She has done more in her almost three decades than most people do in a lifetime (TV, movies, books, albums, a marriage, a kid, a divorce).
The woman loves a challenge, especially conquering one—in this case, a wall of Technicolor plastic nubs.
“So, I have a new boyfriend,” she said as she clambered skyward. “He climbed Kilimanjaro.” That boyfriend was Jason Walsh, the celebrity trainer and superhot (ripped AF) founder of Rise Nation fitness. And not even a post-climb green juice that tasted like pond scum could bring Hilary down. “Right now, I feel like I get to be one hundred percent authentic with the person I’m spending my time with,” she said. “To be in a place where you’re comfortable, happy and accepting of each other…it feels so good.”
Just a few weeks prior to our (literal) hang, she’d confirmed her relationship status, as one does, on Instagram. The photo: her and Jason kissing. The caption: “date night with J,” red heart emoji. They met when he was her trainer. After keeping their involvement hush hush, the PDA post was somewhat spontaneous. “I was like, ‘F*** it. He is my boyfriend,’” she told me. “I just needed to make sure it was right. People don’t need to know my business until I really know my business, you know?”
At the time, Hilary was still working out at Jason’s gym, although the romance had complicated their professional sessions. “He’s like, ‘You don’t listen to me anymore. I give up!’ I have a different trainer now,” she reported with a smile.
Maybe it was a sign, maybe not. But by the end of November, Hilary and Jason would call it quits on a personal level as well.
The internet clocked their relationship out at just five months, when really, they were an item long before they were Insta official. “We were seeing each other for a while,” she said on a phone call shortly after Thanksgiving. “People don’t know the ins and outs of everything. It was definitely my first more serious relationship since my ex-husband.” (Hilary split from former pro-hockey player Mike Comrie three years ago. They have a 4-year-old son, Luca.)
In fact, the one relationship she seems to have mastered is with that ex-husband. “Mike’s amazing,” she says. “We’re so ingrained in each other’s lives. I wouldn’t choose anyone else to co-parent with. We are really good friends and care a lot about each other.” Proof: On Thanksgiving, Duff posted a picture of her family, Mike included, cheesing for the camera. And despite their divorce being finalised last February, the two planned to spend Christmas together too, same as last year. But in all this we-get-along-so-great stuff, where and when does a new boyfriend fit in?
She hesitates when I ask if she and Mike tell each other who they are—or were dating. “I don’t want to talk too much about that,” she begins. “But yeah, we do. We feel like it’s respectful to keep everybody in the loop. I don’t know as much about his life as he knows about mine because mine’s a lot more public.” Aggressive dating is not her MO though. “I’ve never been a good dater. I meet, like, one person a year that I’m maybe attracted to.” She says she’s learned not to force feelings that just aren’t there. “I never want to be that girl who’s desperate to find a mate.”
Beyond the personal front, Hilary is gearing up for the fourth season of playing Kelsey Peters on Younger. The show centers on actress Sutton Foster’s 40-something pretending to be a 26-year-old to land a hot job in publishing and, yes, a younger boyfriend. While Hilary says she wouldn’t date a guy who’s her junior – “sorry, never” – she deeply identifies with the friendships at the heart of the show. She counts her co-star Molly Bernard, who plays Lauren, among her ride-or-dies. “We had a sleepover, and she was like, ‘Man, being in your 20s sucks.’ I’m like, ‘I know, girl, I feel you.’ I’ve obviously done the things I’m most proud of in my 20s, like having a child. But I feel like the struggle of your 20s is just not feeling good enough. It’s a lot of noise in your head.”
That’s why the girl who was Lizzie McGuire is actually excited to turn 30: “I think I’m a pretty confident person. I’ve had a career for a long time, but I’ve put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself as a woman, a businessperson and an actress. I’m like, ‘Am I doing enough?’ Everyone I’ve talked to says you come into your own in your 30s. You feel more secure. I’m looking forward to that.” And while she welcomes the increased emotional maturity, she’s kinda dreading the face creases that come with that. “I have to say, aging scares me a little bit,” the star confesses. “What’s going to happen? What am I going to look like in 10 years? Being 29 is already different from being 25. My body doesn’t respond the same way to food or even training,” she tells me. “I don’t have the energy I had even two years ago. I can usually get in good shape pretty fast, but I can fall out of shape pretty fast too.” Hilary’s preferred workouts are low-impact, like yoga: “Even though I love Spinning, my vagina always hurts really bad afterward!” More honesty: “I’m always in that 5- to 10-pound struggle. If I really wanted to make changes, I could, but I enjoy myself.”
Lately, she’s been putting more muscle behind her professional moves. Last year, she changed managers, ending a business relationship she’d had since she was 11, to sign with Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s rep). And she’s setting her sights on fashion and consumer products: “I still feel passionate about acting and singing, but if it can all meld together somehow, there’s a story there. I just need to hash it out.”
Unlike some former child stars, she’s not at all compelled to do a total 180 on her image in order to appear cooler, edgier or interested in the avant-garde. “I have to accept that I’m just a very mainstream person. I can watch the odd film here and there, but I’m not super
excited about it like everybody else. I saw Hamilton. I loved Hamilton. The whole world does. That’s who I am.”
In that same vein, starting fresh doesn’t mean denying her past. There is no big purge of exes from her Instagram (as of press time, the headline-making post of her and Jason smooching was still live). Nor does she disown the kiddie roles that made her famous. “I’m just figuring it all out,” she says. “I feel good about what I’ve accomplished, but it’s wild how fast time goes by.” And really, her approach to finding her next big project is the same as finding her next big love: “I’m not super stressed about it. I’m not coming down on myself like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get out there.’ It’ll happen again. I have my whole life ahead of me.”
This article was originally published as ‘Sitting Pretty’ in the March 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more inspiring celeb interviews, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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