Also Credited As:Jessica Ann Simpson
|Jessica Ann Simpson on July 10, 1980 in Dallas, Texas, USA|
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Born on July 10, 1980 in Dallas, TX, Simpson was raised in a strict Christian home. Her father, Joe Simpson, was a minister at her local parish, as well as being a professional psychologist (and later Simpson's manager). When she turned 12, Simpson received a purity ring as a gift from her dad - a silver band with a cross to be worn until her wedding day. According to Simpson, she indeed retained her virtue until she married pop-star Nick Lachey, formerly of the boy band, 98 Degrees. Simpson's talents as a singer were apparent at an early age while singing gospel at her dad's church. At 12, Simpson attempted to break into show business by auditioning for "The Mickey Mouse Club" (Disney Channel, 1988-1995), but lost the part to the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera; the future stars were already dogging Simpson's career. The following summer, after her failure with "The Mickey Mouse Club," Simpson was discovered by the head of a small label, CCM, while singing at a church camp. Simpson spent the next three years recording her debut album, but the label folded before its release. Her grandmother funded a small pressing of the album, but it failed to make any impact in the mainstream. However, Simpson was a hit on the Christian Youth Conference circuit, where she sang with such gospel biggies as Kirk Franklin and Ce Ce Winans.
In 1997, she made another push into popular music when she was signed by Sony after singing an a cappella version of "Amazing Grace" in then-CEO Tommy Mottola's office. Columbia Records later released her first official album, Sweet Kisses, in 1999. The album would go on to sell close to 2 million copies, with its single, "I Wanna Love You Forever", almost going platinum as well. However, her follow-up albums, Irresistible and In This Skin, did not fair nearly as well. Despite slumping record sales, Simpson kept her career alive in other mediums - the singer appeared as herself in the Dana Carvey comedy "Master of Disguise" (2002) - and in 2003, she landed a recurring role as Annette, a girlfriend of Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) on "That 70's Show" (Fox, 1998-2006), in addition to an episode of "The Twilight Zone" (UPN, 2002-03) called "The Collection." In the episode, Simpson played a babysitter who looks after a young girl and her dolls, only to discover that she is slated to be next in the collection. However, it was surprisingly on a reality show with her recent hubby Nick Lachey that Simpson was afforded true mainstream, pop-culture fame.
Though the cable channel did not have high hopes at first, "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica" (MTV 2002-05) proved to be an instant hit, thanks in large part to Simpson's routine gaffes. In one infamous episode, Simpson confused Chicken of the Sea tuna with actual chicken; in another, she refused to have Buffalo wings because she didn't "eat buffalo." Upon learning that the happy hour favorite was not made of actual buffalo, Simpson added to the confusion: "Why name it a Buffalo wing when it's not buffalo?" But Simpson took the inevitable jibes at her intelligence in stride, even going so far as to make the dumb blonde routine a conscious part of her celebrity image. And it was Simpson who laughed last, as her show - once anticipated to be a ratings dud - was renewed for a second and third season. Simpson's third album, In This Skin, released amid heavy cross-promotion with the show, did not fare particularly well on the charts at first, but eventually became something of a sleeper hit upon re-release as her star continued to rise (in contrast, Lachey's simultaneously launched solo album sold poorly). As the couple's popularity skyrocketed, they were given the chance to host their own variety special, "The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour" (ABC, 2004-05), which aired on Easter Sunday and drew sky-high ratings with 11.5 million viewers - high enough to prompt the network to sign the couple for a holiday follow-up, "Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas" (ABC, 2004), and the patriotic "Nick & Jessica's Tour of Duty" (ABC, 2005).
