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Jessica Simpson is Smart Jessica Simpson: pop diva, sex symbol, singer, actress, sister of pop rocker Ashlee Simpson, but mostly just famous for being famous. Just how did this controversial blonde bombshell become the pop culture icon she is today? Pop music connoisseurs will remember first hearing about Jessica Simpson in 1999, when she emerged as a sweet-faced, girl-next-door alternative to established divas Britney Spears Spears and Christina Aguilera. But Jessica Simpson’s musical career began years before that. Born July 10, 1980 in the cattle production hub of Abilene, Texas, Jessica Simpson’s singing career actually started in her school choir, where she won a talent contest at the age of 10. Two years later, she tried out for, and was rejected by, The Mickey Mouse Club, an unfortunate event which would foreshadow her later attempts to match the success of Britney Spears and Christina, who’d succeeded in their auditions. But neither Jessica Simpson nor her Baptist youth minister father, Joe Truett Simpson (who was already aspiring to become her manager), gave up. Jessica Simpson continued singing, and sang all the way to church camp, where a Christian record label noticed her, signed her on, and helped her record her album… only to fold over before the album was actually released. Still, Jessica Simpson did not give up.
Thanks to the generous funding of her grandmother, Joyce, Jessica Simpson recorded a demo album. She also joined a Christian touring company, performing with some of the big names in Christian contemporary music, such as God’s Property. Finally, she caught the eye—and the ear—of Columbia Music’s Tommy Motolla, the pop-music guru most famous for bringing us Mariah Carey. Jessica Simpson finally signed her first major record contract. 1999 saw the release of Jessica Simpson’s debut album Sweet Kisses, which spawned such saccharine hits with well-thought-out titles like I Think I’m in Love with You and I Wanna Love You Forever. Jessica Simpson sung her heart out, but no one noticed: they were too busy buying Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s CDs. That same year, Christina Aguilera’s self-titled debut album sold over 12 million copies worldwide, while Britney Spears’s debut “Baby One More Time” went 14 times platinum. Sweet Kisses, meanwhile, sold a mere 2 million copies, and faded into musical oblivion. Two years later came Irresistible, her follow-up album which spurned the upbeat radio hit Irresistible. No one noticed this attempt, either. Record-buyers resisted this album just fine; Irresistible sold a mere 825,000 copies and established Jessica Simpson’s spot in the shadow of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
There was one person who noticed Jessica Simpson: Nick Lachey, the chisel-chinned lead singer of the now-defunct boy band 98 Degrees. Today, 98 Degrees is one of those bands whose hotness you and your friends might reminisce over for a few seconds before beginning a collective struggle to remember at least one of their songs. Back in the late 90’s, however, 98 Degrees were well-respected for bringing the world such hits as The Hardest Thing and Thank God I Found You (featuring Mariah Carey and Joe). Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson first hooked up when she toured with the band to promote Sweet Kisses. Theirs was a very public relationship, a rarity in the music business at the time. The couple dated for two years, split up, then got back together and decided to marry. (Online rumor has it that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks brought them back together; Jessica Simpson heard that 98 Degrees was supposed to be flying out of NYC that day and, fearing the worst, panicked. Both were so relieved the other was okay that they began speaking of a life together.) Now that the engagement was announced, the public finally started to notice Jessica Simpson, largely because of her claims that she was still a virgin, and would remain one until her wedding night. Suddenly, Jessica Simpson was transformed into a tabloid princess: was she really a virgin? Would she and Nick Lachey really wait? MTV capitalized on the public’s thirst for Nick and Jessica Simpson news by capturing their married life on camera. “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica Simpson” was a hit reality TV show during all four seasons it ran, attracting an average viewership of 1.4 million. The show followed the couple through their $4-million dollar Calablasas, California home. Newlyweds depicted Nick as the down-to-earth, caring husband and Jessica Simpson as an irritating dumb blonde. Much of the show was devoted to Jessica Simpson strutting around in skimpy clothes, trying to cook while she and Nick debated which movie to watch. The show also gave Jessica Simpson the opportunity to utter some now-legendary quotes such as, while holding a can of tuna: "Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it's tuna, but it says 'Chicken by the Sea'." The most famous scene from Newlyweds was Jessica Simpson’s discovery that buffalo wings don’t actually come from buffalos.
