When teen pop star-turned-actress Mandy Moore signed on to play a leukemia victim in the feature film "A Walk to Remember," due out in early 2002, she knew this character would be quite different from

When teen pop star-turned-actress Mandy Moore signed on to play a leukemia victim in the feature film "A Walk to Remember," due out in early 2002, she knew this character would be quite different from the lighter fare of the role she played in the recently released "The Princess Diaries." What the blonde 17-year-old didn't know was this down-to-earth role would change her life and strip her of her own identity.

"I play the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister," Moore tells Billboard.com by phone from her Orlando, Fla., home. "It's a beautiful script and a lot of the parts are a little heavy and emotionally and physically draining at times. So, it was kind of hard to jump right out of that and be myself again, because the whole time I was filming, I really didn't feel like Mandy. Then I had to fly out and start doing preparation for the record release, and started working on my MTV show. So, it kind of got a little overwhelming to figure out, 'O.K., who am I? Am I supposed to be actress today or singer today or VJ today?'"

This is definitely the summer of Mandy Moore. Aside from her two movie projects, she released her self-titled third Epic album (which is No. 118 on The Billboard 200 in its seventh week). Moore is also the host of MTV's "Summer in the Keys" and is doing work as a commercial spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Moore has been confirmed to host the 2001 Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant, to be broadcast live Aug. 22 on CBS from South Padre Island, Texas. She will also perform at the event alongside Usher, Better Than Ezra, and Jagged Edge.

Wherever she turns, bright lights are in her face; however, Moore isn't letting the hype get the best of her. "I just saw a lot of my friends and the director from ["A Walk to Remember"] last night and everybody is like, 'You know what, doing that movie made you want to be a better person,'" Moore says. "My character was such an amazing person and an amazing individual. It grounded you, but made you want to become a better person and treat people a different way."

As for her music, Moore is resigned to the fact that, for now, she is walking in the tall shadows of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But gravity often has its way with pop stars, and Moore is hoping her many talents mean a lasting career, similar to that of her main influences, Madonna and Janet Jackson. If she had her druthers, singing would always be her main focus.

"It's great to be compared in such great company with girls that are huge mega-superstars and are loved and respected around the world," Moore offers. "But at the same time, it's kind of like 'Ugh, we're doing our own thing.' I think musically, we've definitely, at this point, differentiated ourselves from each other. You can listen to the radio and identify a Britney song from a song of mine or a song of Christina's or a Jessica Simpson song. I think musically, we've all gone in different directions."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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