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Open Book Synopsis
Jessica Simpson’s memoir called Open Book reflects on the 39-year-old’s career as well as some painful memories, including the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and her drinking problem.
It also holds nothing back when it comes to Simpson’s past relationships, including her marriage to Nick Lachey, on/off relationship with John Mayer and an emotional affair she had with Jackass star Johnny Knoxville.
In the book, she makes a point of reflecting on her mistakes but is cognizant of the pressures and expectations that others put on her. She’s most proud of what she’s achieved on her own, which she sums up in an anecdote about the financial settlement during her divorce. She ultimately agreed to pay Lachey a large sum. Her father was furious, but Simpson assured him that she would earn all that money back.
Jessica Ann Johnson is an American singer, actress, fashion designer, and author. After performing in church choirs as a child, Simpson signed with Columbia Records in 1997, at age 16. Her debut studio album, Sweet Kisses (1999), sold over four million copies worldwide.
Adopting a more mature image for her second studio album Irresistible (2001), the album’s title track became her second top 20 entry on the Billboard Hot 100, and the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In This Skin (2003), Simpson’s third studio album sold three million copies in the United States.
During her earlier career, Simpson became known for her relationship and later marriage to Nick Lachey, with whom she appeared on the MTV reality television series Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica between 2003 and 2005.
Following the release of her first Christmas album ReJoyce: The Christmas Album. In 2006, she released her fifth studio album A Public Affair and appeared in the romantic comedy film Employee of the Month.
Aside from her musical pursuits, Simpson launched The Jessica Simpson Collection in 2005, a fashion line of clothing and other items. The brand has gone on to earn over $1 billion in revenue and is regarded as one of the most successful celebrity-founded brands in history.
She also starred on the reality television series The Price of Beauty in 2010, was a judge on two seasons of Fashion Star between 2012 and 2013.
Simpson is currently married to Eric Johnson, with whom she shares three children.
Sexually Abused In Childhood
In her memoir, Jessica Simpson recalled how at age 12, while in the car with her parents, she told them about the abuse she had suffered at the hands of a family friend’s daughter.
She was sharing a bed with the daughter, who began by tickling her back, then evolved “into things that were extremely uncomfortable”. She was frozen with fear and worried that she was to blame.
“I wanted to tell my parents,” she wrote in her memoir. “I was the victim but somehow I felt in the wrong.”
Six years later, as a 12-year-old, Simpson told her parents about the abuse as they were on a car trip.
Eventually, Simpson says it progressed to a point where the girl would lead Simpson into a closet or “linger” until they were alone. As her little sister, Ashlee, grew up, Simpson felt it was her responsibility to protect Ashlee from the abuse. After shouldering the secret for six years, she finally found the courage to tell her parents.
“I feel like you guys might know that this has been going on, but if you don’t know what’s been going on, she’s been touching me for years and it makes me really uncomfortable and I don’t ever want to go back there,”
Jessica Simpson recalls saying on the way home from the girl’s house. They never visited that friend again, but they also never discussed the sexual abuse.
Taking Diet Pills At Age 17 for 20 years
Only a few weeks after her Mickey Mouse disappointment, Jessica was discovered by the head of a Christian music label after a church performance.
A few years later, before her gospel record was released, the label went bust. Her grandmother bankrolled a test press of the album, which was then sent to a number of labels and producers and ultimately caught the attention of Tommy Mottola, the then-husband of Mariah Carey and head of Columbia Records in 1997.
She began working on her debut album, with Mottola to market her as the “anti-sex appeal” contrast to Britney Spears and Aguilera.
In her memoir, Simpson shares that during this time Mottola told her: “You gotta lose 15 pounds”. As a result, Simpson began taking diet pills at the age of 17.
“I immediately went on an extremely strict diet, and started taking diet pills, which I would do for the next 20 years,”
As her music career took off, Simpson felt more pressure to maintain a particular body image.
“I started to hear voices when I was alone at night, waiting for the sleeping pill to kick in…’Do more sit-ups, fat ass.'”
She began applying eyeshadow to her stomach, to create an illusion of abs.