The couple's high profile proved to be a marketing bonanza, with Simpson launching cosmetic and clothing lines, as well as garnering commercial endorsements for the likes of Pizza Hut's Buffalo wings. In addition, Simpson's success fueled the career of her younger sister, singer-actress Ashlee Simpson, who also earned her own MTV reality show and album deal. The downside of the young couple's newfound fame was that they were suddenly fodder for a seemingly endless array of cover stories among the weekly celebrity gossip magazines, usually weighing in on the state of their marriage. Almost as soon as Simpson was cast as cut-off-clad Southern belle Daisy Duke in the big screen remake of the fondly recalled 1970s series "The Dukes of Hazzard" (2005), her star shone even brighter than ever. And although Lachey had ventured into acting as well with a recurring role on The WB's "Charmed" (FOX, 1998-2006) in 2004, speculation ran rampant that her higher profile - compounded with extended periods apart and the availability of other partners - was taking its toll on his ego and their marriage. But even as coverage of their every outing reached critical mass on the verge of the "Dukes" premiere, the couple stood fast and insisted their bond would endure. When the film hit theaters, people were stunned by Simpson's new lean, toned physique, shown off most provocatively in the Brett Ratner-directed music video of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" - its images of a bikini-clad Simpson seductively washing a car causing quite a stir among many conservative Christian groups.
Throughout the rest of the year, celebrity tabloids dogged Simpson and Lachey, breathlessly reporting their every move and trumpeting the couple's alleged split, citing possible extramarital affairs on both their parts. After repeated denials, the one-time "Newlyweds" did indeed formally announce their separation over Thanksgiving weekend in 2005. In the summer of 2006, amongst tabloid stories speculating on the reasons for her failed marriage, Simpson released her next CD, the appropriately named but under-performing A Public Affair. In the fall she appeared alongside popular comedian Dane Cook in "Employee of the Month" (2006), a turgid, painfully unfunny romantic comedy that quickly killed any acting momentum Simpson may have benefited from with "Dukes of Hazzard." Garnering much more public attention was her burgeoning relationship with singer-songwriter-musician John Mayer. Best described as on-again/off-again, their much publicized romantic involvement would come to an end in 2007. Simpson took another swing at acting with the corporate comedy "Blonde Ambition" (2007), co-starring Luke Wilson. A bigger bomb than "Employee of the Month," it was banished to video almost immediately upon release, effectively putting the nail in the coffin of Simpson's acting career. Continuing the cycle, Simpson once again drew more media scrutiny with her latest beau - Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Fans of the team, however, quickly voiced their disapproval after several team losses, insisting that Simpson was not only a distraction but, quite possibly, bad luck. Mercilessly hounded by paparazzi, the couple finally called it quits in 2009 when he reportedly broke up with her on her birthday.
In 2008, Simpson announced a shift in musical direction, releasing her first country album, Do You Know, resulting in the first No. 1 album of her career. On the flip-side of that success was the straight-to-video release of the low-rent riches-to-rags comedy, "Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous" (2008). The gossip columns and bloggers also had a field day when Simpson was photographed wearing what were dubbed "mom jeans," and speculation began to swirl regarding her perceived weight gain. Possibly as a response to this kind of public scrutiny, she hosted her own series - "Jessica Simpson's The Price of Beauty" (VH1, 2009-10), which explored the lengths women around the world go to for the sake of attractiveness. Simpson continued to try her hand at acting with a cameo as herself on a 2010 episode of the popular cable series "Entourage" (HBO, 2003-2011). Then, in 2010 Simpson began dating another NFL player, former New Orleans Saints tight-end Eric Johnson. In November of that year, Simpson gleefully announced that she and Johnson were suddenly engaged - mere days after her ex, Nick Lachey, announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend, actress-TV host, Vanessa Minnillo. Meanwhile, she returned to reality TV with an appearance on "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 2004- ), where she gave one lucky contestant a shopping spree with her. She followed that with regular appearances as one of the judges on Elle Macpherson's "Fashion Star" (NBC, 2012- ), a reality competition that pitted up-and-coming fashion designers against each other for the chance to sell their clothes at top stores. On May 1, 2012, Simpson gave birth to her first child, daughter Maxwell Drew Johnson, following a seemingly long and highly publicized pregnancy with Johnson.