In Santa Fe, Simpson plans to regroup and, she says, “cleanse.” For the most part, this seems to involve giving up alcohol and caffeine and going for a lot of hikes. She’s also prying her fingers away from her Sidekick, primarily because she’s sick of seeing herself clutching it in photographs.
It’s not surprising that the girl needs a rest; she’s been striving for stardom since the age of 12, when she made a failed bid to join Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on The All New Mickey Mouse Club. Five years later, Simpson signed a record deal with Sony and has released five albums to date. After the success of Newlyweds, she made the transition to the big screen, starring as Daisy Duke in the widely panned film version of The Dukes of Hazzard. It was during filming that sources began to whisper about an affair between Simpson and her costar Johnny Knoxville. “I can’t save anything from being talked about,” she says, when asked if there’s any truth to that rumor, “because then it becomes this game, and it’s not a fun game. It’s so cruel and I just try not to let it affect me, whatever everybody was thinking about me. If I did, I don’t think I’d be here right now.”
Simpson’s father, Joewho always seems altogether too comfortable discussing his daughter’s sex life and ample bust sizecontinues to orchestrate her career, including serving as a producer on Employee of the Month, but for most of her stay in Santa Fe, he and Jessica’s mother, Tina, will be nowhere in sight. “Now that they’re busy with managing Ashlee too,” Cobb says, referring to Simpson’s younger sister, “Jess isn’t the focus of everything.” Though Simpson insists that “my family is my life and I’ll never lose that,” she says she wants to spend more time alone, concentrating on “the stuff that I never really got a chance to focus on.” Still, her conversations continually drift to her relationship with Lachey. She claims she talks to him every few days and that he’s “absolutely” one of her best friends. One week later, however, when asked about news reports that Lachey plans to seek spousal support from Simpson, who far outearns him, she decides she doesn’t want to talk about the divorce anymore.
Even in Santa Fe, before the latest round of rumors, she is vague about why, if the two are on such good terms, she walked away from the marriage. She makes her decision sound like the first step toward growing up and taking charge of her own life. “I don’t know what happened to me,” she says. “It’s so strange. I’m just proud of allowing myself to think and to act and to be.