I respect the hell out of Jessica because they came to her with a “my life is perfect, here’s how you can thrive just like girlboss Jessica Simpson” concept for the book and she instead wrote a really honest recollection of her life. She says, “My purpose, however, is bigger than my fear of judgement. Someone, maybe you, needs me to say the things that are scary to admit. If I go there, maybe I can show you that you can too.”
It names names
Did you know that when Jessica was married to Nick Lachey she filmed Dukes of Hazzard with Johnny Knoxville (who was also married at the time) and the two wrote love letters back and forth to each other? Yes, it goes there. They never acted on their crushes but this is the kind of stuff that most people never talk about (and if they do, they aren’t naming other major celebrities who were involved). It’s very humanizing to hear her be incredibly open and honest about her relationship struggles, especially since her relationship with Nick was so publicized at the time.
Another fun fact: Jessica was in the running to be part of the Mickey Mouse Club with Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, and Christina Aquilera but lost out when Britney Spears showed up at the last minute. Years later after her divorce she went on a date with Justin Timberlake. After they kissed Justin said “hold on I have to call Gosling” because they’d made a bet in their Mickey Mouse days about who was going to get to kiss her.
There’s also a lot of juice about her famously creepy dad, Joe Simpson, and it’s about what you’d expect. He made diva demands as her manager and blamed it on Jessica, he considered Jessica’s money “his”, he’s a grifter, he told Jessica she “inspired him” to leave her mother… as Jessica was about to deliver her first child. He referred to her as “a busted condom.” In 2012 she fired him as her manager and didn’t speak to him for five years but they are now working on their relationship.
It exposes John Mayer
As a huge John Mayer fan reading this book “hooooooo boy”. There is a lot to unpack here.
First of all, if one of my exes from my 20’s wrote a tell all I realize I would not be painted in a good light. Like many people at that age I was emotionally volatile, immature, and I thought someone fighting with me meant they really cared about me. John and Jessica were the same way. It goes so far that at one point Jessica realized John was constantly breaking up with her because he was addicted to the emotional cycle, which helped him write songs.
John broke up with Jessica about 9 times total (8 of them over email) and after she got serious with Tony Romo and wouldn’t talk to him, John befriended Jessica’s parents (!!!!) and would go hang out at their house playing guitar and talking about how much he loved Jessica. He repeatedly told her how obsessed with her he was but he also picked at her constantly to be more “authentic”. After she broke up with Tony she was about to give John another chance because of how much he professed his love for her when she found out he was sleeping with another one of his exes at the same time. They broke up for the last time and aren’t on good terms. This is the very light, tl;dr story of a pretty insane relationship.
Her anxiety and substance abuse struggles are super relatable
Jessica had been taking Tylenol PM since she was twelve to help her sleep and she added Ambien, alcohol, diet pills, and a stimulant (seems like adderall?) as she grew older. She always used the Tylenol PM (and then Ambien) as an “off switch” for her anxiety as she was terrified of being awake in bed and alone with her thoughts. She realizes now that she needs to deal with the issues she was trying to numb. She says that “pain is where the tools are” and she tries to accept fear and distress and work through it instead of running away. She says, “I ran into situation after situation, telling myself that the reason I had so much anxiety and was scared to death to be alone at night was because I just needed to be a better person for whomever I was trying to please at the time.”
And also, the most haunting line of the book:
“I didn’t think I was enough, so I overcompensated by making my life a series of experiences for everyone else.”
When she was 35 she scheduled a tummy tuck (she had stretch marks and sagging skin after her back to back pregnancies) and her doctor told her her liver was damaged and she could die if she didn’t stop drinking and taking pills. At that time she was drinking in the morning because otherwise she would get the shakes. It took her two years after that to quit but she and her husband aren’t drinking for the time being as she works on recovering from her traumas. The best advice Jessica gives in the book is “I’ve learned that we grow from walking through it, and a lot of people don’t even know they have that option.”
The ‘Janet Jackson abs’ thing will haunt you
Jessica’s six year old daughter is already afraid of bread because another little girl told her it makes you fat.
Jessica’s lifetime fairy tale came true when she got a record deal with Columbia and Tommy Mottola took a personal interest in helping her career. She was start struck because Tommy was her idol, Mariah Carey’s, ex. As soon as the ink was dry on the deal Tommy turned to her and told her to lose 15 pounds. Later, Tommy became obsessed with Janet Jackson’s abs and was constantly telling Jessica he expected her to have them. She talks about taking diet pills and barely eating in order to play Daisy Duke in Dukes of Hazzard and please her record label.
A cute fun fact about this pretty sad era of her life is that she really did learn how to drive a car like this and she used her stunt training to get away from paparazzi later on.
What she doesn’t talk about
It’s almost hard to remember now because she’s such a sex symbol, but when Jessica first started out, people made a huge deal about her wanting to wait until marriage to have sex. She grew up religious in Texas with a preacher father and some other preacher relatives. She was VERY sincere and serious about this, even when she started dating Nick Lachey who was a boy band sex symbol and in his late 20’s.
In the book she talks about how the media latched onto this and was constantly badgering Nick about how he felt about waiting, but she doesn’t go into what it was really like to lose her virginity to a 27-year-old man after waiting so long. She also never mentions what it was like after her divorce to completely change her ethos when it comes to sex. She mentions that she is a “sensual” person and that post-divorce she went on a dating binge of rich and famous men.
I grew up religious too and at one point I wanted to wait until I was married to have sex. I understand what a big deal sex is when you grow up in that environment and from reading “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” at age 16 to being 34 and having an attitude of like, “okay I have a Tinder date I hope he is good at sex” it has been a really long and interesting journey and I wish I could have read about Jessica’s.
I also think if she wrote the book in 5 more years she would have more to say about Weight Watchers. She passively gives them a good review (she was contracted to be a spokesperson for them after she “lost her baby weight” but it didn’t really work out because she got pregnant with her second child 4 months after giving birth. She works really hard to think positively about her body and listen to her intuition so I think eventually she’d be like “um this is toxic” and also “please don’t market weight loss products to my daughter”.
Open Book is available on Amazon and pretty much everywhere else.