I first learned of your existence around 1999. I was a Backstreet Boys fanatic with dial-up internet. (I’m still a Backstreet Boys fanatic, but my internet is significantly faster.) While browsing various BSB fan sites, I came across a scandalous rumor: Some 14-year-old singer I’d never heard of named Mandy Moore was supposedly dating Nick Carter. As a dedicated BSB fan, I did my due diligence and googled you. (Realistically I probably used Yahoo or Lycos or something. The internet was a scary place in 1999.) That was when I found your official website, which I visited often enough that I can still picture it in my head today. That photo shoot of you with those light tubes was my jam. I wanted to be photographed in a halo of halogen too!
Sure, the Nick Carter rumors turned out to be just that, but in the process of trying to get some dirt, I learned a lot about you – a girl my age who was singing catchy pop songs and seemed like someone who could be my friend. And you had a mole like mine! This sort of thing is really important to tweens. I downloaded the 30 second .wav files of your early songs (like So Real and What You Want), and I bought the CD single for Candy at Sam Goody the day it came out. I was hooked. I know these days you fully admit you’re not exactly proud of some of your early music, but I think you should be. Yes, it’s mostly pure teenybopper pop, but as far as teenybopper pop goes, it’s good. It’s fun. It makes people smile – and that’s an accomplishment!
It wasn’t long before I decided to create a fansite dedicated to you. Armed with self-taught html skills and an Angelfire web address, I created Mandy’s Candy, an oh-so-cleverly-titled website dedicated to spreading the love for you and your music. I think you must have found Mandy’s Candy somehow, because you once emailed me from an AOL account informing me the image I was using of your signature was not, in fact, your real signature. (It seemed legit at the time so I’m not entertaining the possibility that the message came from a 40-year-old man pretending to be you.) I printed out your message and hung it on my wall. You’ve probably forgotten about this exchange but the email address firstname.lastname@example.org might refresh your memory. Yup, that was me. I was dedicated.
Mandy’s Candy actually still exists. It’s not pretty, with a layout not intended for today’s web browsers and broken images from long dead file hosting sites littering the page. But there’s enough there to see the depth of my teenage love for you. (And a lot of really embarrassing insights into my 14-year-old brain, but that’s a story for another day.)
In the many years since, my love for you has persisted. I don’t know exactly what it is about you that I love so much. Yes, you’re talented – both as a musician and an actress. You are filled with Christ’s love. And you seem smart and down-to-earth, like your years of varying levels of celebrity haven’t really changed your personality. You can pull off literally any hair color. I like that you’re a homebody with no interest in getting attention. I like that you’re independent and promote positive female friendships. I like that you’re a little bit of a hippie but still appreciate a little glamour. I like that you just keep doing your thing. You’re just real. So, so real.