Nicole Richie: From Wild Child to Joel Madden's It Bride!
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Nicole Richie has come a long way from her beginnings as a reality TV troublemaker, transforming herself into a gushing mother of two (Harlow, 2½, and Sparrow, 1) – and now Joel Madden's blushing bride. Starting her own family, the newlywed once said, gave her "life a whole new meaning and a whole new purpose."
KEEPIN' IT REAL
In 2003, a then-unknown – and recently rehabbed – Richie (she was busted with heroin in Malibu earlier in the year) mooves to farm country with childhood pal Paris Hilton to film The Simple Life. The fish-out-of-water reality series, which ran for five seasons, chronicled the Beverly Hills besties slumming it in Altus, Ark.
Scrapping her stringy extensions and party-girl style, a slimmed-down Richie, 23, finds love with 32-year-old spinmeister Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein – who proposes to Lionel and Brenda Richie's little girl with an emerald-cut diamond ring, followed by a companion diamond-and-pink-sapphire band in 2005. After enduring an on-and-off again romance, the pair splits for good in 2006 – three years before Goldstein's accidental drug overdose on Aug. 28, 2009.
"I know I'm too thin right now," the rail-thin starlet admits to Vanity Fair, partly blaming her severe weight loss (she drops to around 90 lbs.) on her breakup with DJ AM. "I get really stressed out, and I do lose my appetite ... I'm not happy with the way I look right now." In October 2006, Richie seeks treatment for her weight issues, "getting the help I need," she tells PEOPLE.
On Dec. 11, 2006, Richie is arrested for DUI after driving the wrong way on an L.A. freeway and failing a field sobriety test. The repeat DUI offender, who was en route from new beau Joel Madden's home at the time, says, "I'm willing to face whatever consequences come my way, and I take responsibility for what I've done."
A BUMP IN THE ROAD
Arriving to court with her Good Charlotte leading man at her side, Richie pleads guilty to DUI and is sentenced to four days in jail (she ends up serving 82 minutes in jail, pays a $2,048 fine, gets three years' probation term and enrolls in an alcohol education program). The event is bittersweet for the couple, who confirm that the starlet is pregnant with their first child. "I would really want to be someone my child would look up to," the mom-to-be says, with Madden adding that "marriage is in our future."
"We're so blessed!" a beaming Richie gushes of her daughter Harlow Winter Kate Madden (born Jan. 11, 2008), with whom she shares her 2008 PEOPLE cover. "I don't even remember what life was like before her," the hands-on mom says of her life-changing baby girl.
The new mom's maternal instincts aren't limited to little Harlow – they're also channeled into the Richie-Madden Children's Foundation, the nonprofit she launched in December 2007 with Madden. "It really gives you [perspective]," says Richie, who donates her own baby shower gifts to 100 expectant families and raises $10,000 to build a playground for an L.A. children's shelter.
Now a mom-of-two (she welcomed son Sparrow on Sept. 9, 2009), Richie balances motherhood with her burgeoning career as a designer for her line of jewelry, House of Harlow 1960, and her fashion line, Winter Kate. "I'm a busy mom, but there are 24 hours in the day, and I have a routine down so I can fit everything necessary into my life," she tells PEOPLE.