Jessica Simpson Talks Of Alcohol Abuse, Finding Herself Again In Memoir 'Open Book' | New Hampshire Public Radio

Jessica Simpson Talks Of Alcohol Abuse, Finding Herself Again In Memoir 'Open Book'

Feb 23, 2020
Originally published on February 24, 2020 5:33 pm

Jessica Simpson is back in the news, this time in her own words.

In her new memoir, Open Book, Simpson writes honestly about her career as a pop singer, her marriage to and divorce from Nick Lachey, her stint on reality TV, and her time with John Mayer. And she reflects on becoming a fashion mogul with a billion-dollar company.

But she also opens up about sexual abuse she experienced in childhood — and addiction.

Interview Highlights

On why she decided to open up now

There's never been a moment in my life that I've been more honest with myself. I mean, when I stopped drinking alcohol, I really saw all that I was hiding behind and all of the fears that I was letting overwhelm me in so many ways. And I finally, like, feel free of everything that I was holding secret and holding to myself. And I just really wanted to share the tools with people on how they can do this for themselves as well, cause we all have that capability and that strength within ourselves to do it.

On using diet pills, sleeping aids and alcohol – and drinking vodka at her daughter's school function

For me, I was just trying to get through the day, I was spiraling like everything. I mean, I had taken diet pills for a very long time and I didn't ever think that there was anything wrong with them. Now that I do not take them anymore, I realize how on edge that it actually made me and how much anxiety that they were actually causing — and then how the alcohol actually wasn't suppressing that, it was heightening that.

And I think that it really, like, in that moment of going to school and pouring a drink and having to have a drink to even get through a school function, that I was so insecure in that type of setting. It was a really shameful moment for me. And I really thought that those things were actually making me better when really they were destroying me, and they were taking me out of my life and not putting me in the moment.

On being abused during childhood

Yeah, it wasn't that I wasn't happy and it wasn't that I wasn't madly in love with my children and madly in love with my husband, and having success and that type of thing. It was really that I wasn't comfortable with myself and comfortable with the darkness of the night.

I mean, insomnia is still something that I struggle with. ... I was abused for many years. And that fear of falling asleep ... it's not like really staying asleep for me is the actual, like, falling asleep, being afraid of something that might happen. But I do know now that I am safe and I'm the only one that can give that peaceful feeling to myself. And my faith is what I really — I just always am in a constant conversation with God, trying to understand, you know, why I can't settle. But growing up being abused, I mean, that could be something that triggers the insomnia for sure. Just childhood trauma in so many ways.

On being one of the first celebrity brands

I mean, it just was kind of like a natural thing that that came about. I mean, we started with accessories, we started with shoes and jewelry and handbags. But then it just started growing. You know, the more I grew up, the more the brand grew with me, because anything that I would experience in my life, I would brand it, basically. If I was pregnant, I was going to do a maternity line... And then after having my first baby, I knew where to put the snaps on the onesies that were confusing. And I just made it make sense for my life and for other moms out there and for other people that love fashion ...I wanted to make things affordable and accessible. And for me, like, you know, I have had weight that has fluctuated up, down, up, down. I've been every size. I still wanted to feel great and I deserve to feel great. And I understand women in a very real way. And there's still so many things that that we're getting into. That's always exciting. So that part of my career will always be growing.

On not making music for many years

I wrote [Heartbeat] actually three months after my last drink and I walked into the studio and I could just feel my heart beat again, like I could feel it going at the pace that it was supposed to be going. And I could feel my passion and love for music as if I fell in love with my calling all over again. I really understood myself and I was thankful for the pain. I was thankful for the moments that I went through that were hard and I was proud of myself. I was so proud of myself.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Jessica Simpson is back in the news, this time in her own words. Her new memoir is called "Open Book," and she really is. In it, Simpson writes honestly about her career as a pop singer, marriage and later divorce with Nick Lachey, her stint on reality TV, John Mayer, acting, abuse, addiction, becoming a fashion mogul with a billion-dollar company and so much more. Jessica Simpson joins me now from her home in Los Angeles. Hi.

JESSICA SIMPSON: Hi.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why did you decide to be so honest and talk about yourself and about the mistakes you've made and the mistakes that other people made? Why now?

SIMPSON: I think there's never been a moment in my life that I've been more honest with myself. I mean, when I stopped drinking alcohol, I really saw all that I was hiding behind and all of the fears that I was letting overwhelm me in so many ways. And I finally, like, feel free of everything that I was holding secret and holding to myself. And I just really wanted to share the tools with people on how they can do this for themselves, as well, because we all have that capability and that strength within ourselves to do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were taking diet pills in the morning, sleep aids at night. There's a scene where you're driving to your daughter's school in the morning with a cup of vodka and sparkling water. What was going on?

