Is Jessica Simpson’s Framing Britney Spears moment on its way? Since The New York Times documentary’s explosive debut, which highlighted the mistreatment Britney Spears faced from the media, discussion has also widened to consider what several other young female celebrities endured.
Simpson, who released her memoir Open Book last year, rose to fame alongside Spears—and detailed some of her own struggles Friday morning on The Tamron Hall Show.
In a wide-ranging interview timed to Open Book’s paperback release, Simpson recalled the body shaming she endured from the media around 2009, when tabloids suddenly became obsessed with photos of her wearing “mom jeans” on stage during a tour—sparking a wave of body shaming and cruel jokes.
“I had to get up on stage every night after that headline,” Simpson said. “But I was also so nervous and so stressed—not about my performance or about singing, but about the crowd being underneath me and the shots they would get. I felt like people were out to get the worst picture possible, you know?”
Simpson added that she’s still “shocked” that the photos even became a news story about someone “overweight.” “I look at all body shapes and sizes and I celebrate it, and I was very confident that way,” she said.
“I was very good at compartmentalizing my pain in ways... I could turn the volume down on things when I had to professionally,” Simpson added. “But in the quiet of my own home, everything was very loud.”
As seen in preview clips, Simpson also addressed Framing Britney Spears directly. She told her host that she has no intention to watch the doc because “reliving that for me is like, one of those triggers.”
“It definitely gives me anxiety. And I lived it, and I know Britney, and I know what she went through, and it’s so hard because it’s so many people’s opinions on you just trying to live your life as normal human beings... We might have a big platform, but you can only take stuff for so long.”
Because of Spears and Simpson’s parallel ascent, as well as their shared Southern background, the two were subject to comparisons throughout their careers. The comparisons only extend so far, particularly given the media’s eventual abuse of Spears as “white trash,” compared with Simpson’s public identity as the “preacher’s daughter.” Still, just as their paths to stardom share similarities, so, too, do the abuses the singers faced in the media. Perhaps, then, Simpson can enjoy a similar re-evaluation to Spears’.
Like Spears, who faced relentless scrutiny from the press after Justin Timberlake seized the narrative of their break-up, Simpson also has an ex who managed to cause her problems in the press. John Mayer, whom Simpson dated in what she’s characterized as a manipulative on-and-off relationship after her split from first husband Nick Lachey, infamously referred to the singer as “sexual napalm” in a Playboy interview. Simpson told Hall that for years afterward, she could not escape questions about the “disrespectful” comment.
Still, when asked if she’d like a public mea culpa like the one Timberlake issued after Framing Britney Spears’ debut, the singer declined.
“I wouldn't expect an apology; I don't think that there's a need for an apology,” she said. “Because I feel like people end up finding their way to let you know they're sorry. And I think that, I mean, he might not be sorry and that’s OK. We weren’t even—we were kind of on and off at that time.”
That said, she did find some humor in the situation: The line, she said, “definitely gave me a really long line of guys.”
Simpson has also described her struggles with alcohol—and during her interview, she opened up about her “rock bottom” moment, when she missed trick or treating with her children after drinking excessively. She’s since been sober for four years.
Now, Simpson has a docu-series of her own on the way based on Open Book, for which she says she has 10 hours of archival footage. Amazon will release the series, which the studio has described as “raw and revealing.” Given the interest surrounding Framing Britney Spears, and in re-examining what her contemporaries endured at that time, Simpson’s doc could make an even bigger impact than the memoir itself.
“It’ll just give you a visual of me in the studio when it was too hard, and when I was out to lunch,” Simpson said. “I’m showing all those moments. I want people to know that they can advance forward in their life. Looking back... I don’t even recognize myself, and I think it’s important to show those flaws, you know? Everything might look good on the outside, but we all have to check in on the inside.”