Jessica Simpson is not fat. She’s beautiful and is a powerhouse when it comes to branding.
She has a line of clothing, handbags, jewelry, shoes, fragrances and even hair extensions. She has music CDs and DVDs, and is releasing a new Christmas album, featuring country-music legend Willie Nelson.
But it’s her weight that seems to garner media attention, from photos of her in high-waisted jeans to being the brunt of jokes by late-night comedians.
Simpson, 30, takes it all in stride.
“Being a size 0 or 2 is overrated. Guys like curves,” she recently said during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, where she showed her Jessica Simpson Collection using “real” women models. She also addresses beauty standards head-on in her VH1 documentary, Jessica Simpson’s The Price of Beauty, in which she travels the world to explore how different cultures define beauty and what women will go through to achieve it.
Born in Abilene and raised near Dallas, Simpson started singing in her church gospel choir, then worked with gospel-music heavyweights such as Kirk Franklin, God’s Property and CeCe Winans. She released her first pop CD, Sweet Kisses, in 1999 and has followed with a string of releases through the years. In 2002, she married 98° singer Nick Lachey. They starred together in MTV’s reality show Newlyweds, documenting the couple’s first year of marriage. They divorced in 2005. But the show gave Simpson a wider audience and the allegiance of new fans.
Simpson recently visited Dillard’s stores in Texas to sign autographs and showcase her fall collection. She talks about her life in the public eye as well as her love for shoes.
Q: You’ve been criticized in the media for your weight, but you seem to handle it well. Any advice for those struggling with body and esteem issues?
A: Be true to your own inner beauty. Find what makes you unique and focus on that instead of what you think other people see when they look at you.
Q: Where does your strength come from?
A: I think through meeting women all over the world for Price of Beauty. I really learned that we are all unique in our skin, and you have to own that. I have the best support, a great family and friends who are there to remind me when it gets tough.
Q: What have you learned about your own style through the years?
A: It should be effortless. When you feel good in what you are wearing, it’s a natural fit. A pair of worn-in jeans can be as sexy as a red-carpet dress. I try to define my style, and collection, in the same way.
Q: Many women, young and old, profess a love for your shoes. What do you look for in a shoe?
A: Mainly, I look for comfort, but I love to wear heels. Sometimes if the shoe is amazing, I have to suffer for the sake of fashion!
Q: How many pairs do you own?
A: More than 300 pairs. I actually cleaned out my closets this summer but couldn’t get rid of any shoes from my own collection plus countless more.
Q: What’s the one outfit you feel great in no matter what?
A: I feel the best, and most like myself, in a great pair of jeans, a T-shirt and high heels.
Q: Any favorites in your Jessica Simpson Collection for fall?
A: I’ve been wearing the Vintage Flare (jeans) a lot lately. It must be my Texas roots, but I always love a little flare. I also love the Forever Skinny and Jeggings. They look great with my boots. We’ve got some great blazers and fashion sweaters this holiday, too. For shoes, the knee-high boots are so hot, and we are bringing back my favorite shoe, the Dany, in new colors and materials.
Q: What’s something surprising about you?
A: I love photography. I collect old vintage cameras and love to take pictures of clouds.
Q: You are a proud Texan. Anything you miss about living here?
A: I would say first and foremost I miss my grandparents and then Tex-Mex. You cannot find true Tex-Mex anywhere else in the world. And I also miss the friendliness of Texans.