On “The Price of Beauty” starting In March on VH1, you can catch singer/actress/personality Jessica Simpson as she travels the world with sidekick/pal CaCee Cobb and noted hairdo guru Ken Paves talking with women in India, France, Thailand, Japan, Uganda, Morocco, and Brazil about their sometimes bizarre beauty rituals and customs, fashion picks and weird diets all while offering to help better their lives.
Through Operation Smile, one of Jessica’s fave charities, the show even gave a young girl in Mumbai, India a chance to repair a facial deformity (cleft lip and palate).
We’re with Jessica to learn about some of the more “out there” beauty rituals she encountered and how she was personally affected by seeing what women all over the world consider beautiful.
What have you learned about beauty from going around the world and interviewing women?
Jessica: I think going all around the world and seeing all of these incredibly courageous women, it really inspired all of us to find the best within ourselves.
And I feel like I walk around with so much more pride in who I am as a woman, as a person. And I got to do it with my best friends, and I think we all just discovered so much about what life really, really is and what beauty actually means.
Has the girl in India changed your view on reconstructive surgery? Isn’t there a difference between women who don’t have a deformity and elect to do it and a girl who really needs it?
Jessica: I am not against reconstructive surgery if it is for a woman to have more confidence. If that’s what it’s for, if that’s truly the reason, I think that I would support it.
Giving this little East Indian girl a smile arms her with courage to face the world and fulfill her potential wouldn’t you say?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, that was just one part of the show. I mean, we learn a lot about surgery in Brazil. It’s definitely the largest place for plastic surgery. I think one incredible thing that we all fell in love with was all the different religions and just learning more about the Muslims and Hindus and the Buddhists and how they define beauty.
So I think you’ll see a lot of that throughout the show as well. There’s lots of laughter. There’s a lot of tears. But, I think you’ll definitely see friendship and beautiful women.
Do you follow up with Mena who had the cleft palate? How is she doing, and is that a big part of the show, following up on women you have covered?
Jessica: Absolutely. Mena is here in the United States right now going through more surgery. She had a cleft lip and a cleft palate. So there were more surgeries that needed to be done, and she’s also getting some dental work done, and she’ll be here for probably another six weeks.
Out of all the different countries and different versions of beauty that you’ve seen, what was the one that left you wanting to say “‘Oh, my God, that’s the most beautiful thing I ever saw or experienced’?
Jessica: I personally loved Morocco. Originally, I thought of a Moroccan woman living a repressed life, but after sitting and talking with these women, they’re speaking to you through their eyes. Their souls were just so intense and so beautiful. And, you know, it was all about their peace within and not what they look like on the outside. It’s really about their eyes being the windows to their souls and who they are.
Women who fatten themselves with milk in Uganda to be marriageable is so opposite to our culture.
Jessica: The men told CaCee and I that we would have to be in a fattening hut for three months for them to even consider marrying us, to just go be in a fattening hut again. It’s a compliment there to be called a “fat cow”.
So you must have learned that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. How did learning that effect you or change your own concept of what beauty is?
Jessica: Beauty is a very easy thing to become obsessed with in our society. The pressures that are put on woman today, shape, size…it changed me completely because I haven’t always had an inner confidence, and I haven’t always looked at my reflection and loved it. There’s always something that I’ve wanted to fix because there’s always somebody that looks better.
And that’s what we always try to compare ourselves to. So I think the journey really was finding what was beautiful inside of me and knowing that I own it and, you know, it’s unique and rare. And it was a very powerful journey. I think, if you watch the show, you will definitely see my life change.
Do you hope that doing a show like this, that might empower women, will keep you out of the tabloids?
Jessica: Well, that’s not really a spotlight that I enjoy being in because they make up my life for me, apparently. They know more about me than I do. Hopefully there will be a Season 2 and we can travel even more of the world and discover more. But I never really try and focus on getting in a tabloid.
I’ve always felt a calling to be a very positive light and positive role model for girls, for women, for the world. And this show is my heart, and the tabloids have nothing to do with it.
But isn’t it kind of ironic that your career and maybe your exposure in the tabloids got you to the point where you can do this good work for women?
Jessica: I think there are people all over the world that do very powerful things to change the world. I don’t really find that ironic. I’ve been put in this position for a reason, and I’m here to live it through, and I believe in it.
I never really thought that I got famous for my looks. I was signed to a record deal when I was 17 years old, so it started that young. I don’t think that they signed me for what I looked like. I think it was, hopefully, for my voice.
In some cultures your great, curvy body might not be the ideal. Did you face that yet?
Jessica: Yeah. I mean, going to Paris, I had to walk a runway with all of these tall, skinny models. And I almost puked, I was so nervous. I mean, I can walk a red carpet, but walking a runway, I mean, I would be the first to fall on my face. And thank God, I didn’t.
But I was so nervous to walk out there and be judged, to just put myself out there like that, especially standing next to people that eat just salad.
You can’t let anybody else define beauty for you.
Have you changed a lot both inside and out since doing the show?
Jessica: Absolutely. This show is a lot of self-discovery. I feel like I kind of went back to my childhood, in a way, to how carefree I felt about myself and then how driven I was to make things happen in my life as a person, in my quiet time, in my prayer time, in just those moments of discovery.
As far as outwardly, I definitely carry myself different after experiencing this because there is something about myself that is so unique that I found that I’m proud of. And any man I find, they’re going to be darn lucky.
Did you have a local beauty consultant or expert in each country to brief you on the customs. I’d be afraid of maybe insulting some of the women if I didn’t know the customs.
Jessica: Yeah. We had a beauty ambassador in every country that we went to, so they basically took us around their country and showed us all their beauty regimens, beliefs, everything.
Did you ever strongly disagree with what the women did or how they treated you?
Jessica: I did almost get in a fight with somebody over some short shorts. You see me steaming.