Mandy’s Not Just Candy
Pop Teen Queen Mandy Moore sings out to A&U’s Dann Dulin about protective sex, the art of giving, and having a purpose in life
Seventeen. Janis Ian bemoaned this awkward age in her mid-70s megahit, At Seventeen: “To those of us who knew the pain, of Valentines that never came…. And those of us with ravaged faces lacking in the social graces.” Ian obviously, wasn’t talking about teen sensation, Mandy Moore. At seventeen, Mandy has fared much better: fashion model, commercials, voiceovers (“Ducky” in Universal Studio’s Land Befort, Time attraction), an opening act on tour with the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, the Nutrogena spokesperson, an MTV gig called Mandy, a small role in The Princess Diaries, the star of a newly released movie, A Walk To Remember (co-stars Shane West), and three CD’s, including her debut single, Candy. Teen People tags her one of the “25 Hottest Stars Under 25” and “20 Teens Who Will Change the World.” Billboard calls her “…a credible, durable artist” and Rolling Stone hails her as a “teen-pop protorocker.” All this at seventeen!
You won’t see Mandy flashing her navel like Britney Spears, or flaunting some razzle dazzle low cut designer threads like Christina Aguilera . Mandy is not trendy and is proud of her wholesome image. “I’m younger than them and I’m comfortable with being seventeen. I feel uncomfortable showing my body. I know sex sells but I’d rather be classy and not sell as many records.”
Born in New Hampshire and reared in Orlando, Amanda Leigh Moore knew at the age of six that she wanted to be a performer. She began her career as a preteens singing The Star Spangled Banner at major sport events and was soon coined the National Anthem Girl. “It really is a difficult song. It starts very low and goes to high notes. I would sing a cappella, and be so nervous in front of the entire stadium of people.” she recalls. Moore also performed in local theatre, attended summer musical theater camp, and was a cheerleader. Sprouting fame at an early age bothered Mandy, especially since acceptance means everything to a teen. In her song, When I Talk To You, which she co-wrote with Matthew Hager (Mandy wants to venture more into songwriting and producing), she stresses concern over friends who may turn on her:
Feels like forever, since the days when we were friends.
Don’t understand all these changes.
I’m still the same.
“The song is about what I was going through. How being in this business brought about losing contact with a lot of friends. The struggle I had with it. It was very hard being away from school. At the end of the day, it was tough not having your good friends to talk to anymore.”
Mandy has a few close friends now but this cool cupcake with the cover girl looks surrounds herself with family, which keeps her grounded. One of her parents always travels with her, while the other is at home in Orlando tending to Mandy’s two brothers, Kyle, 16 and Scott, 21, and their three cats and three dogs. Her father is an American Airlines pilot, and she considers her mom more like a sister. They have backed her from the very beginning. Even when she was fourteen, they paid for her to cut a demo, which a Fed Ex-er overheard and then offered to take it to someone he knew at Epic records. Soon after, she signed a contract.
Until recently, Mandy had been dating twenty-one year old Wilmer Valderrama from Fox’s That 70s Show. They were sweethearts for close to two years. Speaking by phone from her pied-a-terre in Beverly Hills, Moore candidly reveals that she and Wilmer never had sex. “I’m not an advocate for having sex or not having sex. It’s a personal decision. Whenever you feel ready, you’re ready. Wilmer is older than me, respected me, and so it just wasn’t an issue,” she says then sums up, “And if you are going to have sex, then of course, you have to use a condom.”
Mandy is AIDS aware and has been since the sixth grade. “Our class started getting involved with social studies. We would read a lot about current affairs in the newspapers and an AIDS story came up. I didn’t fully understand it at the time.” (Though a high school honor student, Mandy left school in the second half of her freshman year to pursue her career. She continues her studies via the Internet and is currently a senior). Now, when told about the latest statistics that point to a rise of HIV infection in teens, she is genuinely disappointed and cannot understand her peers’ flippant attitude. “I can’t believe someone would not use protection. These kids don’t value life!” she says with a bewildered sigh. “This is so scary. Sometimes I feel shielded and very much in a bubble because I am seventeen and have my family around me. I don’t feel like a regular teen. I’m sure that will change when I turn eighteen, but this dangerous behavior is so unfamiliar to me. There’s no push to strive for something later on in life. It’s just kind of living in the now and whatever happens, happens. No purpose. They are not thinking about the repercussions. I mean, who doesn’t know about the risks now a days? I just don’t understand that kind of mentality.”
“I know some people out there would say providing condoms to teenagers is encouraging sex but you know what? Regardless, teens are going to have sex, so it might as well be safe sex. It to be safe sex. I am totally, absolutely I 00% for condom distribution in the high schools,” says Mandy enunciating each word with staccato precision. “Kids need to protect themselves. They need to be smart enough to realize that.”
Moore is quite active, not only performing in AIDS benefits but with other charities, as well: Stars in the Wild, Make A Wish Foundation, American Red Cross, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s School and Youth Campaign, and Until There’s A Cure, which is a nonprofit organization that raises funds and awareness for AIDS through the sale of The Bracelet. Besides Mandy, other celebs who wear the bracelet include-. Kevin Bacon, Destiny’s Child, The Rock, and Barry Bonds. What motivates her to be active and to volunteer? “I don’t think anybody in this position would not partake in any of these opportunities if they were offered to them. Or even if you didn’t have interest, you’d still want to do anything you could,” she says modestly and naively. “It feels so stupid sometimes just to lend my name, like, how is that really helping? But in many ways it does. I’m happy to oblige to do that. At this point, t don’t feel like I’ve done anything hands-on for AIDS but I have volunteered for other organizations. This is something I want to do. I want to give back.”
Moore has attained so much in so little time, and has become a role model for young people. Where does her drive come from? “I’ve worked my butt off because I really wanted to do this. But it is also luck. And being a role model is something that just comes with the job. I take it very seriously. I know people look up to me. So I say to them—educate yourself about HIV, and protect yourself” she says taking a big breath, then adds on the exhale in a breathy tone like right out of her song Crush, “I’m so blessed to be able to sit here and talk with you about what I have accomplished—at seventeen.”
Dann Dulin is Senior Editor of A&U.
Favorite singer: Bette Midler, Karen Carpenter
Favorite Food: Sushi
Favorite Animal: cats and dogs
Favorite Actress: Julianne Moore
Favorite Actor: Benicio Del Toro
Favorite Movie: Beaches
How she relaxes: I light candles
Her Idol: Bette Midler
Pet peeve: fake people
Wants to meet: Stevie Nicks
One thing she would change about herself: Be more thick-skinned What attracts her to a guy: the way he carries himself, confident, without being too cocky
One word to describe some of the folks who have touched her life, thus far
Backstreet Boys – gracious
Julie Andrews – refined
N’Sync – hilarious
Jessica Simpson – talkative
Marilyn Manson – misunderstood
Eminem – controversial
Mandy Moore – simple