can say I'm dumb, I don't care, because I know I'm not
things piss off Jessica Simpson. Saying she's not the brightest
bulb in the pack isn't one of them.
that she can't sing, or worse, that her marriage with husband
Nick Lachey isn't going to last, and you'll find the singer/reality
TV phenom in fighting mode.
can] people say my marriage is going to fail after they watch
a 22-minute episode that is segments of three-and-a-half, four
months put together? [They can] actually judge our relationship
and say it's not going to make it?" she asks incredulously.
"How can you place that judgment on something you really
don't know the back story to?"
The 23-year-old is on the defensive when it comes to her marriage,
because, having just celebrated her one-year anniversary, in her
eyes the relationship is stronger than ever. And she's surprised
that other people might not think so, too.
She of course knows
that her marriage isn't perfect. But the idea that it would be
anything other than total bliss came as a complete surprise to
her. Growing up as a minister's daughter in Dallas, she envisioned
wedlock as a fairy tale where she would remain a virgin for her
husband and keep sex a sacred and private affair between the two
of them. Just as she was naive about what marriage would entail,
she also doesn't seem to see that sex hasn't been an entirely
private matter for her — that her sexuality in fact plays
a large role in her public success.
Like Britney Spears,
Simpson benefited from her self-proclaimed virginal status ("She's
so hot! Can she really be as pure as she says?!") when she
arrived on the pop scene — but Britney teased, while Jessica
just seemed to be. And like her mom before her — and her
mom before her — Simpson did remain a virgin until she got
married. Both Simpson and Spears came from Baptist backgrounds,
but Jessica took her vows of chastity and marriage seriously —
looking at virginity as something romantic, she and her friends
made a firm decision to hold out for their future husbands. Her
father even gave her a purity ring when she was 12.
religious upbringing shaped her early career, which began when
she signed to a gospel label, recorded her first album, Jessica,
and went out on the Christian youth-conference circuit. Other
Christian labels passed on her, though, since they deemed her
too "sexy" (she developed early). Then, when she was
17, Jessica went secular, signing to Columbia Records, which didn't
object to her sexy girl-next-door image. She even became a more
visible proponent of abstinence.
think [abstinence] is the best birth control. I know that condoms
are not a hundred percent, because I'm here because of a busted
condom," she says. "I can say that right now. I am here
because of a busted condom." Her mom, Tina, sitting nearby,
confirms that with a nod. "I mean, I'm not an accident. My
parents don't look at me like I'm an accident, but I definitely
wasn't on the calendar."
she never intended to publicize the fact that she was a virgin.
But one day, someone asked her "some vulgar question,"
and her response was matter-of-fact: "I don't have sex."
It shocked her that it shocked others, she says, "because
it made me realize what a bubble I grew up in."
The bubble hasn't burst, though. Simpson honestly believes she's
not playing up her sexuality — despite singing about losing
her virginity ("Sweetest Sin," on her latest album,
In This Skin), posing in her underwear with a Swiffer Wetjet on
a recent cover of Rolling Stone, and showing up at multiple functions
and for this interview with blouses so low-cut, her breasts seem
to be trying to burst out and wave hello. Her marriage may be
on display on "Newlyweds," but she says her sex life
is not; she insists she isn't going the Britney route.
"You don't need
to be going there unless your career is based on that sort of
thing, and mine certainly isn't," Jessica stresses. "Unfortunately,
in today's society, you have to be everything, and sex sells.
I think [Britney Spears] knows what works for her and what's gotten
her to where she is right now. I don't think we see eye-to-eye
on the situation, because for me, I would rather sell my music."
however, isn't selling all that well. While her 1999 major-label
debut, Sweet Kisses, sold more than 1.8 million copies, follow-up
Irresistible has sold just over 600,000 since its release in 2001,
and, after 20 weeks in stores, In This Skin is barely past gold
status, despite the success of "Newlyweds" and the huge
visibility the show has given her.
"Sex sells and I think Britney knows what works for her..."
"My show is the only reason right now why I have sales on
my album," she admits. "I don't even have a song on
the radio. But it's not a music show, so it wouldn't have helped
as much as 'Making the Band' would have or something like that."
The show, however,
may be helping to do more than sell her record — it's launching
her as an actress with the appeal of a young Goldie Hawn (or so
she hopes). At the same time, Simpson says, "Newlyweds"
is actually helping her relationship with Lachey thrive, despite
the conventional wisdom.
At first, she tried
to be good for the camera's sake — until she eventually
realized that it did her and Nick no good to avoid dealing with
what was bothering them. Such as when he decorated the house without
her input. Or when she fails to pick her clothes up off the floor.
hold back because you know the cameras are there, but then they've
been there so long that you just can't hold back another month,
so you end up losing it all. Nick and I are like, 'Oh, I think
we need to fight now because ... ' " she pauses, before bursting
as if by example, " 'I'm really mad at you!' It shows us
in love, but it also shows us wanting to wring each other's necks.
I didn't expect that in marriage, and I didn't expect that in
"You hold back because you know the cameras are there..."
Not only was it healthier for Jessica and Nick to air their disagreements,
she says, but it made for a better show. And she started to find
that what was good for the show was good for the couple. Tapes
of those fights — which she would at times regret having
aired in public — were also there for them to review and
to learn from. Simpson says it was an eye-opener to have such
a direct line to another person's perspective. Not that watching
playbacks of her marital missteps wasn't also painful.
everyone's worst nightmare, to watch a fight back and realize
that [you] were the one that was wrong," she says. "I
mean, we just sit there, and I'm like, 'Gosh, I have to stop complaining.