Marriage to Nick Lachey
Jessica Simpson announced her engagement to Nick Lachey in February 2002, with the two holding their wedding ceremony on October 26 in Austin, Texas. Simpson began working on her third studio album in 2002.
While it’s true that Simpson’s father wasn’t happy with her engagement to 98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey, she reveals that she was the one against a prenup — not her father, as the tabloids may have suggested.
“No, this was an intimate discussion between a man and his soon-to-be wife,” she says. “Which is to say that I exploded.” By the end of the relationship, they didn’t even need a prenup (although it might’ve been helpful).
After long stretches of not speaking, Simpson asked for a divorce and Lachey hesitated, trying to get her to stay with him. They slept together one last time before the divorce was finalized, while Lachey was promoting his “divorce album.” Then Simpson had to end it. Since they had no prenup and she was tired of going back and forth, when Lachey asked for “a certain number” as part of the divorce agreement, Simpson relented, figuring she’d make it back. “And then I did,” she cheekily writes, referencing her Jessica Simpson Collection.
Emotional Affair With Johnny Knoxville
Who knew the set of the Dukes of Hazzard remake was so romantic? Filming the movie was a refuge from Simpson’s marriage in more ways than one. During this time, she began an emotional affair with Johnny Knoxville, or, as she called him in her diary, “the boy from Tennessee.”
After a hug during their first day on set, Simpson said she “felt a force” drawing the two together. Though it never got physical – and both were married – Simpson shared details about what happened with “the boy from Tennessee”, as she coded his name in her diary.
“First off, we were both married, so this wasn’t going to get physical …. But to me, an emotional affair was worse than a physical one. It’s funny, I know, because I had placed such an emphasis on sex by not having it before marriage. After I actually had sex, I understood that the emotional part was what mattered. And Johnny and I had that, which seemed far more of a betrayal to my marriage than sex.”
Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling’s Bet About Jessica
Jessica Simpson wrote about how she turned down a role in The Notebook, alongside Ryan Gosling, because producers wouldn’t budge on taking out the sex scene. She didn’t get the job, but in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Simpson recalled how following her divorce she reconnected with another The Mickey Mouse Clubalum, Justin Timberlake.
They kissed, and then Timberlake immediately whipped out his phone and sent a text.
“Apparently him and Ryan Gosling had a bet on who would kiss me first when they were 12-years-old,” she explained. “And so, he texted Ryan and said he won the bet. And I was like, ‘Oh, okay. Um… So we don’t kiss again. That’s done.'”
Relationship with John Mayer
John Mayer’s history of treating and speaking about women disrespectfully is well recorded, but the effect it had on his exes has really been talked about only in Taylor Swift songs.
In Open Book, Jessica Simpson details her tumultuous on-again-off-again relationship with Mayer. She would agonize over text messages to make sure everything was grammatically sound and wouldn’t upset him, spent “hours decoding a basic fact” to respond properly, and drank to fight the anxiety. “It was the start of me relying on alcohol to mask my nerves,” she admits. She adds that Mayer was “obsessed” with her, and his insistence even while they were separate led to Tony Romo’s breakup with her.
Eventually, she realized Mayer had been using her for inspiration.
“All this time, all those years, he was breaking up with me to torture himself enough to get good material,”
she claims, while also taking responsibility for her part in the back-and-forth. But she kept seeing him until Playboy happened: Mayer’s infamous Playboy interview is full of chaos, such as his saying he isn’t attracted to black women.
From 2007-2009, she dated Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who broke up with her the night before her 29th birthday party after discovering an email from Mayer on her phone.
Simpson said Mayer had gone through her family, convincing them that they should get back together and professing his love to her at her parents’ house.
Simpson wrote she never cheated on Romo, but did not tell him about seeing Mayer.
The night before her birthday, Romo saw an email and confronted her. She told him nothing had happened between them, but Romo did not believe her and broke off their relationship.
She began dating Eric Johnson, a retired NFL player, in mid-2010. In May 2012, the couple welcomed their first daughter, Maxwell Drew Johnson, and just over a year later in June 2013 came their son Ace Knute Johnson.