The show was originally meant for Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, who later backed out. Luckily for Jessica Simpson, her manager father, Joe, got wind of this and suggested his daughter for the show. Joe Simpson’s foresight was lucky for Jessica Simpson, since the show earned her status as a TV celebrity, earning her such prestigious awards as “Choice Hottie Female” at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards. Sadly, the show did less for Nick Lachey, who trailed behind Jessica Simpson in popularity much the way Jessica Simpson once trailed behind Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Many critics praised the show for its accurate and sensitive portrayal of the hardships of newlywed life in show business, most notably for the episode where Jessica Simpson struggled to stick to a $25 budget when choosing Nick Lachey’s Valentine Day gift. Others were disgusted by Jessica Simpson’s perpetuation of the dumb-blonde stereotype. An interesting school of thought emerged, claiming that Jessica Simpson was actually a genius who faked the dumb-blonde act in order to finally achieve the fame that her music simply wasn’t bringing her.
The most vocal member of this school has been Jessica Simpson’s mother, Tina Simpson, who has publicly asserted that Jessica Simpson has an IQ of 160. Sadly, Newlyweds went off the air in 2005. Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson divorced shortly after, citing irreconcilable differences. Speculation abounds that their split may have had something to do with the fact that contractual obligations with Newlyweds allowed them almost no privacy, but this has never been confirmed. Actor Justin Berfield, best known for his work on Malcolm in the Middle, is now the lucky owner of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson’s now-historic former home. Since Newlyweds, Jessica Simpson has held on to her celebrity status. She’s since released 3 CDs: In the Skin, ReJoyce: the Christmas Album (that’s not a typo—she actually named it for Grandma Joyce, the one who funded her demo album), and A Public Affair. Jessica Simpson can also now add acting to her list of credentials: she had a critically-acclaimed role in The Dukes of Hazard and has since starred in Employee of the Month and Blonde Ambition.
These days, Jessica Simpson also has a starring role in show business’ greatest mystery: the Jessica Simpson and John Mayer Romance. John Mayer is a multiple Grammy-winning singer/songwriter famed for his soulful ballads and sensitive lyrics that accurately capture the angst of twentysomethinghood. Some even credit him with coining the popular term “quarter-life crisis” in his 2001 song Why Georgia, but this claim is still under investigation. People magazine first speculated on the relationship in August 2006, and the rumors intensified when the two were very affectionate at a New Year’s Eve party in 2006. Internet rumors soared, and the relationship was considered confirmed once the duo got cuddly and posed for pictures at the 2007 Grammy after party (where, when harassed by a reporter, John Mayer professed his admiration for Jessica Simpson in Japanese). The Jessica Simpson and John Mayer relationship has inspired volumes of online philosophical speculation.
A Google search of John Mayer + Jessica Simpson produces a whopping two million hits. The internet abounds with forums full of industry watchers struggling to pinpoint what exactly these two seemingly opposite people see in one another. The tortured poet and the dumb blonde (now brunette)? The man who astutely pointed out that “Numb is the new deep” and the girl who once wondered, “Platypus? I thought it was pronounced platymapus. Has it always been pronounced platypus?” What gives? The internet crawls with conspiracy theories: he’s using her to look cool and attract male fans; she wants to be seen with a credible musician. Hundreds of photos have sprung up all over the internet, with captions attempting to prove this relationship is a farce. “Why is Jessica Simpson walking two steps in front of John Mayer when stepping outside this plane in Rome?” “Why is John Mayer not looking at Jessica Simpson in this photo taken on an Australian beach?” “Here’s Jessica Simpson in a skanky top showing off her boobs walking outside an even skankier club. Where’s John Mayer?” There was hope for Mayer fans recently when John Mayer arrived for the Canadian leg of his tour without Jessica Simpson, who stayed behind in Hollywood to party with guy friends (also captured on the internet).The Jessica Simpson-the-Genius school, meanwhile, is rejoicing; John Mayer could very well be the elusive proof of Jessica Simpson’s closet intelligence they’ve been waiting for. These hopefuls still believe in Jessica Simpson’s wise words, spoken circa 2003: “I think there's a difference between ditzy and dumb. Dumb is just not knowing. Ditzy is having the courage to ask!”