In the late Nineties, blonde beauty Jessica Simpson lined up behind multiplatinum teen queens Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears to cash in on the era's teen-pop phenomenon. But while Simpson achieved Top 10 success with the single "I Wanna Love You Forever" (Number Three, 1999), her star was on the wane by the turn of the millennium. In 2003, things took a dramatic turn when she and then-husband Nick Lachey of the boy band 98 Degrees, landed an MTV reality show, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. The marriage didn't last, but the show became a pop culture phenomenon, making Simpson a household name. As the 2000s unfolded, Simpson appeared in movies, TV specials, commercials and launched her own designer clothing line.
She was born Jessica Ann Simpson on July 10th, 1980 in Dallas, Texas, to Joe and Tina Simpson. Her father, a youth minister, raised her and younger sister Ashlee in the Baptist faith. Jessica sang in her church choir and eventually auditioned for a role in the same Mickey Mouse Club revival show that launched the careers of Spears, Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. Simpson didn't make the MMC, but she eventually attracted the attention of a small Contemporary Christian Music label and began recording her Christian-pop debut, Jessica. The label folded before the album came out, but her grandmother bankrolled an independent pressing. Simpson attained some success on the Christian-music circuit, performing shows with CCM stars such as Kirk Franklin. At 17, she moved over to the secular market, signing with Columbia Records and releasing her major-label debut, Sweet Kisses (Number 25), in 1999.
Columbia positioned Simpson as a wholesome version of Spears and Aguilera. She advocated sexual abstinence, and her first single, "I Wanna Love You Forever," was more of an adult contemporary ballad than the kind of dance-pop her two teen-queen rivals made. Simpson toured with 98 Degrees and appeared as Lachey's girlfriend in the video for the group's hit song "My Everything." The couple soon struck up a real-life relationship. When Kisses stalled on the charts, Columbia released a second single, the dance-pop song "I Think I'm in Love with You," which looped the beat and guitar part from John Mellencamp's 1982 hit "Jack and Diane." The single reached Number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2001, she released her second album, Irresistible, which got a big push from MTV, reaching Number Six on the Billboard 200.
She and Lachey were married on October 26th, 2002, and Simpson appeared on some episodes of That '70s Show as she began to branch out into acting. In 2003, she released her third album, In This Skin, which charted moderately well and spawned the single "Sweetest Sin." But she never attained the success of her two rivals, Spears and Aguilera.
That same year, Simpson and Lachey's reality show Newlyweds began airing on MTV, and by the following year the pair were a staple of celebrity weeklies and gossip columns, with Simpson playing the role of the bumbling wife. Simpson's father, Joe, had taken the idea of airing his daughter's private life to MTV, and was constantly present throughout its making. His management decisions — putting his daughter's life on public display — became the topic of much debate in the media and among record executives. But one thing was clear: Newlyweds was a resounding success. And when Columbia rereleased In This Skin in 2003, the album shot to Number Two and its single, "With You," reached Number One on the Top 40 Mainstream pop chart and Number 14 on the Hot 100. A second single, Simpson's cover of Berlin's 1986 Number One hit "Take My Breath Away," reached Number 20. With a more mature sound, Simpson had pulled herself out of the teen-pop ghetto once and for all, but her gaffes on Newlyweds earned her a reputation for being a "dumb blonde." Throughout the show's run, from 2003 to 2005, viewers and critics debated whether Simpson was acting or playing herself.
In April 2004, Simpson appeared with her husband in the ABC television special The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour, a throwback to the variety TV of the Seventies such as The Sonny & Cher Show. In December, Simpson released the holiday collection ReJoyce: The Christmas Album (Number 14, 2004). The following year, she appeared as Daisy Duke in a movie remake of Seventies TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. The movie topped box office sales the weekend of its release, grossing more than $30 million. For the soundtrack, Simpson remade Nancy Sinatra's Number One single of 1966, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (Number 14, 2005), and appeared as Daisy Duke in the video. Her next film role came in the 2006 comedy Employee of the Month. The following year, she was in the Luke Wilson comedy Blonde Ambition, which grossed only $1,332 its opening weekend and went swiftly to DVD.
In 2006, after much tabloid speculation, Simpson and Lachey divorced. Simpson moved from Columbia Records to Epic Records and released the poppy A Public Affair (Number Five, 2006), which deliberately alludes to the media storm surrounding her marriage to Lachey. The album sold more than 100,000 copies its first week, and the title track became a Top 20 hit single, but the record floundered after that. In 2007, word spread that Simpson was relocating to Nashville to explore making a country album. In June 2008 her first country single, "Come on Over," received mostly positive reviews and debuted at Number 41 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, making it the best debut by an artist with no prior history on the chart.
Since her split with Lachey, Simpson has been linked with new men ranging from the blues-pop singer John Mayer to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Debate over whether her father is overly involved in her personal and professional life has continued to follow the singer.
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