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Hometown proud: When Avril Lavigne was the toast of Napanee, Ont.

The pop sensation got international attention for the songs Complicated and Sk8er Boi in 2003, and residents of 18-year-old Avril Lavigne's small town couldn't have been prouder.

Canadian teen singer got lots of attention from Grammy, Juno Awards in 2003

Avril Lavigne nominated for five Grammy Awards in 2003

19 years ago
Duration 2:26
Supporters from Napanee, Ont., hometown of the teenage singer of Complicated and Sk8er Boi, turn out in force to watch the broadcast.

It was Grammy night in February 2003, and it seemed everyone in Napanee, Ont., was watching.

Their very own Avril Lavigne had burst onto pop charts the previous summer with the angsty, country-inflected song Complicated followed by another pop single, Sk8er Boi.

Noted for a look that was a sassy teen-girl take on punk conventions, Lavigne was up for five of the American music awards. 

Back in 2003, Lavigne's fans were still waiting to find out whether she'd be taking a Grammy home. 

"So far she's still got a chance in one last category," said Alison Smith, as CBC's The National was broadcasting at the same time as the Grammys. "Win or lose, Napanee residents were celebrating the success of a hometown girl."

Humble origins

Hometown fans, one of whom was wearing the Home Hardware T-shirt popularized by Avril Lavigne and another copying her signature necktie, said it was "amazing" and "great" to be at a local Grammy party celebrating Canada's latest teen sensation. (The National/CBC Archives)

At a Grammy viewing party in a Napanee school gym, reporter Heather Hiscox caught the enthusiasm of very young fans waving flags and carrying signs in support.

Several of them were wearing red T-shirts branded with the logo for the Canadian hardware-store chain Home Hardware. Lavigne herself had sported a version of the shirt during an appearance on Saturday Night Live the previous month.

"She used to sing gospel in this church," said Hiscox, as the camera showed a local house of worship before cutting to home video of a 12-year-old Lavigne performing.

Roadside signs and store billboards congratulated Lavigne and wished her luck with the awards.

The CBC also visited Lavigne's favourite pizza joint, where owner Bill Cosmopoulos could hardly keep up with orders for the "Avril Special" — mushrooms, olives and pepperoni. 

The Avril effect

Singer Avril Lavigne gestures during a photo session in New York's Central Park June 3, 2002. She was among a new crop of female singer-songwriters who were challenging conventional expectations of what it meant to be a female performer. (Jim Cooper/Associated Press)

The local Home Hardware had also seen a boost in its T-shirt sales due to Lavigne.

"We sold about 3,000 here in the store ourselves," said employee Sarah Chambers. "And about 6,000 have gone nationally and internationally into other stores."

Across the street, at Giant Tiger, the entire staff was "copying Lavigne's trademark look, and wearing ties," said Hiscox.

Sure enough, two middle-aged staffers could be seen with neckties knotted loosely over a T-shirt and sweater.   

Mayor David Remington said Napanee had seen a tourist bump as well.

"Last week I had a boy from Argentina come to Napanee to see Avril Lavigne's hometown," he said.

'Dull and boring'

Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne pose on the red carpet during the 2013 MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto on June 16, 2013. The pair married in 2013 and divorced two years later. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Back at the Grammy party, a teenage girl had to shout into the mic to be heard above the din. 

"It makes us look like not such a small town," she said.

The irony, as Hiscox pointed out, was that Lavigne herself had said many times in interviews that growing up in Napanee was "dull and boring."

In the end, Lavigne was shut out of the Grammys in 2003.

But she took home four Juno Awards when Ottawa played host to the Canadian music awards a month later. Among them: Single of the Year, Album of the Year, and New Artist of the Year.

Not a 'typical' teen

'I've definitely grown up really fast'

20 years ago
Duration 0:20
Avril Lavigne talks about being a teenager thrust into fame in 2002.

In October 2002, Lavigne talked to CBC about her then-recent appearance at the MTV Video Awards and other topics including the growing up she'd had to do since leaving Napanee.

"Being on the road has definitely, like, aged me and matured me and whatever, you know," she said, her studded wristbands flashing as she made an air quote.

"Being in business, you know, I don't have a typical, normal 17-year-old's life, or lifestyle. So I don't feel like a little kid around everyone." 

Singer songwriter Avril Lavigne shows off her four Junos at the 2003 Juno awards in Ottawa Sunday, April 6, 2003. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

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