It’s one of the most popular and bizarre music conspiracy theories in the pop world. Did Avril Lavigne really die in 2003, only to be replaced by a lookalike? Well, the star has finally addressed the rumors herself. Here’s a look at what she had to say.
Born in Belleville, Ontario, in 1984, Lavigne first began performing in her local church choir. In her mid-teens she was discovered by record industry mogul L.A. Reid. She was then sent to Los Angeles to collaborate with various songwriting teams. Their efforts would result in the 2002 debut album Let Go.
The LP spawned the singles “Complicated,” “I’m With You” and “Sk8er Boi.” It went multi-platinum and saw Lavigne pick up eight Grammy nominations. Her next album, 2004’s Under My Skin, was a more mature affair. It tackled everything from her grandfather’s death to depression. The album also continued her winning streak, reaching the top spot in ten countries.
Levigne married Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley in 2006. She then made her acting debut in Fast Food Nation. A year later she released a third album, The Best Damn Thing, scoring a U.S. number one with “Girlfriend.” Lavigne was sued over the track by power pop outfit The Rubinoos. They claimed it lifted parts from their 1979 single, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.”
Lavigne’s fourth album, 2011’s Goodbye Lullaby, was heavily inspired by her split from Whibley. She later married Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, who contributed to her self-titled fifth LP. Sadly, the pair separated in 2015.
As of 2018, Lavigne’s worldwide sales tally stands at approximately 90 million. Only Shania Twain and Celine Dion have sold more when it comes to Canadian female artists. She has also been recognized at the Grammys, BRIT Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and American Music Awards. However, according to some, not all of these feats were achieved by the real Lavigne.
Indeed, many believe that Lavigne actually died in 2003. In fact, they actually think she killed herself, following the death of her grandfather. And then things get even weirder.
The story goes that Lavigne was replaced by a lookalike in a bid to continue her success. A girl called Melissa Vandella was apparently chosen to adopt her persona. Vandella then simply picked up where Lavigne left off. She extended her career into the following decade and beyond.
The doppelganger theory reportedly first appeared on a Brazilian website in 2005. But it soon gained traction. In 2017 the rumor developed when a Twitter user posted more ‘evidence.’ Changes in the star’s musical style, image and handwriting were used as proof. The Lavigne of today wasn’t the Lavigne of the early ’00s.
The new Lavigne’s height, eyes and nose were also said to be noticeably different. Some believe that the new artist even revealed her identity in the cryptic lyrics of the Under My Skin album. But Lavigne had refrained from commenting about the theory until 2017.
During a Facebook live stream, a fan asked Lavigne about the conspiracy. “No, I’m not dead. I’m here,” she responded. The singer then added, “I think it’s really silly that anyone would ever believe that. But yeah, it’s this huge rumor.”
Lavigne also offered her own theory about the popularity of the conspiracy. “People are just bored and need something to talk about,” she said. But that didn’t stop the questions about her alleged doppelganger.
Indeed, Australian radio station KISS 1065 asked Lavigne about the theory again in November 2018. The hosts questioned, “Did you laugh at the rumors that […] you no longer exist, and there’s a clone of you?” And once again, Lavigne quickly shot the claim down.
Lavigne told the station, “Yeah. Some people think that I’m not the real me, which is so weird! Like, why would they even think that?” However, phone interference occurred at the exact point Lavigne was talking. This led some to believe that there’s still more to the story than meets the eye.
Indeed, even a station spokesperson remarked on the suspicious timing. “What was incredibly strange and creepy was that as soon as [the host] asked this question, the phone line turned really weird!” they said. “[Lavigne] went a bit robotic, cut out and times. [She] even accidentally started pressing random buttons making a beep sound.”
Lavigne’s comments came a few weeks after the release of her comeback single, “Head Above Water.” Co-written with former husband Chad Kroeger, the track was inspired by her battle with Lyme disease. Lavigne told Billboard in October 2018 that she’d previously spent two years in bed because of the condition.
Lavigne first noticed symptoms when she began feeling constantly tired during her 2014 tour. She then contacted Yolanda Hadid, the then-wife of producer David Foster. She herself had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. As a result, Lavigne saw a professional about the condition.
Lavigne then explained the impact the illness had on her life. “It’s a bug, […] so you take these antibiotics, and they start killing it. But it’s a smart bug. It morphs into a cystic form, so you have to take other antibiotics at the same time. It went undiagnosed for so long that I was kind of f*****.”
Lavigne told Billboard about one terrifying moment in which she struggled to breathe. She said, “I had accepted that I was dying. And I felt in that moment like I was underwater and drowning, and I was trying to come up to gasp for air. And literally under my breath, I was like, ‘God, help me keep my head above the water.’”
But Lavigne admits there was one positive that came from her diagnosis. She said, “The silver lining of it is that I’ve really had the time to be able to just be present. Instead of being, like, a machine: studio, tour, studio, tour. This is the first break I’ve ever taken since I was 15.”