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Back when Jessica Simpson was a young singer and reality star and her love life was tracked by countless headlines and magazine covers, there was one story she never told. How she was pursued by "a massive movie star" who wooed her, pursued her — and tried to seduce her.
She tells all (except for the star's name) in a new short story she's written for Amazon Original Stories, Movie Star, out Wednesday and available here. A story of late nights at the Chateau, private planes, big egos and big little lies. "They always say they're single," she writes. But in the end, a story of self-discovery.
"This is a very personal story and I really thought I would never share it!" Simpson tells PEOPLE. Writing it down, she says, brought back memories of her fast track to worldwide fame. "The whole period was very surreal," she says. "There were times I had a lot of fun, don't get me wrong! But a lot of the time it felt isolating because I am someone who likes to deeply connect with people and I didn't know who was trustworthy and who was not."
Looking back, she says, "I learned you can't always take people at their very persuasive word — seems obvious but it really isn't when you are dealing with someone who sells it so well." And she came away with a life lesson or two. "Not betraying your own heart and diminishing your self-worth actually feels so much better than immediate gratification if living in a lie," she says. "I also learned that there is a wide range of what monogamy means in Hollywood!"
Adam Franzino Jessica Simpson
Now 42, the singer, clothing designer and best-selling author, has been married to Eric Johnson for nine years and is mom to their three kids — Maxwell, 10, Ace, 9, and Birdie, 3. These days, she's back in the studio, "having fun and getting inspired with music."
"I have learned that self-love is one of the keys to really loving someone else and that a true love will never make you question yourself or what's real," she says. "Thanks to my amazing soulmate and husband, I am able to love passionately and without fear of being hurt."
And while the story is pure Hollywood dish, she's keeping the actor's name to herself for now and teases PEOPLE: "I will tell you this… he is still a movie star!"
Check out an initial excerpt from Simpson's Amazon Original Story below.
Amazon Jessica Simpson's Movie Star
The giant black Motorola flip phone kept exploding in my purse, making me jump each time it buzzed. Around me on the red carpet of the 2001 MTV VMAs after-party, the female pop stars I most admired in the industry radiated with glamour. And then there was me.
Picture a black off-the-shoulder cocktail dress with a giant, wide black belt and black booties that cut off my legs. The outfit did not make the "I belong here" statement that I thought it did. Jennifer Lopez, who was hosting the party, had changed into a bubblegum pink crop top and skirt only she could pull off. She was so kind, stopping to take a picture with me—which Ja Rule photobombed with his Burberry bucket hat. All around us, women seemed to have followed a directive from their stylist to rip up their clothes and wrap the scraps of fabric around them again, topped with a closetful of accessories—chokers and handcuffs weighed down these beautiful women in jeans cut to their hoohaa bone. I looked like I was about to reach into my giant belt to pull out a humongous autograph book and offer a selection of Sharpies.
My purse. I was dodging calls from two boybanders, one from *NSYNC, the other from the Backstreet Boys. Earlier, at the hotel, I had separate calls going with them at the same time on my Motorola and the room phone. I kept switching between the calls, putting each on hold when talk became too serious about when we were actually going to meet up. I was good on the phone and could talk the talk, but in person, I knew my shyness meant I wouldn't even be able to look them in the eye.
The Backstreet Boy might be at the party, he'd said. I figured I could avoid him. When I was a teenager, I'd stood in the front row of one of his concerts. During a song, he poured a bottle of water all over himself, gyrating his body as he looked at me the whole time. I'd asked him if he remembered that, and he laughed. It was probably one of his moves.
The other boybander told me he was living in his car by choice. I knew enough about the industry to know that money in those boybands was always . . . iffy, but he seemed to double down on this conviction. "I'd be fine doing it the rest of my life," he said. "Just keep a few belongings." He used that word—"belongings"—and I pictured myself trying to cram all the stuff my Cancer heart wouldn't let go of into his car. That was not going to work.
