Jessica Simpson burst onto the scene in the 1990s with a pop album that put her on par with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. She was a huge hit from the start after her career began at the age of 16. This placed her in those first rounds of pop stars from the 1990s that grew up in the spotlight.
Coming of age in the public eye places an incredible amount of pressure on young celebrities. In the early 2000s, there was little understanding of the long-term impact the spotlight life has on these young celebrities’ mental health. They’re often used by Hollywood or the music industry then left to deal with the fallout on their own.
These experiences cause many young stars to numb their emotional responses with alcohol and drugs. Simpson recently revealed that she had the same kind of experience while growing up. She released a memoir at the beginning of the year, Open Book, where she reveals the impact of growing up in front of the masses.
Simpson also opened up about her own battle with alcohol addiction for the first time. She’s nearly 3 years sober now and hopes that sharing her experience can inspire others. Simpson is overjoyed about the incredible differences that quitting drinking has made in her life. She’s now a part of the ranks of celebrities gone sober, sharing their stories with the world.
Simpson’s Rise to Stardom
Jessica Simpson was born in Texas to a preacher father and stay-at-home mother. She grew up singing in the choir at her father’s church and knew early on she wanted to make a living singing. Columbia records signed a record deal with her in 1998 and released her debut album, Sweet Kisses, in 1999.
Her record label suggested an innocent, image for her first record. Then they pressured her to shift to a more mature image for her second album to keep up with Spears and Aguilera. Tommy Mottola, head of her label, also ordered her to lose 15 pounds.
Not long after that, she married boy band superstar Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees. The couple found themselves as the stars of MTV’s reality TV show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. It chronicled their first few years of marriage and the recording of her third album. The show was a massive success, catapulting the couple into being household names.
Newlyweds set Simpson up as the face of MTV. It also firmly planted her into the ditzy, “dumb blonde” stereotype that followed her for years. Even after the end of the show and her divorce from Lachey, she now had a role she was expected to fill.
As she writes in her memoir, “Nowadays, I see so many people performing their identities on social media, but I feel like I was a guinea pig for that. How was I supposed to live a real, healthy life filtered through the lens of a reality show? If my personal life was my work, and my work required me to play a certain role, who even was I anymore?”
Stepping Forward About Sobriety
Simpson finally gave fans a look behind the scenes during an interview with People at the beginning of this year. The struggles of growing up under immense public scrutiny drove her to self-medicate with alcohol and stimulants. “I was killing myself with all the drinking and pills,” she explained.
She also revealed that she was repeatedly sexually abused by a family friend over a six-year period. The drinking and drugs kept her emotional pain at bay while she charged forward to build her career. Her entire facade finally came crashing down on Halloween in 2017.
Simpson was getting ready for a Halloween party but had started drinking at 7:30 that morning. By the time she had to help her children get ready she was far too intoxicated to get them into their costumes. She wrote, “I am ashamed to say that I don’t know who got them into their costumes that night.”
She reached out to a friend the next day and immediately received the help she needed. “Giving up the alcohol was easy,” she told People. “I was mad at that bottle. At how it allowed me to stay complacent and numb.”
A combination of support from her family, friends, and parents, along with two therapy sessions each week, helped her unravel the emotional toll of her youth. She’s been able to stay alcohol- and drug-free since that morning. Simpson celebrates 3 years of sobriety at the end of October.
“Honesty is hard but it’s the most rewarding thing we have,” said Simpson. “And getting to the other side of fear is beautiful.”