In June 2013, Simpson and Johnson married. In March 2019, she gave birth to their third child, a daughter named Birdie Mae Johnson.
Being Drunk While Appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show
While hanging out on Ellen, Simpson joked and slurred her words, quickly becoming the talk-show host’s punch line. “I admit I drank beforehand and was also on steroids for a chest infection that made me hoarse,” she confesses in the book.
“I was nervous, but I’d always been able to turn it on for talk shows. Instead, I couldn’t find Ellen’s rhythm, mumbling, and second-guessing everything I was saying.”
Drink Vodka Every Morning
Early into the autobiography, Simpson admits to drinking vodka early in the morning to combat shaking and anxiety. She would mix vodka with flavored Perrier sparkling water in a glittery tumbler and bring it with her.
When she decided to become sober, she says her last drink was from her faithful “glittercup.”
About Her Controversial Father
Simpson’s father, and former manager, Joe Simpson has been a controversial figure throughout her career. In Open Book, she recalled his negativity towards her relationship and later her marriage to Lachey.
“He was convinced that Nick didn’t understand commitment, which I didn’t think was fair. ‘Marriage is about hanging in there,’ he said. I know he accused Nick of making me dependent on him for everything, which is the pot calling up the kettle to have a long talk about being black.”
She recalled how at her rehearsal dinner, he acted as if the wedding was a “execution day”.
“There’s just no nice way to put it. He continually told me I was making a mistake and told Nick to his face that I was too young to get married… He moped and kept shaking his head, right in front of Nick’s family.
“‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ he asked. I didn’t answer, and he continued. ‘I’m right here. We can-‘ ‘Dad, please.’ “You don’t have to.'”
She wrote that after she told him she was divorcing Nick, he told her: “I wish I had the courage that you have to do that with your mum.”
Simpson’s parents divorced in 2012, and she recalled how her father decided to tell her at the worst possible moment. While in hospital during her first pregnancy, Joe told his daughter she gave him “confidence” to file for divorce.
“In August, my mother discovered that my father had betrayed their marriage, just as she and I thought things were turning around for them. She had just told me what a nice time they had together on their anniversary, and she thought maybe they had turned a corner. I thought so, too. When she confronted him, my dad began calling me, and I would not pick up.”
In 2016, Joe was diagnosed with prostate cancer and his recovery “forced a needed reconnection” between the two. Despite their turbulent relationship, Simpson wrote that she wouldn’t change their relationship for anything, and that he was “the best father I could ever have had”.
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Breakdown to Get Sober
Halloween is typically a fun event at Simpson’s home with her husband, Eric Johnson, but in 2017, she started the day with that glittercup. Already anxious from an event at her daughter’s school, Simpson came home and opened up to her father, who had been her longtime manager.
By this point, she had painfully fired him and was nervous to play him any of her new music, which had been inspired by him.
“All the feelings I had been suppressing washed over me in a rush, and I was drowning in them. My world was rotating around me so fast that I didn’t have any clue as to how to control it,”
Her close friends, employees, and husband were all at the house for an annual Halloween party and were there for her when she admitted she was “not okay.” She spent the night drinking in her room, listening to her kids trick-or-treat. The next morning, she decided to stop drinking alcohol for good.
Her Friends Were Prepared to Stage an Intervention
Simpson’s friends Koko, CaCee, Stephanie, and Lauren (all of whom have either worked with or currently work with the star) had been planning for Simpson to “hit rock bottom” for six months before she finally decided to go sober. “Lauren already had a doctor lined up, one who specialized in getting celebrities in-home treatment for addiction,” Simpson explains in the book.
Initially, Jessica Simpson had “the nerve to be offended,” but soon she was ready to do the work to change for the better. “To walk forward through my anxiety,” she writes, “I first had to look back to understand what pain I was running from, and what I was trying to hide.”
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Adapted from the Washington Post, Zoe Haylock’s article on Vulture, Chelsea Mclaughlin’s article on Mamamia and Wikipedia.
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