Minor threat 

Sweet-16 pop princess Mandy Moore isn't your average, everyday Longwood, Fla., spawn. In the past six months the blossoming singer has gone from high schooler to international superstar, breaking hearts around the world, all the while maintaining a firm grip on her own chirpy blond career. "Candy," her debut single from her smash Epic album released last December, "So Real," just debuted in the British top 10. That same month, she held her own when she opened for the pyrotechnically charged Backstreet Boys on their triumphant U.S. tour that touched down at the Orlando Arena. And this week, Moore kicks into the second phase of her pin-up ascent with the release of her follow-up CD, "I Wanna Be With You," with the title track also featured on the "Fame"-lite drama "Center Stage" (opening this week).

She is a natural performer in today's multimedia marketplace. When she recently subbed for Carson Daly, the host of MTV's "Total Request Live," the unflappable Moore seemed wise beyond her years as well as her wispy, flaxen-haired competitors. Music aside, her too-sexy-for-her-age looks have nabbed her lucrative modeling contracts with Wet Seal and Neutrogena, for starters.

Mandy, can you do no wrong?

We vaught up with the "Candy"-coated sensation in Amsterdam, Holland, to find out for ourselves.

Orlando Weekly: You're involved with a movie project, "Center Stage," and a song on the soundtrack, "I Wanna Be With You."

Moore: Yes, it's the title track for the movie, and it's my second single.

But it's not on your first CD?

Right, but it's on the ... special-edition album that's coming out [this week] that has five new songs and six old songs. It's kind of like a reissue of "So Real."

What has been the highlight so far of this whole whirlwind?

Basically, like everything so far has just been amazing and interesting and scary and stressful and ... I don't know ... I mean, gosh, touring with the Backstreet Boys, making music videos, everything.

What do you make of all the Orlando boy bands?

They're all very nice. All very, very cool. Intelligent, too.

Don't you think it's funny that it's always like five guys and just one girl?

If you really think about it, I'm the only girl from Orlando. The guys from 'N Sync, I think only really a couple of them are from Orlando. The rest flew in from around the country, because that's where Trans Con is and stuff. Same with Backstreet.

Five guys for every girl.

Exactly. It's quite odd.

Do you think that's something peculiar to Orlando?

There's something in the orange juice, that what I always say. I think it's just that people are starting to realize that Orlando is a big melting pot for talent. ... Orlando always gets skipped over, especially in the acting world. I used to do a lot of acting, and people would just never take you seriously if you were from Orlando. You had to be from New York or L.A.

Have you met anybody who's rubbed you the wrong way yet?

Rubbed me the wrong way? No. Everybody, surprisingly, has been really cool. ... Like you think with all the success, people will change. But then meeting actual people the past couple of months, everybody's been so, so nice.

How real is the issue of sexism for you, dealing with a bunch of male music executives?

I guess I would say I'm very lucky to be working with people that let me be me. Y'know, it's not me to wear a tube top and hot pants and show tons of skin and stuff like that. I just turned 16 -- that's not what I'm all about. Maybe in a few years.

Do you think there's pressure to do that, though? Like Christina's wayward flirtations, Britney's breast implants?

There's pressure everywhere. I mean, I just did a photo shoot [for a magazine] in England, and all they had was hot pants and tube tops and stuff like that ... and I was like, "Wait a second, this is not what was agreed upon."

We've seen the sleazy Debbie Gibson and the sleazy Sabrina. Will there ever be a sleazy Mandy?

I don't feel like that right now. I think maybe those people always wanted to do that, but maybe they were kept and told they had to be a certain way and this is how you're gonna dress. I'm just so lucky that people let me be me.

If I wanted to, I guess I would. I just don't feel confident doing that. I mean I'm 16, and I wanna show people out there that, hello, you can still be considered beautiful, or even sexy, wearing pants and a tank top. Like you don't have to show tons of skin for people to consider you beautiful.

In a room with no lights on: Britney, Jessica, Christina and you. Who comes out alive?

I'm taking pretty good standards on myself right now, because I might not be physically strong, but mentally I think I might be able to outwit them. [She laughs.]

Is there any fear for you, as a 16 year old, of exploiting things too soon?

Y'know, if you sit there and think about all the people who are in jobs right now that [are] actually dreading waking up in the morning ... and I'm here at 16, and I'm so enthralled and excited by everything every day. I know it sounds corny.

Why ARE you so freaking happy?

I just have this resurgence of, like, WOW! [I'm] really extremely happy and excited by everything.

Do you ever break down? Are you ever unhappy?

I'm a regular person. Yeah, I get unhappy and cranky and tired just like everybody else. It's just so cool to come over [to Amsterdam]. ... I'm thousands of miles away from my house, back in little Longwood, and there are people over here in Amsterdam who know me and know my music. It's so weird to think that. There's so many people out there who know who you are and know what your favorite color [is] and who your favorite actor is. And it's, like, you have no idea who they are.

How much time do you spend in front of the mirror?

It varies. I know this may sound stupid, but I'm still 16. I'm still growing up. And I'm still awkward. And I'm going through adolescence. I'm still not totally comfortable with my body, you know? I have long arms and long legs and big feet.

That's your charm. Do you look forward to having more control over your own career?

I think "Candy" is the worst representation of who I am as a person and as an artist and musically and stuff like that. It's not the direction I want to go in. "I Wanna Be With You" is more the direction I want to go in. I did ["The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"] and sang "I Wanna Be With You" and it was a real band. And I'm doing ["The Rosie O'Donnell Show"] next week, and it's a real band. It's so much more fun than playing to a track.

What is that spoken part you say in "Candy"?

"You know who you are. Your love's as sweet as candy. I'll be forever yours. Love always, Mandy.

Do you feel silly when you say that?

No. I actually wrote that, because on the original demo, they had someone rapping there. I was like, I don't think that's gonna work.

Is there anything remotely sexual about the song "Candy"?

Not when I think of it. No. It's like, you're comparing the boy to candy ...

Exactly, but what do you do with candy, Mandy?

You eat it. Yeah, well -- ohhhhhh.

I'm not trying to be dirty.

You just made it dirty!

What's the darker side of Mandy Moore?

My tour manager goes, "There's no dark side." ... I'm 16. I haven't found a dark side. I'm on the road like 24 hours a day. What am I going to do? ... I'm in my hotel room with my mom, watching TV. I lead the most boring life ... aside from everything else.

My dark side? Maybe I'll find it in Amsterdam... It's terrible. There's marijuana everywhere.


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