I complain way too much.' And he'll be the same way, like, 'OK,
I see how hurt you were about me going to the Playboy mansion.'
You know, stupid things like that, but it's just stuff you would
normally bottle up and never talk about. But when it's in your
face on [TV] Tuesday nights, you have to talk about it."
"I don't want it to all be about my sexuality..."
Simpson knows she can come across as spoiled. Yes, she was a brat
during the infamous camping-trip episode. And as she rattles off
her reasons why — "Because I hated it, I did not like
being there, I wanted to take a shower, I was scared of bears,
my cute little Louis Vuitton bag I just got was getting dirty"
— she laughs at herself before you get a chance to. She
knows how her excuses sound, and she understands why her dad,
who is a producer of the show, suggested the trip in the first
place. It's a classic comedy move, the same one that motivated
that other reality show featuring sheltered rich kids out of their
element, "The Simple Life." Simpson — like Paris
Hilton and Nicole Richie — might ask a lot of dumb questions
(Hilton's "Do they sell wall stuff at Wal-Mart?" ranks
with Simpson's "Is Chicken of the Sea chicken or tuna?").
But unlike her reality-show sisters, Jessica begs the question:
Is she a dumb blonde, or does she just play one on TV?
Either way, she's smart
enough to know what works for her now (even though a part of her
wants to deny it), and what will, she hopes, be her meal ticket
into the future.
"I don't want
it to all be about my sexuality," she says. "I mean,
I know I can do a hot cover, but I want the longevity. Your body's
only going to be hot for a couple years, you know? Like 10, 15
years, and then you have nothing. I wanna still be singing, you
know? And it doesn't matter what my body looks like. I want to
be the Aretha Franklin who still sings today."
Thanks to MTV's Newlyweds:
Nick and Jessica, Jessica Simpson, 23, has been transformed from
the country's number-three pop princess to its most-talked-about
reality star. Letting the cameras capture her ditzy side may be
Jessica's savviest career move yet.
Were you nervous about
following up the first season of Newlyweds?
It is scarier second season, because people already have expectations
of what they want the show to be about. So Nick and I just had
to throw off everything and just be who we are, 'cause that's
what makes the show so successful. We're not going to give you
Joe Millionaire or The Bachelor, in which everything is set up.
We're going to give you our lives.
The whole camping thing....
Camping was my idea, if you can believe it! I was miserable. What
they didn't show was that the trip was five days long. They compiled
ALL of my complaints from five days and just ran them back to
Didn't that bother
I think it's hysterical! I laugh at it 'cause I know the story.
Do you and Nick sit
at home and watch the show?
Yeah, but it's not like I was in the edit studio or saw the episodes
before. We've never taken one thing out. That's why people are
so shocked--people always ask me, "Why would you ever let
them keep the Chicken of the Sea comment in?" I thought it
was funny! I'm a total ditz and a klutz, but I know I'm not dumb.
So many people are
so embarrassed by everything.
I was like that, too, but when I got married, I just gained so
much more confidence. I'm much more relaxed.
You seem completely
different than the person on the show.
Well, that person is a side of me they like to show. I know that
person, so it doesn't really bother me. If you're going to compare
me to Anna Nicole Smith, that's gonna bother me. The New York
Daily News compared me to her, and I started freaking out! Then
The New York Post compared me to Goldie Hawn, Lucille Ball, and
Suzanne Somers--that was okay. To me, it's important to be a likeable
person--it's hard to pull off.
calling you "America's Sweetheart." We've only heard
that about Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, and Reese Witherspoon.
Well, it matters to all of them to be sweet. It matters to me
to make everyone feel important. America's Sweetheart is a dream
title for me.
Nick seems like a great
He has great character. He's a man's man! A total guy! He likes
to do everything for himself.
He's such a grownup
about tidiness and money. How did he become so responsible at
such a young age?
I don't know. Maybe because he went to college--and because he
had a great family--values and morals were instilled in him. I
had a great family, too, but I grew up in entertainment. Nick
and I come from different worlds, but we just have a connection
Having gone through
the rare experience of being a virgin when you got married, do
you recommend that to other girls?
Absolutely. At times, it was annoying. At times I felt like, "Who
cares? Whatever!" But Nick kept saying that I would regret
[not keeping my virginity vow]. He never tried to talk me out
of it. He had other girls throwing themselves at him, and I was
the person who, on the fifth date, hadn't even kissed him yet.
He respected that, and he wanted someone who wanted that for him.
Who do you talk to
about your sex life?
My mom. I want to be the kind of mother my mom is. She was always
comfortable about everything. Our family's just like that--so
open. I think it's because my dad was a minister and an adolescent
therapist. That's why I'm so grounded.
What's the most important
thing you and Nick have learned from each other in your relationship?
I think that just being you is okay. Like, I don't have to be
the sports-watching, neat freak who he probably would have envisioned
himself with. And he's not the guy who wants to go shopping and
pick out my outfits with me. You can just be who you are, and
You are a woman who
was ready to get married young.
I'm one of those old souls who was blessed young--but I'm still
naive and completely ditzy.
Why do you keep labeling
I think there's a difference between ditzy and dumb. Dumb is just
not knowing. Ditzy is having the courage to ask! [laughs]