Body Image Issues
At 17, the singer already had a complicated relationship with her body. People in her church community commented that her curves would make men “lustful” (even when fully clothed), and record executives wanted her to lose 15 lbs. from the moment she was signed to Columbia Records. At one point, after filming the video for her song, “I Wanna Love You Forever,” record executive Tommy Mottola told her, “I want a six-pack for the next video. Janet Jackson abs.”
It was then that Simpson started taking diet pills, restricting her food and even drawing abs onto her stomach with eyeshadow before events, setting off a cycle that lasted for the next 20 years.
Pop Girl Comparisons
From the start of her career, Simpson found herself constantly competing against Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The three women competed for spots in The Mickey Mouse Club, but Spears and Aguilera won out in the end (after Simpson, in her own words, “choked” during her audition). The comparisons continued throughout her career, but perhaps the most hilarious ones came later.
When her husband-to-be, Eric Johnson, told his parents that he was dating Simpson, they responded, “The one that shaved her head? She has two kids, right?” They had, in fact, confused her with Britney Spears.
In 2018, Simpson and Johnson went on a family vacation to Disney World — Simpson’s first time in years since auditioning for MMC and working Grad Nite concerts at the start of her career — when a woman approached her at the pool, screaming that it was Britney Spears! “I was like, of course this would happen to me,” Simpson jokes. “Britney steals even this Disney moment, right there in front of my kids.” (The woman later found Simpson and apologized for her mistake.)
Jessica and her father, Joe Simpson, share a complicated relationship. From a young age, her father managed her career, which meant that Simpson admittedly was not as independent as she wanted to be. But when she met Nick Lachey, she was sure that she would marry him. At 22, her father was not a fan of the match, even trying to convince his daughter to pull a Runaway Bride. According to Simpson, he stopped her just before they walked down the aisle and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Dad, I’m walking down this aisle and getting married,” Simpson recounts “through gritted teeth.”
Simpson and her dad went through a rough patch following her parents’ divorce (which Joe informed his daughter of just before she gave birth to her first child) but have since reconciled and remain very close.
Inside Her Marriage to Nick Lachey
Lachey and Simpson let viewers into their marriage when they starred in the reality TV show, Newlyweds, but the ever-present cameras blurred lines in their relationship. What was reality TV and what was real?
At one point, after the show ended, Simpson writes there was a moment when they weren’t sure whether or not they were being filmed, even with no camera crew in sight.
In the middle of a fight, the pair stopped what they were doing and, she writes, “silently, we got up from the couch, left the house, and walked to an empty lot nearby. Only then, safe from anybody hearing, did we quietly scream at each other.”
Her Emotional Affair with Johnny Knoxville
While Simpson was still married to Lachey, she filmed Dukes of Hazzard alongside Johnny Knoxville. Though the pair never got physical, Simpson admits that their relationship, which she describes as an “emotional affair,” was not appropriate.
“I could share my deepest authentic thoughts with him, and he didn’t roll his eyes at me. He actually liked that I was smart and embraced my vulnerabilities,” Simpson writes. “He believed in me and made me feel I could do anything.”
The only person in her life at that point who had made her feel that way was, Simpson writes, her father. “Certainly not my husband.”
Who could forget John Mayer using the words “sexual napalm,” to describe Simpson. Simpson writes candidly about her time with the singer-songwriter, whom she met in 2005 and began dating in 2006, saying that she never felt like she could be herself with the musician.
“He’d dump me, then come back saying he had discovered he loved me after all. I always saw it as him mercilessly taking me in from the cold,” she writes. “Every time John returned, I thought it was a continuation of a love story, while my friends saw a guy coming back for sex with some foolish girl.”
The on-again/off-again cycle was exhausting. She writes that, after getting back together with Mayer for the umpteenth time in London, “I felt the full intensity of his obsession with me. And it was a drug to me. He studied every inch of my body, every detail of my face. He photographed me constantly, to the point that I worried he was keeping souvenirs before dumping me again.”
Back to Body Image
In a chapter called ‘Death By Mom Jeans,’ Simpson revisits the infamous photos of her at a chili cook-off in 2009. “I mean, it had to be a chili cook-off of all places,” she jokes early on in the memoir, but dives deeper into what those photos (and the news cycle around them) did to her self-esteem. “I had always been in on the joke and that gave me power,” Simpson explains. “Now that it was everybody else making it, I didn’t think it was funny.”
The moment set off Simpson’s body dysmorphia, and suddenly all she could think about was what others thought of her. “I no longer trusted the mirror,” Simpson writes. “With every reflection, every single pane of glass I passed, I took myself in quickly to try to catch myself, to see what the world apparently saw.”
Turns out the moment also had a silver lining. Simpson expanded her own mega-successful clothing line to include extended sizing, and it only added to the mutual bond she shares with her many fans.
Plastic Surgery Reveal
Simpson spent years struggling with her body image and, after two children, decided to have a partial — and eventually full — tummy tuck. “I was so ashamed of my body at this point that I wouldn’t let Eric see me without a white T-shirt on,” Simpson writes. “I had sex with it on and even showered with it on. I couldn’t bear to look at myself.”
Her doctor warned her that, in her condition, the surgery was high-risk. Simpson was on stimulants, in addition to heavily drinking, but she still went through with it.
The mother of three has a message for moms who struggle: “I hope you can be proud that your body created life. I was not strong enough. It touched all my insecurities, and I couldn’t handle it.” Simpson admits that, even after surgery, she was hard on herself: “I can tell you that plastic surgery does not fix what’s inside.”
A Pant-Splitting Good Time
Simpson and her husband, Eric Johnson, married in July 2014 in a fairytale wedding surrounded by family and friends. The ceremony was romantic, themed after Simpson’s favorite book, Great Expectations. Their children, Maxwell Drew and Ace Knute, were part of the procession. When Ace ran into his dad’s arms, there was one small problem.
Simpson writes, “There was a look of uncertainty on [Eric’s] face that he couldn’t hide.” After they exchanged vows, Eric whispered to his wife, “Babe. I split my pants completely when I grabbed Ace.”
“Sure enough,” Simpson writes, “His tuxedo pants were split from his crotch to the top of his butt.” Not to worry, after a quick interlude to have his pants sewn, the pair made it back down the aisle together. She was originally worried that her soon-to-be husband didn’t like her dress, so at least she dodged that bullet!
Halloween 2017 was the final straw for Simpson, who realized that her dependence on alcohol was causing her to miss moments in her kids’ and friends’ lives. On that day, the singer started drinking at 7 a.m., pouring drinks into her “glittercup” and eventually breaking down following an emotional interaction with her father. She missed dressing up her kids, trick-or-treating, skipped her own Halloween party. The next day her friends staged an intervention … while she had her hair lightened by A-list colorist, Rita Hazan.
“This story only gets more over-the-top,” Simpson writes, “but so was my life.”