Courtesy of Brandon Pahnish

Was Avril Lavigne Replaced?

Why did WE have to go and make things so complicated?

Since the early 2000s, detailed conspiracies have swirled around Avril Lavigne. The general gist is that she was replaced with a doppelgänger sometime between the debut of her first album and the release of her second. However, because this theory has been circulating for almost 20 years, several details clash and conflict with one another, leaving readers with numerous storylines to track down in this Avril Clone Conspiracy.

First, here are some chronological facts to get the bare bones of the story—Avril Lavigne released her first album in 2002, Let Go, then went on to release her 2004 album, Under My Skin. Over the next decade, her sound changed from pop-punk to preppy pop. In 2011, a Brazilian BlogSpot page titled “Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by a double?” began gaining traction in conspiracy circles. 

The hoax seemed to climax in 2014 and die down in 2015. However, in 2017, a Brazilian Twitter user, @givenchyass—whose account has since been suspended—revitalized this conspiracy theory with a complex thread, further detailing the situation with new “evidence” regarding who her replacement was and why she took over for Avril. 

In late 2018, Avril went on an Australian talk show on the radio station KIIS 1065 in which she was confronted with this information. When asked about her clone, she said: “Yeah, some people think that I’m not the real me, which is so weird…like, why would they even think that?”

Which sounds exactly like what a clone would say. Various timelines for this conspiracy are muddled and inconsistent across the internet, but according to the original 2011 BlogSpot page —which translates to “”—she vanished in 2003 and was replaced with a double. The page only references “old Avril” versus “new Avril,” when later contributions via Twitter named “Melissa Vandella” as the replacement. 

Many different types of “evidence” are cited in this BlogSpot, including Avril’s height changing in Google searches, the addition of tattoos and freckles over time, her handwriting seeming to change and even reading into song lyrics from Under My Skin gleaning her potential cause of death. The BlogSpot page is persuasively written, and as ridiculous as the story is, it’s surprisingly easy to see why readers want to believe it.

Various explanations have been filled in over time as to where the “old Avril” is now. The most common theory is that she deeply struggled with the fame she so quickly received and committed suicide. Other popular theories regarding her death state that she died in a snowboarding accident or she hung herself at the news of her grandfather’s death. Some argue that she never died at all and is now peacefully living out the rest of her life, far from the limelight.

There is also controversy as to when—and if—Melissa Vandella was added to the picture. The name Melissa first appeared in a photoshoot around Avril’s 2004 release, where the singer is pictured with the word “Melissa” scrawled on her hand with a Sharpie. 

There are many conflicting stories as to exactly how and when Melissa got wrapped up with Avril, but according to that 2017 Twitter thread, the prevailing claim is that Melissa Vandella was an actress hired by Avril Lavigne’s management team to be her body double for press releases, photoshoots and red-carpet events when Avril wasn’t feeling up to it. Some say Melissa was hired on while Avril was still alive and they quickly became best friends. In this timeline, Avril reportedly taught Melissa how to sing exactly like her. In other timelines, Melissa was hired after Avril was already gone to keep the franchise alive. This argument fragments further, with fans unable to decide whether Avril had recorded her second album before she disappeared or if Melissa studied her first album and did her best to copy it. 

The most out-there theory of all is that Melissa is a straight-up, flat-out clone of Avril Lavigne. The concept of being cloned is remarkably common in these conspiracy theories, but only some sites go into exactly how. Gizmodo stated Avril was replaced by the mysterious forces of the music industry, a conspiracy fan blog decided she was “a clone made by the government to distract the public when major conflicts happen,” and argues the actual Melissa is a super detailed android which has been built specifically to replace Avril.

There is no record of a Melissa Vandella being an actress around this time: no IMDB pages, no headshots. There was a Twitter account by the name of Melissa Vandela (with only one L) who claimed to be Avril’s replacement in December 2015, publishing tweets like “WHERE IS AVRIL LAVIGNE—she’s deeeeeeead. I’m the new one.” Though in May 2017, the user behind the account came forward to say it was all a joke and to apologize for spreading rumors. They then changed their name from “Melissa Vandela” to “The Game Is Over” (Twitter user @avrilisdead). 

No other Melissas or Melissa Vandellas have made themselves known in relation to Avril Lavigne since.

Dissecting all of the information logically, it’s pretty clear that Avril changed her sound and her look because she just grew up. Fans who latched onto her identity were upset she wasn’t an angsty teen anymore, and they would rather accept her death—and even subsequent cloning—than her change of heart. But disregarding any possible malintent on the fans’ part, it’s also clear that the internet just really loves conspiracy theories, because it’s fun to see what people can come up with, and of that, what people will believe.