Comrie. The couple announced their engagement and married in 2010, announcing her pregnancy not long after in 2011.

Duff gave birth to a son, Luca, in March 2012.

Following Luca's birth, Duff told Health she learned to shake off the hang-ups she'd faced as a teenager and embrace her body.

"Oh my God, everyone was so hard on me because it took me a year and a half to get my body back!

"This is the body that I have. I have a very athletic build, and I am so proud of what my body has done for me. I had the best, healthiest, strongest pregnancy. And I feel good about myself."

Hilary Duff and Mike Comrie
Despite separating in 2014, Hilary Duff has said she and Mike Comrie remain "really good friends" who "care a lot about each other" and are frequently snapped out on family vacations. Image: Getty.

In 2014 Duff and Comrie separated and in February 2015 Duff filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences, although she maintained they were still close and dedicated to bringing up Luca together.

"I think that I was in a very successful marriage for a long time," she told her Younger co-star Nico Tortorella on his podcast The Love Bomb.

"We got together based on love, and we separated in a very loving way. I can't imagine going through that process with anyone but him, and he continues to be my very good friend.

"That's honestly speaking from my heart. So, I think we handled it very consciously and with a lot of love."

Hilary Duff and son Luca.Hilary Duff and son Luca.
Hilary Duff and son Luca. Image: Instagram.
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Just months after their divorce, Duff was offered a role on Younger - and she almost didn't take it because it meant moving herself and Luca to New York City.

She reconsidered after a call from the show's creator, Sex and the City's Darren Star and after falling in love with the character of Kelsey.

"[Her character Kelsey] is grown-up but makes a shit ton of mistakes, which I loved. I didn't get to make many mistakes publicly in my life. I was always concerned with what people would think."

In January 2017, Duff started a relationship with musician Matthew Koma,who she had met while working on her 2015 album Breathe In. Breathe Out.

In December of that year Duff told The Talk things were "going so great" after breaking up and getting back together earlier in the year over conflicting schedules.

"I think that you have history and a past with someone and love, and just because it doesn’t work out the first time, the second time, as long as there’s not too much damage done, then, it can always work out again," she said.

In June 2018, Duff and Koma confirmed Duff was pregnant with their first child together and on October 25, 2018 she gave birth to daughter Banks Violet Bair.

hilary duff instagram
Hilary Duff and daughter Banks. Image: Instagram.
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These days, Duff is feeling content, putting the body image issues she faced due to growing up in the public eye behind her, despite a "hard as hell" second pregnancy.

"Image is something we're all very aware of because it's constantly being talked about, which is a little bit disappointing, and then also helps you be very in tune with yourself - your behaviour, your body, and your happiness," she told BYRDIE.

"I really feel like I have a healthy relationship with myself, where I know when I'm being ‘bad' or I know when I'm being really ‘good' health-wise, and both are necessary for me as part of my lifestyle and happiness, to have balance.

"I really try to treat my body well. And my mind. And try to have a healthy outlook on [the public scrutiny]. I'm the only one that can control my relationship with myself, and I want to constantly be in control of it, you know? Whatever ‘it' is."

In 2016 Duff said getting married again was a big "maybe", but her relationship with Matthew has swayed her. On May 9, 2019 (May 10 AEST) Duff confirmed in an Instagram post that she and Koma were engaged.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

He asked me to be his wife♥️

A post shared by Hilary Duff (@hilaryduff) on

“He asked me to be his wife,” Duff captioned a picture of the couple, showing her holding up her hand to show her new diamond ring.

Congrats to the happy couple.

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