Remember Jessica Simpson? Yeah, she's a billionaire now.

Most of what people think they know about Jessica Simpson comes down to a singular phrase: "Is it chicken or fish?"

Those were the words uttered by Simpson in the very first episode of MTV reality show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica 20 years ago in 2003. The series, which ran for three seasons until 2005, followed the lives of then-married couple Nick Lachey and Simpson. Only a few months after the show ended, the pair filed for divorce.

The first episode of Newlyweds set the tone for the entire series: Simpson was the "blonde bimbo" and Lachey was the patient husband who constantly had to explain things to her. In the chicken or fish incident, Lachey simply stared at her with amusement and slight exasperation as she said, "I know it's tuna, but it says chicken [of] the sea. Is that stupid?"

Perhaps not stupid at all. Over the course of the show, Simpson parlayed her ditzy persona into a highly successful career. The dumber she was portrayed, the more popular she became. Lachey, who had started off their union as the more well-known partner, was suddenly cast in Simpson's shadow.

Watch a scene from Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Story continues below.

Video via MTV.

According to Simpson's 2020 memoir Open Book, her rise in stardom contributed to the downfall of their marriage.


Lachey "wanted somebody who could make him feel like I did when I was 19 years old, fawning all over him," she wrote. "I don't think he understood how to have the kind of relationship where I didn't need him to tell me what to do. It was not a happy time for us."

The divorce was finalised in June 2006, with Simpson paying Lachey an eye-watering $12 million in settlement because they had not signed a pre-nuptial agreement. According to Simpson's memoir, when the terms of the divorce were being negotiated between Lachey and Simpson's father, Joe, Simpson told her dad to pay what Lachey was asking. There was no price on freedom, Simpson wrote, and that's what she was getting: freedom.

Joe was reluctant but Simpson promised him she would make the money back. "And then I did," she wrote. "Give or take a billion."

If you're scratching your head and wondering if she was joking about that billion, rest assured that Simpson was telling the truth.

In 2005, the singer and actor put on her entrepreneurial boots and launched The Jessica Simpson Collection, a fashion line that quietly became a clothing empire. In 2014, the Collection reportedly earned $1 billion in annual sales and the company is worth a billion dollars today, making it the most successful celebrity licensing brand ever.

Turns out, that $12 million she gave to Lachey was spare change.

Simpson and Lachey in 2005. Image: Getty.


"This empire that I've built is not just me, it's my mother and a lot of my very dear friends. I really think with the brand, it's my name; it's authentic, fashionable, affordable and accessible," she told Stellar magazine in 2020. 

"I have been a size two and I've been a size 14 and every size in-between, and I wanted to feel cute at every size and embrace the body that I have in that moment."

This ability to truly understand body image is what allows Simpson to cater for her audience. All throughout her life in the public eye, she has either been criticised or complimented for her body and weight. The crescendo was possibly loudest in 2009, when images of Simpson at a country music festival went viral.


"I no longer trusted the mirror. With every reflection, every single pane of glass I passed, I took myself in quickly to try to catch myself, to see what the world apparently saw," she wrote in her memoir.

"I beat myself about how fat I am before I gave the world a chance to."

Simpson went on to marry former athlete Eric Johnson in 2014, and the couple have three children together: Maxwell, 10, Ace, 9, and Birdie, 3. In 2019, after giving birth to Birdie, Simpson revealed she had lost much of the weight she had gained during pregnancy and that she felt good about herself. She had learned to "love herself at any size" but she wanted to lose the weight and gain back energy.

However, as she documented her weight loss on Instagram, there was once again scrutiny on her weight. Fans and followers began to tell her she was too thin, proving that a woman's body is always going to be offensive to someone, somewhere.

In response to the "feedback", Simpson posted a timely message on her Instagram.


"As much as I have learned to block out destructive noise... people's comments and judgements can still hurt deeply with their incessant nagging 'you will never be good enough'," she wrote.

"A little advice... live inside your dreams and move through them. Don't give up on yourself because someone else did. Stay true to YOU. It has worked for me in this chaotic life thus far. Nothin' and nobody will rob me of my joy. Ya might come close but it is mine to own. Yours should be too."

In her memoir, Simpson recognised that many people would be more aware of her as the "chicken or fish" girl, or the "sometimes actress" rather than the billionaire businesswoman. But she doesn't care what people think of her.

"Nothing that I've said out loud I regret; it's who I am and the way I see it," she told Stellar. "People can say whatever the heck they want to say about me. I really don't care because they're probably walking on my name already. My logo is likely to be on the bottom of their shoes."

Feature image: Instagram.

Want to get the most out of your day? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!