The photos seen around the world. Jessica Simpson was feeling confident about her body in 2009 until pictures of her performing at Radio 99.9 Kiss Country’s annual Chili Cookoff went viral online.
“This picture that circulated and went worldwide broke my heart. Not the picture necessarily, but the caption. Like, all the captions. It was just viral,” the 39-year-old fashion designer told Hoda Kotb on the Today show on Tuesday, February 4. “I was taken down by the world.”
In Simpson’s new memoir, Open Book, she revealed she was a size 4 and “around 120 pounds” when the photos of her wearing high-waisted jeans took on a life of their own. The “Come On Over” songstress was dating NFL quarterback Tony Romo at the time.
“It was awful, but the worst part was this: my very first thought was not my pain at becoming a joke or everyone laughing at me. No it was, ‘Oh no, I feel so bad that Tony has to be with the fat girl,’” Simpson wrote in the book.
While Romo, 39, thought the backlash was “ludicrous,” the singer was “devastated and confused” by the ordeal. She also told Kotb, 55, that the incident didn’t help her issues with substance abuse.
“I definitely would drink. I’m like, ‘I need to,'” Simpson told Kotb. “When you hear somebody say that they need to that’s not a good sign.”
Through therapy, Simpson learned that she was using drugs and alcohol to cope with the childhood abuse and her unhealthy relationships. She has been sober since November 2017.
While the 2009 photos of Simpson went viral, the “Sweetest Sin” singer secretly struggled with her body image for years prior. Simpson, who took diet pills on and off for 20 years, was first criticized by a label exec who told her she needed to lose 15 pounds when she was 17 years old. She weighed 118 pounds at the time.
Simpson, who shares daughters Maxwell, 7, and Birdie, 10 months, and son Ace, 6, with husband Eric Johnson, now makes it a priority to teach her kids to accept themselves. In her book, she wrote about her eldest daughter being concerned about butter on her bread because it could make her “fat.” She was 6 at the time.
“I thought, ‘How does she even know what ‘fat’ is?’” Simpson wrote. “It was a wake-up call. She already has this world to grow up in, and I want her to feel safe enough to love herself and the body that God gave her.”
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