Jessica Simpson has been thinking.
“There’s so much pressure on women to be beautiful,” muses the singer, 29, in the opening moments of her much-anticipated new VH1 reality show. “But what defines beauty?”
Her solution: Travel around the world to learn what women in different cultures do to feel beautiful. And bring best friends CaCee Cobb and hairstylist Ken Paves along for the ride. Oh, and capture it all on camera for The Price of Beauty, which premieres March 15.
Judging from the first two episodes, Simpson’s latest TV effort plays like The Amazing Race (um, minus the race) meets Oprah. Simpson gets a mild taste of cultural flavor, participates in quirky customs and interviews locals who went to dangerous extremes in their quest to be gorgeous.
For a teen popster who became a bona fide superstar thanks to her ditzy behavior on MTV’s Newlyweds with then-husband Nick Lachey (recap: Chicken of the Sea is not chicken), Simpson tries valiantly to rein in her antics. During her stay in Thailand, she samples fried cockroaches because they contain hair-strengthening amino acids. She also becomes visibly distraught meeting a local singer who was so desperate to lighten her skin that she permanently damaged her appearance, thus losing her husband and her career.
Simpson hasn’t completely lost her immature touch, however. While praying with a Buddhist monk, she bursts into a giggling fit.
Next stop? Paris, where she gets caught up in the fashion industry’s pressure to be reed-skinny. (There’s a pop-up graphic informing audiences that a French model’s average weight is 115 pounds.) Notoriously ridiculed for her weight in recent years, Simpson is aghast talking to a former anorexic model. Then she sweats it out while prepping to strut on a runway during the city’s Pret a Porter showcase.
Final verdict: Though she comes off as genuinely interested and sympathetic to the people whom she encounters, it’s obvious that she’s only really enjoying herself when she’s getting her massage treatments.
Check it out. (You too, Nick.)