Recently, after years of silence, Simpson served up an all-you-can-eat buffet about her highly publicized first marriage in a new memoir. Let’s flashback to when superstar couple Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey were all the rage.
Simpson and Lachey played their love life out on MTV. The up-and-coming musicians starred on "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica," the reality show that would be the demise of their relationship.
When Simpson announced their divorce in 2005, a media frenzy commenced. They were the darlings of the early 2000s, after all!
Behind the Scenes
While it seemed like the reality show revealed everything about Jessica and Nick, behind-the-scenes stories stayed private. That all changed in 2020 when Simpson released her tell-all memoir, "Open Book."
She does not hold back. You would think we'd get the full story on their show, but reality TV isn't always (ever) authentic. It's just surprising how much was actually left out!
A Match Seemingly Made in Heaven
The budding musicians were introduced at the Hollywood Christmas Parade in 1998. They happened to have the same manager, and he paired the two. Lachey was part of a pop boy band called 98 Degrees that didn’t really take off, and Simpson was a pop diva on the rise.
Still, neither Simpson nor Lachey were anywhere near the levels of fame that they were about to reach. The two were from very different backgrounds, but still, sparks flew.
She Said Yes
The couple had an on-again, off-again relationship. After they met in 1998, they went their separate ways until meeting again at a Teen People event. Finally, in 2002, Jessica announced the news on her website. “Nick Lachey asked me to marry him in a very romantic way, and I said yeeeeeeeeeeeeessss!!!
Fans were absolutely hooked, and with that amount of love, a fairytale marriage was expected to follow. Unfortunately, rather early on in the relationship, there were some rough patches. Ones that should have already indicated its doom.
The couple married that same year. Lachey said marrying Simpson was the “right thing to do.” A lavish Cinderella wedding spared no expense. They celebrated their matrimony with 350 guests. The fairy tale wedding aired on VH1 and aired in its entirety on "Newlyweds."
It was a big deal. The two pop-stars definitely felt that it was the perfect moment for them, and clearly so did their fans. It was aired on TV, after all. That's quite a lot of pressure.
On Top of the World
The sky was the limit. Once they were married, Jessica released her third studio album, " In This Skin ." The couple signed with MTV to star on " Newlyweds ." The reality show launched in the midst of Simpson’s success. Her third album, however, was the first to barely hit the number 10 spot.
It contained the song “Sweetest Sin,” a tune about her first real love. Jessica had been very open about intimacy after exchanging "I do," in large part because her father, a Christian minister, gave her a chastity ring when she became a teen.
Chicken of the Sea
Is it chicken or tuna? Though Jessica says she was in on the dumb blonde joke she personified on "Newlyweds," she made a couple of really ditzy comments that seemed to seal it. Living on in infamy is her obvious bewilderment with Chicken of the Sea tuna.
It is one of the show’s most momentous episodes. She really doesn’t seem to know if it’s chicken or tuna. In 2003 Simpson spoke more about this to Rolling Stone and tried to set the record straight on the whole tuna/chicken debacle.
Journalism at its Finest
Simpson tried explaining her confusion to "Rolling Stone." In 2003 Simpson sat down with the iconic rock magazine and tried to clear things up. She said, “My confusion there was that I hate fish. But I love tuna, and there was a half of a second there where I thought maybe it could be chicken. ‘Cause I liked it, and I don’t like fish.”
All clear?? She doesn’t care. The comment drove album sales through the roof. Simpson had the reality thing wired way before the Kardashians.
Playing in the Big Leagues
"Rolling Stone," asked Simpson about being lumped in with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. She said it was difficult to live up to those singers. Simpson talked about how record companies pressured her to be more like the reigning pop stars, to reveal more skin, to deliver a sexier performance.
Later, in her memoir, she said that the pressure is unnecessary, that there is plenty of room at the top, and she doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight.
The Forever Couple
“I believe Nick and I are going to last forever,” Simpson told RS. In the interview, Jessica shared the reality TV view of her marriage. She talked about candlelit dinners, and romantic horse-drawn carriage rides through Central Park.
Simpson said they would last forever, but she ended it with a cliffhanger. If it doesn’t last, she mused, “It’ll make a good reality show.”
Guess What Happened Next
Spoiler alert: It didn’t last forever. The marriage lasted three years. In 2005, Simpson announced the dissolution, portraying it as a mutual decision. Her statement included words of respect and understanding and a plea to fans and media to respect privacy during their difficult time.