"I'm just gonna put you on hold again," I had said, and hung up for good.
It was early September 2001. I had spent that summer apart from my first real boyfriend, Nick, and I still didn't know how to be single. We had dated for nearly three years, starting when I was 18 and he was 24. Now he was 27 and was ready to marry me. But my dad wouldn't give his blessing. He thought I was too young to get married.
It's funny I thought I was old enough. I didn't even know how to date. Before Nick, what I considered a relationship was talking to boys in the middle of the night and getting in trouble with my parents. In a way, my career made me grow up faster, and in other, fundamental ways it kept me frozen in high school.
My diary entries from those months of being single are full of resolutions about dating. "I need to go out and experience other relationships." I wrote the morning after I turned 21 that July, and I marvel at how I could be so clear about something I knew so little about. I had no idea what "experience" meant. I was still in love with Nick and felt guilty getting butterflies about anybody else. Even thinking something might be possible with another man felt like cheating, and I never took the bait. Heck, I didn't know what the bait was.
I didn't know that night at the MTV party that I was exactly five days away from going back to Nick and eventually marrying him, but that's another story. For now, picture me in the black cocktail dress, doing what I was told to do by Columbia Records. Tonight was part of my job—to get as much press as possible for my new single "A Little Bit."
The party on the red carpet got so crowded that we were all on top of each other, and my security guard stopped me from falling when I got jostled. I was determined to stand my ground, because my bosses at Columbia Records had told me, "We want you on the red carpet." I truly thought that meant I was supposed to keep at least one foot on it at all times. My new album, Irresistible, had just come out, and these men sitting at the executive table had said it would define me— even as they had refused to let me write any of the songs on it. They scolded me to get down to 102 pounds, and they dictated my hair's exact length (past my shoulders) and color (keep it blonde). If they knew I was avoiding another famous boybander, they would not be pleased. That much I knew. Dating a famous boybander would bring them the headlines they wanted.
As the phone kept ringing in my bag, I gave up my spot. "Should we go to the bar?" I asked my security guard. "I'm 21 now. I can buy a drink."
He grimaced, and I wasn't sure if he disapproved of the drink or the calories. He happened to also be my trainer. I think he was paid to be there more to protect me from the hors d'oeuvres that were being passed around than crazed stalkers, but I liked him.
I saw his face suddenly brighten at someone behind me, and I turned to see the packed crowd somehow parting as a massive movie star walked toward us in jeans and a T-shirt. My bodyguard had said they were friends, but I'd wondered if he had maybe been exaggerating. Judging by the clenched handshake bro hug, the love was real.
"This is Jessica," my bodyguard said.
"I know," said the Movie Star. He gave me a different hug; a modified celebrity embrace he held a few seconds longer than I expected. As our mutual friend, my bodyguard talked, this megastar, who I grew up thinking was so hot, eyeballed me up and down. Like he was undressing me with his eyes, which was fine because I had plenty of reasons to ditch that outfit and change.
Movie Star started on small talk, and as he leaned in, I had the presence of mind to know, Oh, this is what it's like to be hit on. Because, other than my ex-boyfriend, no man had ever been so upfront about looking at me in a provocative way. At least that I wanted to look at me that way. He placed a hand on my hip and leaned in so I could hear him better.
Only he talked even softer.
I felt a funny feeling. I watched his lips move, but the rest of the world was in a dreamy focus. I was a big reader to make up for dropping out of high school, so I had read enough of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters to know what was happening. This wasn't love, but it was something dreamy. This is what they talk about when they talk about swooning, I thought. This is one of those swoon moments.
This was different than the guilty butterflies that boys my age brought on when I thought something might be possible. This was real.
And I wasn't ready. I fled Movie Star. I made some excuse and acted like Cinderella in bad booties. I wish I could say I was playing it cool. I later found out this was seen as "playing hard to get."