'I was taken down by the world': Jessica Simpson opens up about being body-shamed over infamous 'mom jeans' photo

Elizabeth Di Filippo
·Editor
·3 min read
Jessica Simpson. Image via Getty Images.
Jessica Simpson. Image via Getty Images.

Jessica Simpson is opening up about the impact of body-shaming in her memoir “Open Book.”

In an interview with The Today Show host Hoda Kotb, the 39-year-old singer addressed the ridicule she received after a 2009 photo of her performing in high-waisted jeans went viral. Simpson, despite being a size four at the time, said the hurtful comments about her weight humiliated her and fuelled her alcohol dependency.

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“The picture that circulated and went worldwide broke my heart,” Simpson told Kotb. “Not the picture necessarily, but the caption. Like, all the captions.”

Simpson in 2009 at the 99.9 Kiss Country 24th Annual Chili Cook-off in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (Image via Logan Fazio/Getty Images).
Simpson in 2009 at the 99.9 Kiss Country 24th Annual Chili Cook-off in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (Image via Logan Fazio/Getty Images).

At the time, Simpson was in a relationship with former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo. In a chapter of the book entitled “Death By Mom Jeans,” the star writes that the body-shaming she experienced made her feel embarrassed for Romo.

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“Tony never made me feel that way,” Simpson said. “I always felt confident when I was with him. I was taken down by the world.”

Simpson said the intense scrutiny on her appearance caused her to drink more frequently.

Simpson and Tony Romo (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)
Simpson and Tony Romo (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)

“I definitely would drink. I’m like ‘I need to’,” the now-sober star recalled. “When you hear somebody say that they need to, that’s not a good sign.”

Simpson revealed she would turn to alcohol to cope with stress and heartbreak. During one of her lowest points, an inebriated Simpson took the stage to perform “9 to 5” at the 2006 Kennedy Centre Honours in front of honouree Dolly Parton.

Simpson told Kotb how she had broken up with then-boyfriend John Mayer hours before her performance in an attempt to feel “numb.”

John Mayer and Jessica Simpson. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
John Mayer and Jessica Simpson. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

“I drank before I went onstage. That is not John’s fault. I’m the one that drank,” she explained. “I just tried to numb myself. And I was too numb that I couldn’t connect with anyone. I couldn’t connect to the song I already knew.”

A “flustered” Simpson stopped mid-performance and left the stage. Despite receiving a second chance from producers to sing for Parton, Simpson’s team ultimately requested that her appearance be pulled from the Kennedy Centre Honours broadcast.

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“I just stopped,” she said. “Like, I just stopped. And I froze. And then I just said I was sorry. And that Dolly deserved better.”

Jessica Simpson at the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors Image via Getty Images.
Jessica Simpson at the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors Image via Getty Images.

Years later, the mother of three admits she still feels shame whenever she thinks of that day. A photo of a smiling Simpson snapped with Parton, Reese Witherspoon and country music legends Shania Twain and Reba McEntire serves as a painful reminder of the dark moment.

“This picture that most people would hang in their house...these mentors of mine that are, like, country goddesses...I can’t even look at the picture,” Simpson said. “I can’t look at my face because I know the pain that I was having. I didn’t feel worthy of being in that photo.”

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