Naturally, the media obliged and gave them space to deal with the split. Just kidding. The very opposite ensued, and once again, a media and fan frenzy was ignited.
Digging Up Dirt
When has the media ever honored privacy pleas by pop divas? Pretty much, never, and it was the same with the reality TV couple’s split. People was one of the first. They dug up backstory dirt from an unnamed source.
The source said that there was no single reason for the divorce but that it was a gradual growing apart, as do most marriages.
The source divulged that Lachey deserved most of the blame. The source told "People" that Lachey went out partying with his buddies while she was left at home to hang out with the dog. Adding that Jessica doesn’t like the club scene.
Lachey was 32, and Simpson was 25 at the time of the split. Simpson cited the age difference as part of it in "Open Book."
Coming to Terms With Reality
Nick Lachey spoke to "Rolling Stone" also. Lachey opened up about why he thought the couple’s marriage failed. He focused most of the blame on the reality show. He said that "Newlyweds" blurred the line of who they really are.
Clearly, there was a difference between that and who they are portraying for audiences. Even at home, he explained, they would slip into their reality show personas. It was confusing.
Not So Mutual
Lachey dropped a bombshell. It came out in the interview that Jessica and Nick’s divorce was far from mutual. He said he was blindsided by her request. He begged Jessica to stay married. Finally, convincing her to at least sleep on it.
When they woke up the next morning, she was just as sure she wanted out of the marriage. The boy band star thought all was well with them.
No Amount of Professional Help Mattered
“I had the best marriage counselor in town,” Lachey said. He hoped they could work it out in therapy. He told "Rolling Stone," “I thought we owed it to ourselves to try with a third party.” Jessica wanted none of it.
On the day she filed for divorce, he drove her to her parents’ house and tried to persuade her to try counseling.
Feeling Like a Failure
Clearly, Lachey was crushed by the divorce. He said he only wanted to make her happy but had failed. He talked about how he wanted her to look at him lovingly, like she had at the beginning, making him feel like the most wonderful man alive.
When that stopped, the pop star admitted that he took the news extremely hard. Living in a completely different reality, Nick confided that it was the “worst feeling in the world.”
Not the Bad Guy
He even defended her. With the media happy to cast Jessica as the bad guy, as a cheater, Lachey attempted to set things straight. He said the marriage is a really difficult thing and that blaming her is not right.
He said she didn’t do anything overly dramatic, like throwing plates at his head. That kind of drama wasn’t there. He claimed there was no other man involved that he knew of.
The Music Video That Changed His Life
Lachey was left with a heartache, and a song he wrote about it called “What’s Left of Me.” He recorded it on a solo album of the same title. It was about the split, and it was his biggest hit. While that sounds heartbreaking and all, things were about to turn around.
A new special someone happened to be starring in the video. That was actress Vanessa Minnillo. Within no time, the two hit it off in 2006 when they met. They married in 2011.
No Longer In Touch
The media whirlwind subsided, and the former reality star steered clear of the spotlight. Jessica didn’t offer any more views about the marriage. In 2009, several years after the split, "Vanity Fair" asked her about it.
She replied, saying she had not spoken with him in years. But she also opened up on a whole lot more. Reflecting on the marriage, Simpson revealed a surprising fact about her relationship on the show.
When pressed, Simpson answered a question about " Newlyweds." The publication wanted to know if it had affected the marriage. She said no. At that time, she stated, “In all honesty, I believe it did not affect our marriage.”
She went on to say, “We enjoyed watching those episodes, and that will always be a time I cherish. It made me understand what marriage is, what love is, what commitment is."
Nick Lachey wasn't the only one who got his heart on the mend. After the relationship, Simpson dated around, but in 2010 she met former NFL player Eric Johnson. The couple engaged and then the knot in Montecito in 2014.
They have three children. Their first child was born in 2012, a daughter. They welcomed a son in 2013 and a second daughter in 2019.
By 2014, Jessica Simpson had created a lucrative brand of her name. Her fashion line was gaining great success. As somewhat of a financial maven, CNBC invited her on their "Closing Bell" program. The interviewer quizzed her about how she built her fortune and about her worst financial mistake.
To the latter, Simpson took a breath and said, “My biggest money mistake,” and after a pause, “I don’t know, for some reason, I thought of my first marriage.”
