At 16, two years before she released her first album and began dating her soon-to-be ex-husband, Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson got her own checkbook. “She bounced all the checks, so we thought it best to wait a while,” says her mother, Tina Simpson, who swiftly confiscated it. “She has not ever had one since. Funny, huh?” Now, almost a decade laterhaving made millions and become a household name based largely on that ditzy blond personaSimpson is finally ready to try again.
“She asked the other day for a checkbook, and I looked at her like she was kidding,” says her assistant and friend CaCee Cobb. “When I met Jess she didn’t know how to do anything for herself, because her parents and then Nick always did everything for her.” The two proceeded to spend an afternoon debating color schemes and background patterns, and soon Simpson, like most 25-year-old women, will be able to sign checks for herself. It might seem like a small step, but for Simpson it’s a symbol of her new desire for independence.
“I just feel alive. I feel free. I feel like I can do anything and there’s nobody to answer to but myself,” says Simpson. “It’s been hard, but I’ve finally come to the realization that it’s okay to not be perfect. I really am in a comfortable place.”
Anyone who has picked up a tabloid in the last six months would be surprised to hear that. Simpson is in the midst of a messy divorce, and, week after week, her distraught face has appeared on the cover of the gossips under headlines exclaiming SPLIT! DETAILS ON JESSICA AND NICK’S LAST DAYSAND HOW HER EGO, PARTYING, AND DAD DROVE THEM APART and NEW CHEATING BOMBSHELL! SCANDAL! SHE WAS WITH ANOTHER MAN WHILE MARRIED.
Though the two repeatedly denied the claims, the public’s interest was piqued. After all, Simpson and Lachey had become stars by allowing fans into their lives. Both had enjoyed successful enough singing careers previously, but it was their MTV reality show, Newlyweds, that catapulted them to fame. At its height, more than four million viewers tuned in each week to watch their fights over laundry, cuddle sessions on the couch and unintentionally hilarious conversations (“Is this chicken, what I have here? Or is it fish?”). Many fans came to feel they actually knew the Lacheys on a personal level, following the ups and downs of the marriage as if it were their own. And so in Hollywood, where celebrity divorces are not exactly uncommon, this breakup has attracted more than its fair share of attention. In less than three months, for example, Us Weekly has featured the split as its lead cover story seven times, beating out both Brad and Angelina’s pregnancy and Jennifer Aniston’s rocky relationship with Vince Vaughn.