Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey were married once upon a time. Such was the notoriety of their relationship that even now, over a decade on from their divorce, people are interested to learn more details about it. And come 2020 Simpson suddenly shared some otherwise unknown details about the doomed marriage.
During their relationship, stars Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey grabbed a lot of headlines and even had their own reality TV show. They were without a doubt one of the defining celebrity couples of the early noughties. So when they announced in 2005 that they were divorcing, many people were horrified.
But a lot of time has passed since then, and both Simpson and Lachey have moved on. Yet when Simpson released a memoir in 2020, it naturally featured some details about the failed marriage. These were things that she hadn’t shared before. Suddenly, people got a fresh look at the once-golden couple.
Simpson and Lachey first met all the way back in 1998. While at the Hollywood Christmas Parade, they were introduced by a manager whom they shared. Neither of them had yet achieved anything like the fame they would eventually enjoy, and they were from very different backgrounds. Yet they clicked.
There were however some ups and downs. They ran into a rough patch around the turn of the millennium. But in 2002 Simpson announced on her website that the two were engaged. She wrote, “Nick Lachey asked me to marry him in a very romantic way and I said yeeeeeeeeeeeessssss!!! He had been patiently waiting for me to grow up a little (which I needed). And I did! Now my life feels so perfect.”
By October of 2002 the couple were married. The month before, Lachey told Launch.com, “It’s just something that, you know, was definitely the right time and the right thing to do. You know, we’ve grown a lot together and separately, and I don’t think there’s a doubt in either of our minds that it’s the right thing to do – the right timing and everything.”
And throughout the course of the following year lots of things happened for the couple. Simpson released her third studio album, with its single “Sweetest Sin” being all about the act of her losing her virginity to her new husband. And then came the MTV reality show Newlyweds, which was a smash hit.
The success of Newlyweds made Simpson a major figure in popular culture, even though her music wasn’t always well received. She became known as a sort of “ditzy blonde” type, and a moment on the show where she got Chicken of the Sea tuna and actual chicken confused became famous.
In 2003 Simpson did an in-depth interview with Rolling Stone magazine, and of the viral moment she said, “My confusion there was that I hate fish. But I love tuna, and there was a half of a second there where I thought maybe it could be chicken. ’Cause I liked it, and I don’t like fish. Unless it’s from Long John Silver’s and deep-fried.”
In the same interview Simpson mused on her music career. She was often compared to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, she said, and it was “hard” on her. Plus, she went on, “I never had my own thing happening, so I felt like I had to do what they did, like, I had to show my stomach and dance. But that’s not me.”
The Rolling Stone article seemed to imply that the Simpson-Lachey marriage was a strong and successful one. They had candlelit dinners and rode horse carriages round Central Park, the magazine revealed. At the end of the interview, Simpson declared, “I believe that Nick and I are going to last forever. And if we don’t, it’ll make a good reality show.” How right she was.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2005, Simpson and Lachey announced that they were splitting. Their joint statement read, “After three years of marriage, and careful thought and consideration, we have decided to part ways. This is the mutual decision of two people with an enormous amount of respect and admiration for each other. We hope that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
People magazine quickly got speaking to alleged insiders. One of them claimed, “I know for a fact there wasn’t one event that brought it about. I think it was a general growing apart, as in most marriages. It’s very rare that it’s just one thing that causes people to break up. It’s usually over time a slow growing apart.”
One source alleged that Lachey was mostly to blame for the split. They told People, “It really upset [Simpson] that she was at home by herself with the dog, and he is with single guys partying… She doesn’t like that world. Her idea of a great night is to order Chinese food and ice cream and watch movies.”
In 2006, not long before the divorce went through, Lachey spoke to Rolling Stone magazine about what he thought had gone wrong in the marriage. Of Newlyweds, he mused “Jessica and I began playing these parts even when we were by ourselves. It became a really blurred line. There was a question about what truly was our reality.”
Lachey revealed that Simpson had asked for a divorce after the 2005 American Music Awards, at a moment when he thought all was well. It “blindsided” him, he explained. He begged his wife to at least sleep on the question, but “when we woke up the next day, Wednesday morning, she was still sure.”
Lachey went on, “On the day she filed for divorce, I drove to her parents’ house and tried to change her mind. I had done the research, and I had the number of the best marriage counselor in town. I thought we owed it to ourselves to try with a third party. You get to a point where there is so much animosity you can’t hear each other. But she didn’t want to go.”
The interview left little doubt that Lachey was devastated. He said, “It breaks my heart that I couldn’t make Jessica happy. I wanted to be everything to my wife. I wanted her to look at me with love in her eyes, the way she did at the beginning, and have her feel like I was the most wonderful, awe-inspiring man on the planet. And when that stopped, it was the worst feeling in the world.”