A Real Tell-All
The tell-all hit bookshelves in February of 2020. Simpson’s "Open Book" was a major success, topping "The New York Times" Best Seller list. She dished all the details left unanswered since "Newlyweds" ended, and then some.
The autobiographical book gets into her controversial relationship with John Mayer as well as childhood issues.
A Total Performance
In her book, she admitted that "Newlyweds" complicated their relationship. Though she previously denied the show affected them as a couple, in the book, she talks openly about how they portrayed a better TV marriage than real life. The truth was, they weren’t really a perfect couple.
She wrote, “Nowadays, I see so many people performing their identities on social media, but I feel like I was a guinea pig for that.” She talked about that, saying they worked well as a reality show couple, but “when it came time to being alone, we weren’t great at it anymore.”
Standing Up For Herself
Simpson writes about the time she asked Lachey for a divorce. She says she was genuinely surprised to find out that Nick not only talked to the media but told them that he was blindsided when he found out she wanted out.
She couldn’t understand how he could say that when they were not even on speaking terms. She muses that maybe he was surprised that she stood up for herself.
The John Mayer Saga
When Jessica met musical artist John Mayer, she was still married. Soon after her divorce, the two began secretly dating. Simpson found what she missed with Nick. Mayer doted on her every move, and she loved it.
She wrote, “I would go up to go to the bathroom, and John would ask, ‘Where are you going?’ While I was married, my ex-husband couldn’t even be bothered to figure out what city I was in.”
A Rocky Relationship
Simpson’s relationship with Mayer was tumultuous. He broke up with her nine times, each split announced by email. Jessica was intimidated by John as he made her feel insecure and inadequate. Simpson soon began spiraling into substance abuse and drinking.
One time, he broke up with her because she failed him in the recording studio. He wanted to be the producer of one of her songs, but she was overcome by anxiety and couldn’t sing.
The Final Straw
After courting her at her parents’ house, getting in tight with her father, who was her manager, Mayer humiliated her for the last time, or so she thought. She had just broken up with Tony Romo because he discovered emails between Jessica and John, and John invited her to his place.
When she arrived, anticipating an “epic, sweeping love story,” instead, she found he only wanted one thing. He insisted that she sit and listen to him perform his new songs. She said, “I almost puked.” She was over him.
A Little Too Open
Mayer’s parting dig was brutal. The singer-songwriter met up with "Playboy" and gave intimate descriptions of their love-life. He told the magazine sordid details about their intimate relationship, using incredibly crass language.
Simpson was dumbfounded and embarrassed. She said it was shocking that her grandma might actually have to read about that.
A Duke of Hazzard
It’s fair to say she dropped a bombshell in the chapter about Johnny Knoxville. Who’s he? He’s a famous actor who was her costar on "Dukes of Hazard," and she confided that she had fallen for him during the shoot.
Not only was she married to her Newlywed costar hubby, but Knoxville was also married to Melanie Clapp. It was some bad timing on their part, though the connection was undeniable.
A Very Emotional Connection
Still, no matter what the two shared, they tried their hardest to keep it friendly. They were filming together after all, so things had to remain strictly professional.
Of the relationship, Simpson said it was an emotional attachment that was never consummated. In fact, even by the time he left his wife in 2008, she had given up on him.
Johnny Knoxville talked to the media about the affair. They asked him about it in 2005. The year before, rumors had circled around them while "Dukes of Hazzard" was being filmed. He flatly denied everything.
He said that it is hurtful to the families for the media to ask those things, and he categorized it as “just friends.”
Total Pen Pals
Simpson categorized it a bit differently in her tell-all. She said the relationship was like “prison pen-pals.” They wanted to be with each other desperately but were kept apart by family and the media.
She said she and Johnny would text each other all the time, sending love letters and listening to music together, even when Lachey was asleep next to her.
Meanwhile, Nick was barely present, and she grew to distrust him. She said he would go out to clubs and hang out with his single bros all the time. Or at least this is what she read in the tabloids.
She didn’t know where he went. She said she got tired of staying home like “Betty Crocker.”
He Had No Part In It
When the 2020 memoir became a bestseller, the media wasted no time visiting Lachey. They wanted to know what he thought of the litany of behind-the-scenes stories. His first response was quoted by US Weekly .
He told the magazine that he had not read the book and said that she had not approached him about publishing it.
Keeping the Peace
A couple of days later, Lachey reached out with a message of mutual respect. He told Today that he is happy for her, but he has not read the book. “I don’t know what she said or what she revealed there. But I’m certainly happy for her and her life.”
