Jessica Simpson, Whose Life is Now an Open Book

Illustration: Angelica Alzona/GMG
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It would have been enough for singer/mogul/personality Jessica Simpson to get the last laugh in her 2020 memoir Open Book. She writes at length and with sensitivity about how it felt to be mockedshe’s so introspective that Open Book functions at times like an X-ray of a butt of a joke. “People’s laughter meant a lot to me, and being the joke validated me being smart to myself. It felt like I could pull one over on somebody. I thought, How dumb are you to think I’m that stupid?

She sure showed us. Open Book is no mere settling of the score, or is it a litany of refutations. It’s a soulful narrative that excavates the emotional experience of fame in a voice that is an extension of the blunt communicative aesthetic Simpson has expressed for the better part of two decades, dating back to when she became a bona fide persona via MTV’s early celebrity reality series Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. With a stunning matter-of-factness, Simpson describes sexual abuse, alcoholism, public ridicule, struggles with body standards, and men’s shitty behavior (including anecdotes about exes Nick Lachey, John Mayer, and Tony Romo). It’s been a great year for celebrity memoirs, but few from 2020 or any year can touch the poignance and sheer bravery of Open Book. For someone whose intelligence has long been underrated, the literary medium fits Simpson remarkably well.

“I feel more understood than ever,” wrote Simpson in an email to Jezebel. “I was incredibly flattered when Ronan Farrow posted on his social media that ‘the world owes Jessica Simpson an apology.’ I wouldn’t take it that far, but I hope people realized that I am just a flawed human like every single one of us are. It is so freeing to lead with your mistakes, own your truth, and be open about it.”

Simpson called the warm reception to the bestseller “the most unexpected and joyful professional experience of my life,” and described the communal sharing that Open Book has opened up.

“The feedback I have received has been beyond humbling,” she wrote. “I know that if I got through some of these dark times, my pain, my shame, my mistakes… that other people could too and I needed to tell them that. The fans I have met and spoken to on this journey continue to validate my reasoning and make my heart burst with joy.”

When asked if there’s anything that she regrets revealing in her book, Simpson responded that she is not someone who regrets. “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t scary for me to open up in the way that I did when I was starting out, but I didn’t give myself the choice of turning back,” she said. “I now see that many of the hardest parts for me to share are some of the parts that people seem to have been most impacted by, and that’s all of the reassurance I need to know I did the right thing.”

Earlier this month, Simpson revealed on Instagram that she is dyslexic, and that recording the audiobook component of her memoir marked “the first time I have ever read out loud without hesitation.” In her email, she elaborated: “I am dyslexic and had always thought I couldn’t read out loud. I never even gave myself a chance to because I was defeated in my own mind. Everyone in my family, on my professional team, at the Jessica Simpson Collection knows ‘Don’t ask Jessica to read out loud.’ I wanted to read the audiobook so it would be my voice telling my story, a familiar voice that would make the listener feel at ease and comfortable while listening. Even though I had agreed from the beginning to read it myself, I had the attached insecurity telling me, I’d never be able to do it, but I did. The reading part was much easier than I thought, but it was the emotional part that actually made me fumble here and there, having to take breaks! All in all, it was a healing week.”

Amazon recently announced plans for multiple series based on Open Book: one scripted, one unscripted. Also announced are two forthcoming essays, which will be published through Amazon Original Stories. Simpson told Jezebel that she has written a new intro for the paperback version of Open Book (due out in March), which will also include “some incredibly revealing journal entries and nostalgic photos.” On top of that, Simpson has prepped a guided journal for release sometime in 2021, and teases “some other exciting literary projects to share that I’m not at liberty to talk about yet.”

“I am horrible at keeping secrets, unless you need me to,” she added. “So, before I break any rules, pardon me, I will hush myself.” Until next time, then.

Some Pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.

DISCUSSION

I gotta recommend either as a substitute or a supplement for reading the book, the fantastic “You’re Wrong About” podcast did a series of episodes discussing her book and I was blown away! Jessica’s experiences became my go-to topic when making it through holiday family and friend phone calls.