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What Happened to Avril Lavigne? The Pop Punk Princess Who Vanished From The Scene
2019 Radio Disney Music Awards - Arrivals
(Photo by David Livingston/WireImage)

What Happened to Avril Lavigne? The Pop Punk Princess Who Vanished From The Scene

Avril Lavigne dominated the pop punk scene in the early 2000s but then, a struggle with Lyme disease forced her to disappear.

If you’re curious about pop culture in the 2000s, look no further than Avril Lavigne. She was undoubtedly one of the most successful and beloved artists of the decade. And she continues to be very special for those who remember growing up in that time. 

For most millennials, she was definitely one of the few mainstream female artists to truly lean into that emo-punk style. She inspired us with her boldness, her rambunctious sound, her fearless attitude — she was simply an agent of both chaos and freedom. For young girls who had been longing to find their rule-breaking hero, they found it in Avril Lavigne. 

Before Billie Eillish, Avril was the rebel icon of the 2000s.

However, a certain type of shift occurred with Avril’s own fanbase a couple of years into her breakout. Her look changed, her sound changed, aspects of her personal life changed, so this naturally led to the circulation of the wildest rumors. Some of the rumors were so insane that the singer’s identity was in jeopardy of being erased. 

Today, many might have the idea that Avril Lavigne simply doesn’t make music anymore or that her work doesn’t resonate with the contemporary crowd. What we tend to forget that celebrities don’t just stop living their lives when we’re not paying attention to them anymore. Away from the public eye, Avril experienced a number of struggles. Yet, as she has always shown us, she refuses to back down. 

People thought Avril had died and been replaced with a lookalike

We’re not making this up. This was an actual rumor that surfaced many years ago and a lot of people still claim to believe it. Someone on Twitter brewed up this conspiracy theory and that’s all it took for people to buy into it. 

This is how the rumour goes: Avril was introduced into the showbiz world way too early at 18. This allegedly made her scared of public events, and so she hired a similar-looking actress to pretend to be her at public engagements.

This actress, identified as someone named Melissa Vandella, kept switching places with Avril whenever the latter needed to get away from the cameras. Apparently Avril also taught Melissa how to sing like her. 

At some point, according to the rumour mill, Avril passed away by suicide. But because Avril was such a massive star for her record company, they just replaced her with Melissa and kept the hits coming. 

So when Avril changed up her music stylings in the mid and late 2000s, some people legitimately believed it was all Melissa’s doing. They started picking apart the slightest differences; from birthmarks to eye shapes, they’d grab onto anything they could find to validate their theory. 

Avril has eventually dismissed those beliefs as rubbish. 

It’s just a dumb internet rumor and [I’m] flabbergasted that people bought into it. Isn’t that so weird? It’s so dumb. And I look the exact same. On one hand, everyone is like, “Oh my god, you look the same,” and on the other hand people are like “Oh my god, she died.”

Avril Lavigne to Entertainment Weekly 

Women feel extra pressure to maintain their ‘look’

Ultimately, the emergence and widespread perpetuation of this wacky rumour speak to the unrealistic expectations placed on women in the entertainment industry. Avril’s debut album was based around an emo-punk persona and accordingly, her music also delved into some heavy, dark topics — fairly unusual for young women at the time.

But because this style became such a hit amongst the fans, a lot of people expected Avril to just continue presenting herself as a goth, sullen girl who only liked singing about death and depression. When Avril began dressing in pink and venturing into a more upbeat, positive style of pop music, some people just couldn’t take it. 

It’s difficult to be a woman and to be heard, and people sometimes don’t take you seriously. I’m highly intuitive and I’ve always got a very strong gut feeling. I’ve always felt that I’ve known what’s best for me to do and I’ve had to fight different people on this journey over those 17 years.

Avril Lavigne to The Guardian 

Many women get labelled as ‘fake’ for deciding to do things differently, but Avril was straight-up subjected to the most nonsensical of rumours. It’s her personal choice to play around with her image, and it’s very much her personal choice to transform her sound as she pleases.

It’s something to be said about how female artists are expected to just remain stagnant in terms of their persona. And it seems like a good chunk of the public is all too happy to slam them for deciding to change things up. 

Avril herself was one of the artists who went on about how she was so different from other girls. Yet as she evolved, she realized that petty remarks like that didn’t do anyone any favors, so she opted to record music that was both intimate and therapeutic, not rude or self-important.

In her latest album, she also releases a track called ‘Dumb Blonde’ featuring Nicki Minaj, a song that precisely makes fun of the stereotypes placed on women. In the track, she says that she’s done with being placed in a box and being underestimated. Her song selections demonstrate that she herself has chosen to embrace femininity in a way that’s not negligent or judgement of other women. 

Avril nearly died while suffering from Lyme’s disease 

While the internet speculated whether or not Avril had died and been replaced by an imposter, the real Avril herself was fighting for her life behind the scenes. At 30, Avril began experiencing chronic fatigue and anxiety. This ultimately led to the diagnosis of Lyme’s disease, which kept the singer bedridden and aching for the next two years. At one point, she said that she felt she was going to die.  

It was that bad that night, and I was like, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.” I think I was about to die because I had this weird feeling of, “Whoa. I feel like I’m on a cliff and I’m about to fall, and it’s dark.” Coming out of it I felt like I was underwater drowning, coming up for air. That’s when I literally said, “God, help me keep my head above water.” I wasn’t even thinking about music — it just happened.

Avril Lavigne to Entertainment Weekly 

But she always knew that she was going to return to music as long as it was possible. So she kept strumming the guitar while bedridden. The singer doesn’t like to discuss her disease all that much but the painful moments she experienced while getting treated inspired her to create her sixth album Head Over Water

Many people think that she has disappeared altogether but Avril is still producing music and putting herself out there. She has revealed that the awfulness of the disease was compounded by “toxic relationship” at the time. Avril refuses to divulge any more information on the matter but it’s clear that her latest album became an emotional outlet for her. 

Now I’m here, making music. I put out a record, it was hard for me to do that...One of the scariest things I could ever do is to put myself out there. I’m just fighting, pushing...That’s why my music has been healing for me

Avril Lavigne on The Zach Sang Show 

Focus on yourself when others get too loud 

Avril Lavigne’s fascinating career trajectory serves as a reminder to everyone that it’s never worth responding to inaccurate criticisms or rumors.

Avril didn’t think those rumors were worth addressing all these years, so she just kept her head down and focused on where her attention was needed: her health. This is a woman that built her entire livelihood on willpower and resilience, and she’s not willing to take her disease lying down. 

There is no limit or restriction about what she can sing about or how she presents herself. At the end of the day, as long as you’re true to yourself, you don’t have to worry about impressing others or proving yourself to others. Keep focusing on yourself and the things you care about, and the haters will go away on their own. 

Life is going to be full of ups and downs, so all you can do is take things step-by-step. And especially — this part is important — stay clear of the criticisms and attacks that people hurl at you. While most of us might not know what it's like to have such far-fetching rumours spread about us, we all know what it's like to have our identity affected or taken away. It's at those times when we look in the mirror and tell ourselves that our identity is intact and that we know who we are, even if the world might not.

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