Avril Lavinge actually died in 2003 and was replaced by a look-alike named Melissa Vandella, a viral theory making the rounds on social media is claiming.
But the real story behind this death hoax (sorry, it is definitely not real) might be even more interesting than the story itself.
The story has gained traction online this weekend, with many taking to Twitter to question whether the pop punk rocker actually took her life at the peak of her fame in 2003 and was replaced by a doppelganger named Melissa Vandella in order to keep her career going.
The theory that Avril Lavigne is dead — which has been around for several years now — gained new life on Friday when a Twitter user named Givenchy spelled out the theory in a series of more than 50 tweets posted on Friday. That took hold over the weekend, and by Sunday the theory had blown up online. Avril Lavigne’s name was one of the top trends on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, with many people sharing the theory.
The story that Avril Lavigne was actually dead and replaced by Melissa Vandella also went viral in 2015 thanks to a story from Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick, who dug into the theory and how it started.
It turned out that the hoax originated on a site called Avril Esté Morta, which theorized that Avril Lavigne committed suicide sometime around late 2002 and was replaced by the look-alike. But the site never intended the story to be real. In fact, the site explained that it was showing just how easily a conspiracy theory could be made up and spread online.
But this message was lost along the way, likely because the original site was written in Spanish and the reveal of the hoax was only included at the very end of the story. So those who didn’t read all the way, or didn’t understand the translation, were left thinking that Avril Lavigne was actually dead. And because the story did a thorough job presenting evidence that Lavigne was replaced by Melissa Vandella, many people were legitimately fooled.
Lavigne has actually been the subject of a series of death hoaxes, not all of them originating from the Avril Esté Morta site. In 2013, a different story from a fake news generator site claimed that Avril died in a skiing accident.
“The singer/songwriter & novice snowboarder was vacationing at Whistler Blackcomb ski resort located 125 km north of Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada with family and friends,” the story claimed, via Gossip Cop. “Witnesses indicate that Avril Lavigne lost control of her snowboard and struck a tree at a high rate of speed.”
“Avril Lavigne was air lifted by ski patrol teams to a local hospital, however, it is believed that the musician died instantly from the impact of the crash,” the story continued.
The creation of the Avril Lavigne death hoax is one of the best explanations for the larger celebrity death hoax phenomenon that has emerged in the last five years. While fake stories about celebrities dying have been around for decades, they have picked up considerably within the last few years thanks largely to the internet and proliferation of social media. What was once a rare occurrence has become very common, with some fake websites built entirely around creating these stories and making them go viral.
In fact, the fake celebrity news sites could be seen as a precursor to the “fake news” websites that gained traction during the 2016 presidential campaign by creating and then spreading fabricated news stories.
Even though it has been debunked every time it pops up, the theory that Avril Lavigne is really dead and replaced by Melissa Vandella appears to be the hoax that just won’t die.
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]