We're happy that a huge lawsuit and feud didn't follow after that. It looks like that the two may have never made a good pair, but at least they're there's no bad blood.
Whether he read it or not, her message was also very positive. In the book, she wrote, “I want to be very respectful because I married him for a reason, and we were together for several years for a reason."
The former pop star continued by saying, "he has a family now, and I would never say anything to disrespect that.”
One reason she didn’t want to go to counseling with Nick was that she was terrified of being spied on by paparazzi. When news of the divorce hit the fan, the paparazzi was flying over to her parents’ house where she was staying in order to get a picture of her.
She said tabloids “made up the dumbest things,” but sometimes they were correct. The stress of fame and being on the reality show made them paranoid. The couple would go outside to speak privately.
Eventually, their disagreements grew so intense they overcame the fear of surveillance. In one fight, the fight that ended it for Simpson, he screamed at her in a drunken fit, “Your friends don’t exist. You just pay them to be around you.”
This was after a dinner party she hosted. Then he said, “Your parents are only around because they are on the payroll.” The marriage was over for Simpson at that point.
Her Dad Tried to Intervene
Jessica’s dad tried to stop her from marrying Nick at the very last minute. It was no secret that Joe Simpson did not want his daughter to marry Nick. He said she was too young. Nick knew that because her dad told him to his face.
On the day of the wedding, as Joe was getting ready to walk Jessica down the aisle, he pleaded with her one last time, “We don’t have to do this.” Looking back to that 2002 wedding, Simpson laments about her not being ready.
Simpson fired her dad in 2012. Joe Simpson had always been her manager because her music career took off at such an early age. Since she was 13, she depended on and trusted her dad. But when Nick entered her life, she looked to him for validation.
Jessica said she let her dad go because he had made bad deals in the backroom without consulting her. He slighted people left and right, and they thought it was her. “Bridges were burned, and I didn’t know how many until I tried to cross them,” Simpson wrote.
A Blasphemous Proposal
It was Lachey who wanted a prenup. Ironically, the reason there was no prenuptial agreement in Jessica and Nick’s marriage is because Jessica was virulently opposed. In 2002, Jessica Simpson was just breaking into the music industry while Lachey’s 98 Degrees boy band was topping out.
When Lachey and his financial advisors suggested the idea, Jessica said, “I exploded.” Marriage is supposed to be forever; it felt like blasphemy.
A Pricey Settlement
When the marriage ended after three years, Lachey cashed out big time. Simpson noted, “We were both blessed by God, but Nick had a better lawyer.” Her father tried to fight Lachey’s settlement requests, but Simpson paid him what he wanted. $12 million later, the divorce was final.
When her dad scoffed at the amount, she told him not to worry, that she would earn it back. And she did, many times over.
Jessica Simpson is a business maven. The multi-billion-dollar fashion empire called the Jessica Simpson Collection sells women's and girls' clothing and accessories.
It rakes in a billion dollars annually. Simpson’s brand earns her $30 million per year.
Cashing it In
Simpson also managed to bag a $120 million licensing deal. She told Closing Bell that she has great financial management. Her business manager David Levin has handled all her finances from the start.
According to the pop star, he has made her a ton of money and made very few mistakes. That's the way to go!
The Man Behind the Show
It was Simpson’s father who pitched "Newlyweds" to MTV. MTV thought it was a great idea to make a reality show based on new couples. In fact, they had that type of show in production with Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, who walk off the project after pre-production.
Joe approached MTV as a manager, hoping to tone down the not so PG media image of his daughter and bring audiences to her slumping record sales. It worked. The show made her music go platinum.
Almost a Christian Pop- Star
Simpson, whose father is a Baptist minister, is also staunchly religious. In "Open Book," she writes that her faith is what defines her. She says that we all go through trials, but “not one thing has ever made me question God.”
She sang at church and in Christian choirs as a child and would have been a Christian music star if the faith-based music industry hadn’t deemed her too sensual to sing praises of Jesus.
Simpson got sober in 2017. She had to. According to her book, she was on a very destructive path. She said ditching the bottle was the easy part because it made her “complacent and numb” to life. It was at home, Halloween 2017, when she crashed to her bottom.
She told her friend she knew she had to stop, then and there. She hopes this story in "Open Book" helps others find the path she did. She says that honesty is rewarding and “getting to the other side of fear is beautiful.”