Jessica Simpson rode the wave of teen pop singers during the late 90s/early 00s when the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were dominating the charts. She never quite found the same musical success that Spears and Aguilera did, but became a household name after her marriage to 98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey led to the hit MTV series Newlyweds.
In “Open Book,” Simpson recounts her struggles in the music business, relationships with her parents, the men in her life, alcohol, diet pills and sexual abuse at a young age.
Simpson was born in Texas and raised in the church; her father was a Baptist youth minister up until the time the family left Texas to try to launch her singing career. She started out in the gospel circuit, but it’s it’s very clear from the get-go that Simpson was a victim bullying and emotional abuse from people in the industry. They called her sinful because of her chest size and said she couldn’t continue to tour because her image was too sexualized.
Her own father, Joe Simpson, who served as her manager, was a negative influence on her as well, spending money she earned from her hit records, trying to control everything she did, especially when it came to marrying Nick Lachey.
Even if you aren’t a fan of pop music, Simpson’s book takes a critical look at the unhealthy expectations placed on women, especially YOUNG women, that exist in the music industry. Immediately after inking her record deal, she was asked to lose 15 pounds and spent the next twenty years of her life taking diet pills to try to maintain the “ideal” weight of 100 pounds. And when her records didn’t sell as well as her competition, they tried to “sex up” her image – something Simpson wasn’t comfortable with due to her faith and religious upbringing.
It’s also very clear to see that her father’s controlling nature had a negative impact on her marriage to Lachey and future relationships with John Mayer and Tony Romo.
“Open Book” is a surprisingly honest and vulnerable autobiography from a star many have written off as just another dumb blonde. It exposes some hard truths about the music industry and Simpson is transparent about her own misgivings and shortfalls when it came to her failed marriage and substance abuse.
This will likely appeal to the female audience that grew up during the height of her career, but even if you aren’t familiar with her music, it’s a quick read that will keep you engrossed until the last page.
4 out of 5 stars.