SIMPSON: For me, I was just trying to get through the day. I was spiraling. Like, everything - I mean, I had taken diet pills for a very long time, and I didn't ever think that there was anything wrong with them. I mean, now that I do not take them anymore, I realize how, like, on edge that it actually made me and how much anxiety that they were actually causing and then how the alcohol actually wasn't suppressing that. It was heightening that. And I think that it really, like, in that moment of going to school and pouring a drink and having to have a drink to even get through a school function - that I was so insecure in that type of setting, like, it was a really shameful moment for me. And I really thought that those things were actually making me better when, really, they were destroying me. And they were taking me out of my life and not putting me in the moment.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I feel like we don't hear about this kind of addiction a lot. You know, it's kind of a middle ground. You were clearly struggling, but you were also successfully raising a family, running a business.

SIMPSON: Yeah, it wasn't that I wasn't happy, and it wasn't that I wasn't madly in love with my children and madly in love with my husband and having success and that type of thing. It was really that I wasn't comfortable with myself and comfortable with the darkness of the night.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You write, that to walk forward through my anxiety, I first had to look back to understand what pain I was running from and what I was trying to hide. You just mentioned, you know, your fear of the darkness of the night. Can you talk a little bit about your abuse that you suffered when you were young?

SIMPSON: I mean, insomnia is still something that I struggle with. And yes, in the darkness, I was abused for many years. And that fear of falling asleep, you know, and more of it - it's not, like, really staying asleep for me. It's the actual, like, falling asleep, being afraid of something that might happen. But I do know now that I am safe, and I'm the only one that can give that peaceful feeling to myself. And my faith is what really - like, I just always am in constant conversation with God, trying to understand, you know, why I can't settle. But growing up being abused, I mean, that could be something that triggers the insomnia, for sure - just childhood trauma in so many ways.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can I tell you my favorite part of the book? When you and Nick Lachey are getting divorced and going back and forth over the settlement and you told your then manager, your dad, to give your ex-husband whatever he wanted, that you'd make it back. And then you write, and I did, give or take a billion.

SIMPSON: It's a funny line (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's a funny line. You started Jessica Simpson Collection, which is now a billion-dollar company, indeed. You were one of the first and most successful celebrity brands. That's an extraordinary accomplishment.

SIMPSON: Thank you. Thank you. I mean, it just was kind of, like, a natural thing that came about. I mean, we started with accessories. We started with, like, shoes and stuff like - and jewelry and handbags, but then it just started growing. You know, the more I grew up, the more the brand grew with me because anything that I would experience in my life, I would brand it, basically. Like, if I was pregnant, I was going to do a maternity line. If I - you know? And then after having my first baby, I knew where to put the snaps on the onesies that were confusing. And I just made it make sense for my life and for other moms out there and for other people that love fashion and like...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But you - I mean, other people have tried this, but you made it successful because you say you wanted the brand to be for everyone, not snobby, all sizes, affordable. That was really important to you.

SIMPSON: Yeah, I wasn't trying to have, like, runway shows and be, like, New York Fashion Week, like, (laughter) - I wanted to make things affordable and accessible. And for me, like, you know, I've had weight that has fluctuated up, down, up, down. I've been every size and - every size, I still wanted to feel great, and I deserve to feel great. And I understand women in a very real way. And there's still so many things that we're getting into that's always exciting. So that part of my career will always be growing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk about your own music. You didn't make music for many years. Your last studio album came out in 2008. But around the time you were getting sober in 2017, you were also starting to return to songwriting. And I want to listen now to one of the songs that you released with this book. Let's listen to "Heartbeat."

SIMPSON: Yay.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEARTBEAT")

SIMPSON: (Singing) Didn't know that I was lonely, don't know when I lost my way. Was just trying to survive, tell myself to medicate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about the song.

SIMPSON: This song I wrote actually three months after my last drink. And I walked into the studio. And I could just feel my heart beat again. Like, I could feel it going the pace that it was supposed to be going. And I could feel my passion and love for music as if I fell in love with my calling all over again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEARTBEAT")

SIMPSON: (Singing) I made friends with the past. I'm not ashamed. Let all the tears roll down my face. Wouldn't know all this beauty without thanking my pain. Now I'm feeling the blood run through my veins.

I really understood myself, and I was thankful for the pain. I was thankful for the moments that I went through that were hard. And I was proud of myself. I was so proud of myself. So to write music in a very happy place was a beautiful thing for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF JESSICA SIMPSON SONG, "FREE WILL")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jessica Simpson. Her memoir is "Open Book." Thank you very much.

SIMPSON: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREE WILL")

SIMPSON: (Singing) I've stood at the crossroads, and I've always chosen you. Passed you down the high road, but I keep you in my view. I don't want nobody else, don't want nobody else. I could leave if I want to. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.