Avril Lavigne was just 18 years old when she first became a major music sensation back in 2002. Since that time, the Canadian-born performer, now 36, has become well-known for her infectious pop-rock songs, her skater-punk style, and her rebellious attitude. But what she never could have predicted was that she’d also become embroiled in the “Avril Lavigne Conspiracy,” a rumor that’s been floating around the interwebs for years. So what’s the truth behind this crazy fan theory? Is the real Avril Lavigne dead? Here, we break down the facts behind this wild story.
How Avril Lavigne Got Her Big Break
Born in Belleville, Ontario, in 1984, Avril Lavigne has been singing since she was a kid, performing in local country fairs and writing her own songs by the time she was in high school. In 1999, she won a radio contest to perform a song with Shania Twain in front of 20,000 fans. By 2000, she had impressed famed record exec Antonio “L.A.” Reid and scored a multi-album deal with Arista Records.
Released in the United States in June of 2002, Lavigne’s debut album, Let Go, reached number two on the Billboard 200 albums chart and was certified four-times Platinum by the RIAA. Featuring the smash hit single “Complicated”—which became one of the biggest pop songs of the decade—the album was the top-selling debut of the year and made Lavigne the best-selling female artist of 2002. It also spawned two other top-10 singles, “Sk8er Boi” and “I’m with You,” making Lavigne the second artist in history to have three top-ten songs from a debut album on Billboard‘s Mainstream Top 40 chart.
In 2004, the pop punk princess released her second studio album, Under My Skin, which was just as successful as her first. In addition to debuting at number one in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Japan, the album was certified five-times Platinum in Canada and sold 3.2 million copies in the U.S. Lavigne co-wrote most of the songs on the album, which she says was a major milestone in her music career.
“This record definitely proves that I’m a writer,” Lavigne told The Ledger in 2004. “And people can’t knock that, because each song comes from a personal experience of mine, and there are so much emotions [sic] in these songs.”
In the fall of 2004, Lavigne set off on her first world-tour to support Under My Skin. Spanning Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Africa, it included over 100 stops and lasted more than a year. By the time the tour wrapped up in 2005, a bizarre rumor about the pop star had started to circulate.
What Is The Avril Lavigne Conspiracy?
The story is thought to have originated from a blog post on a Brazilian Avril Lavigne fan site called “Avril Lavigne morreu e foi substituída por uma sósia,” which roughly translates to “Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by a double.” The theory posits that Lavigne, struggling to handle the pressures of her success, hired a body double to fill in for her during some of her public appearances.
Soon after—sometime in 2003—Lavigne supposedly took her own life, but rather than tell the world, the record company decided to cover up her death so they could continue to bank off her success. They hired the body double, a woman named Melissa Vandella, to step in and pose as Lavigne full-time, which she’s been doing ever since.
Believers of the theory cite a number of peculiar differences as evidence for the switcheroo, including changes in the superstar’s face and complexion. They also note a distinct difference in her voice and a softening of her punk rock persona.
Some proponents of the theory even claim that specific song lyrics allude to the switch, supposedly as a result of Vandella feeling guilty about deceiving Lavigne’s fans. For example, the OG Brazilian fansite points out that the 2004 song, “Nobody’s Home,” is written in third person rather than first person (i.e. it is really Melissa writing about Avril) and that it alludes to Lavigne’s downfall:
Her feelings she hides
Her dreams she can’t find
She’s losing her mind
She was left behind
She can’t find her place
She’s losing her faith
She fell from grace
Where The “Avril Lavigne Is Dead” Conspiracy Falls Apart
While some of the “evidence” may seem compelling at first, it’s not hard to debunk this wild conspiracy theory. To begin with, a person’s appearance, style, and even voice can change over time—especially when they’re young. So the differences in Lavigne’s look and sound are really not that alarming.
It’s also important to note that, according to BuzzFeed, the author of the Brazilian fansite originally posted a disclaimer on the blog that read: “Esse blog foi uma forma de mostrar como teorias da conspiração podem parecer verdadeiras” which translates to “this blog was created to show how conspiracy theories can look true.”
Finally, we have the words straight from Avril Lavigne’s own mouth. When asked about the conspiracy theory in a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the pop star said: “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.'”
So while the Avril Lavigne Conspiracy does make for a great story, it’s just a wild internet rumor that’s 100 percent false!