Duff was born on September 28, 1987 in Houston, Texas. Her parents are Robert Erhard Duff, a partner in a chain of convenience stores, and Susan Colleen (née Cobb), a homemaker turned film and music producer. Duff has one older sister named Haylie. She was raised between Houston and San Antonio, the locations of her father's convenience stores. Encouraged by their mother, both Hilary and her sister enrolled in acting, singing and ballet classes. The siblings earned roles in local theater productions, and later participated in a touring BalletMet production of The Nutcracker in San Antonio. Increasingly interested in the pursuit of show business, the Duff sisters and their mother moved to California in 1993, while their father stayed in Houston to take care of his business. The sisters auditioned for several years and were cast in many television commercials. Due to her acting career, Duff was home-schooled from the age of eight. The pair also modeled for various clothing brands. Duff stated, "My sister and I really showed an interest in [performing] and dedication, and [our mother] was like, 'How can I tell my kids no?' It's the same as kids that are going into sports. Parents support them and push them. "