Jessica Simpson 'Disappointed' Over Natalie Portman's Comments About Singer's 1999 Bikini Pics
Jessica Simpson is standing up for herself on social media after actress Natalie Portman made comments about the way the singer was portrayed by the music industry early on in her career.
In an interview with USA Today, Portman, who plays a pop star in her new film Vox Lux, addressed the overt sexualization of women by the music industry in the late ’90s and early ’00s, and name-checked Simpson posing in a bikini and professing her virginity as one example.
“I remember being a teenager, and there was Jessica Simpson on the cover of a magazine saying ‘I’m a virgin,’ while wearing a bikini, and I was confused,” Portman told USA Today. “Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl.”
Simpson was “disappointed” by Portman’s comments, and addressed the actress in a poignant Instagram note that referenced the importance of supporting women’s choices.
“@Natalieportman — I was disappointed this morning when I read that I confused you by wearing a bikini in a published photo taken of me when I was still a virgin in 1999. As public figures, we both know our image is not totally in our control at all times, and that the industry we work in often tries to define us and box us in,” Simpson began. “However, I was taught to be myself and honor the different ways all women express themselves, which is why I believed then — and believe now — that being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body art not synonymous with having sex. I have always embraced being a role model to all women to let them know they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want. They power lies within us as individuals. I have made it my practice to not shame other women for their choices. In this era of Time’s Up and all the great work you have done for women, I encourage you to do the same.”
Portman’s team did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
While most commenters seemed to support Simpson’s sentiment, other people referenced that she might be misreading the situation.
“I think you might have taken her comments the wrong way and out of context,” one wrote.
Portman has been a Time’s Up advocate from the beginning, and she’s very vocal about how women deserve to be treated in and outside of Hollywood.
In October, the Oscar Winner spoke about sexual harassment, equal pay, representation and more as an honoree at Variety’s Power of Women summit.
“Stop the rhetoric that a woman is crazy or difficult,” Portman said. “If a man says to you that a woman is crazy or difficult, ask him,’ What bad thing did you do to her?’ … That’s a code word. He’s trying to discredit her reputation. Make efforts to hire people who’ve had their reputations smeared in retaliation.”
In Vox Lux, she plays a 30-something pop star who rose to fame in the late ’90s and now grapples with her superstardom. Portman told USA Today, that musicians have it harder than anyone else in the spotlight when it comes to public scrutiny.
“People who succeed in music, their fandom is much larger than any actor, and it’s them as themselves whereas actors are in character,” Portman said. “There’s a difference in expectation.”
A source tells PEOPLE that Simpson’s takes her platform as a role model very seriously, which sparked her passionate reaction.
“Jessica feels very strongly about being a role model and it hurt her to read those comments,” the source says.
“She believes strongly in supporting women’s choices and their individuality,” the insider adds. “She understands that the pop music industry at the time had a vision for her and she chose to put on that bikini for the photo shoot and she was okay with it.”