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Earlier this year, Jessica Simpson thrust herself back into the spotlight on the heels of her memoir, Open Book.
While the pop star-turned-shoe designer never disappeared from public view, she certainly retreated as she got married to now-husband Eric Johnson, concentrated on growing her family to include Maxwell, 7, Ace, 6, and Birdie, 1, and developed the Jessica Simpson Collection, a billion-dollar shoe brand.
As revealed by her best-selling memoir, Simpson was also going through a slew of personal ups and downs, including addiction and struggling with her self-worth and image.
With everything out in the open, though, Simpson has never felt more free and ready for connection with her fans.
In a phone interview with In The Know’s Gibson Johns earlier this month, before much of the world quarantined itself, Jessica Simpson opened up about the success of “Open Book” and its affect on both her and her fans, encouraging her children to give back through her partnership with Keebler and how they’ve reacted to realizing that she’s famous.
As a campaign ambassador for Keebler’s partnership with Make-A-Wish, you must have a huge stock of cookies at home right now…
The kids are like, “We’re eating these and helping people’s wishes come true!” I explained why we had so many cookies, and we were putting together all of these baskets of things and they were adorable about it. My daughter even asked if she could get an Instagram page so she could tag her friends on a picture of a cookie so that more people could help. [Laughs] They immediately fell in love with being able to eat cookies and help people at the same time.
Talk to me more about that initial conversation you had with your kids. It must be cool for you to show them importance of giving back through initiatives like this, where a portion of the sales of specially-marked packs of Keebler cookies will end up benefiting Make-A-Wish.
I really don’t do a lot of ads, because I don’t really believe in it, but I’ve been part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a really long time. I have some amazing stories from the beginning of my career. A little girl got to come up on stage and sang one of my songs, “I Think I’m In Love With You,” and her parents were just bawling knowing that she might never have had that opportunity, and I had a boy propose to me because he didn’t know if his life would allow him to get down on one knee and ask that important question. Of course I said yes! It was really sweet, and I told my kids about those moments, and we Googled the Make-A-Wish Foundation and I was showing them videos and clips on YouTube that show how sick these kids are, but how we can help them in their sickness.
Those are really important conversations to have with your children. The innocence and purity of a child when they see something like that makes them want to get involved, so they were really excited to be able to do this with me. Literally, at the grocery store the other day, they were like, “Let’s buy more! Let’s buy more!” We already have a pantry full of them! They’re doing the same with my book, [Open Book], like, every day they want to go to a Barnes and Noble or Target and see where they’re placing it, how many have been sold, they hold it and take a picture with it … they’re seeing me in a different working environment than they have before. They’re 6 and 7 — Birdie is almost 1 and doesn’t really know what’s going on — and they’re at an age where they can be influenced in such a beautiful way to do good for others and to realize how much you do have. Sharing this experience with my kids has been really meaningful.
I loved how you talked about your kids beginning to understand who you are to the rest of the world. That must be cool to see them slowly start to “get it” and see your impact.
On the book tour, I took them with me, and I had people coming up to me and they were like, “Why are they crying, Mom? Are they okay?” They just didn’t understand because I’m just a mom to them, then fans would tell their stories of things that they had gone through in their lives and how I’d helped them, so my kids watching that is really powerful, because it lets them know that they have a voice, too. At a young age I felt very strongly that I was going to use my voice to help change the world if I could and make it a better place, and I’ve been trying ever since I was 6 years old to do what I can for others and, by writing “Open Book,” I was doing a lot of self-healing, and it was through my self-healing that I was able to connect with so many people.
So many people have been able to relate to so many different stories [from the book], whether it’s abuse or not feeling good about yourself or being bullied or getting divorced, there are so many different things that people go through in life and, for me to proudly open up and have no shame in telling you the truth, it’s such a freeing moment in my life. When I was young, my father was a minister, so we would go on mission trips all the time and see people that didn’t have what we had. I understood at a young age what it meant to have a healthier perspective on life, and I was always scared to raise my kids in Hollywood. I wondered if it was easier for them to get wrapped up in vanity and how could I protect them. But doing stuff like this with the book and putting music with it, it was very meaningful. My daughter writes down all the lyrics and we sing them along together and they’re really involved. Keeping your kids really involved with what you’re doing helps you connect with them on a deeper level.
It’s so impressive that you’ve been able to keep your children grounded.
You don’t know how they’re actually going to be affected, but when I lay down at night and I pray with Maxwell, she prays for the person that she saw crying in one of my book signings. She still prays for that person, but also for the kids who are struggling and for the people who aren’t nice to others. They’re really listening and watching and absorbing everything that we’re saying and doing.
You talked about how fans have been coming up to you and sharing really emotional stories with you during your book tour. What are some that have stuck out to you?
A lot of the reactions have been that they’re starting to journal because they want to get to know themselves in the same way that I did. A lot of people have a lot of fear that they can let go of if they face it. On the other side of fear, you have so much more courage and you have much more open eyes and heart and a more soulful life in so many ways. A lot of people coming up to me were needing to get sober, who didn’t even realize they had a problem, but in reading the book they realized that they were using alcohol to numb certain things. Others are getting into therapy or telling me that they’re going to find ways to love themselves or get out of certain relationships they were trying to make work because they want there to be a future in them, but they realize there isn’t. It’s endless. Everybody comes up to me feeling like they’re my best friends, which they are. My purpose in doing the book, especially when you listen to the audiobook, was for you to feel like I was sitting right there with you and you were listening to your best friend talk. I wanted to be as relatable as possible and use my platform in a way that could help heal people, because there is so much stuff that we hold onto, and it can cause so much resentment and so many setbacks in our lives.
I really encourage people to step forward and to really have compassion for the people who are trying to hurt you, because those people are doing it for their own reasons. There are always ways to find forgiveness. It’s in forgiveness that we can finally let go and move on. All of the messages I’ve been receiving have been really powerful, and I want to share so many of them because it’s unreal the impact that [the book has] had. It’s only in its fourth week out! When people were getting it, they are saying they couldn’t put it down and they now want more! The power of it is just the truth. Nobody can judge you for owning your truth and your mistakes. Leading with your mistakes is a powerful thing, because it shows that you’re strong enough to have forgiven yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and you can rise above them in so many ways.
You should be commended on the breakout success of this book and the impression that it has made on so many of the people that have read it. That is so special.
Thank you. When my publicist sent me a rundown of all of the sales, I read that, in its first week, it had the most sales for a book by a female celebrity in the history of BookScan. That’s insane to me! I didn’t even know that was a thing. I truly put it out with no expectations whatsoever. It was really just part of my therapy in so may ways, like, “Here’s where I’ve been the last 10 years — I’ve been trying to be a mom — and here’s where my struggles have been in the past before meeting [my husband] Eric and my parents’ divorce hit me harder than I knew that it did,” and it’s crazy how much redemption there is in finding the strength to talk about all of that. When it comest to it being the No. 1 New York Times Bestseller for two weeks in a row, I didn’t even know if I’d make the top 20! I told everybody that it wasn’t about the placement — that was my past. That was always what it was about before — getting me to No. 1 — and finally, when I didn’t care about it, it happened! That was a very emotional moment for me.
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