But, Lachey went on, “Jessica being cast as the villain is unfair to her. Marriage is the toughest thing in the world – to blame her is bulls––t.” He went on, “She didn’t throw plates at my head. There was no crazy drama. If there had been a simple reason for the split, I’d say so. If I’d seen her with another man, I’d say so. If that’s not the story they want, then f––k it.”
But gradually, the story died down. Simpson and Lachey went their separate ways for good. In 2006 Lachey began dating Vanessa Minnillo, an actress who appeared in his music video for the song “What’s Left of Me.” After a brief breakup for a few months in 2009, they got engaged and were finally wed in 2011.
While all this was taking place in Lachey’s camp, Simpson remained rather quiet on the subject of her ex-husband. In 2009, while dating quarterback Tony Romo, she did an interview with Vanity Fair magazine and was asked about Lachey. She responded, quite simply, “I have not spoken to him in years.”
However, she did also add, when questioned as to whether she thought Newlyweds had destroyed their relationship, “In all honesty, I believe it did not affect our marriage. Because we enjoyed watching those episodes, and that will always be a time I cherish. It made me understand what marriage is, what love is, what commitment is.”
Simpson herself ended up marrying again not long after Lachey did. She became engaged to NFL star Eric Johnson in 2010 after only dating him for about half a year and wed him come 2014. The pair have three children together: Maxwell Drew Johnson, Ace Knute Johnson, and Birdie Mae Johnson.
Simpson brought up her failed marriage for a moment in 2015 that made tabloid headlines. While being interviewed on CNBC’s Closing Bell, she was asked what her biggest financial mistakes had been. At first Simpson said she didn’t know, but after a second she said, “For some reason I thought of my first marriage.”
But that small tidbit regarding money was nothing compared to what Simpson revealed five years later. She released an autobiography, Open Book, in the beginning of 2020. It covered all of Simpson’s quite extraordinary life, and naturally it went into considerable detail about the marriage, the divorce and the aftermath.
Within the book Simpson wrote of herself and Lachey, “We were young and pioneering our way through reality television, always miced and always on. We worked and we were great at it, but when it came time to being alone, we weren’t great at it anymore… I couldn’t lie to our fans and I couldn’t give somebody hope that we were this perfect golden couple.”
Even the experience of losing her virginity to Lachey hadn’t been quite what Simpson had made it out to be. She wrote in the book, “What I didn’t know then is that everyone’s first time is awkward. And that is part of it. And that it’s okay, but at the time, it’s tough to understand. I had joined a long line of virgins in my family who said yes to forever for that one experience.”
Simpson also wrote regarding the split itself, “We had been together almost seven years when I told Nick, ‘I think I want a divorce.’ I later heard that he told the press that he was blindsided. I don’t know how. At that point, we were not even speaking to each other. Maybe he was just shocked that I stood up for myself. I don’t think he ever thought I would take the leap.”
After divorcing Lachey, Simpson began seeing John Mayer, and she mentioned that in the autobiography as well. The star wrote, “I would get up to go to the bathroom, and John would ask, ‘Where are you going?’ While I was married, my ex-husband couldn’t be bothered to figure out what city I was in.”
But the relationship with Mayer didn’t last either, of course. In her book Simpson wrote, “I constantly worried that I wasn’t smart enough for him. He was so clever and treated conversation like a friendly competition that he had to win… My anxiety would spike and I would pour another drink. It was the start of me relying on alcohol to mask my nerves.”
After Simpson and Mayer broke up, Mayer made an ill-advised comment to Playboy, and that ruined any friendship they might have had. In 2010 the musician told the magazine regarding Simpson, “That girl is like crack cocaine to me. Sexually it was crazy. That’s all I’ll say. It was like napalm, sexual napalm.”
Simpson wrote of the incident in her book, “He thought that was what I wanted to be called… I was floored and embarrassed that my grandmother was actually gonna read that.” She went on, “A woman and how they are in bed, is not something that is ever talked about. It was shocking.” So after that, she said, she erased his phone number.
There was another surprising revelation in the book regarding Simpson’s romantic entanglements: she’d fallen hard for her co-star Johnny Knoxville on the set of 2005’s The Dukes of Hazzard. Not only was Simpson still Lachey’s wife at the time, but Knoxville was also married, to Melanie Clapp. No sex took place, but it was an emotional affair.
Rumors about the two actually spread back in 2004 while the film was in production. In July 2005 Knoxville denied everything to GQ magazine, saying, “Jessica and I are just friends. She’s a great girl and all that, but all the rumors – I just kind of take it in stride. But it’s kind of hurtful to the families that are involved.”
In her autobiography Simpson explained, “It was like Johnny and I were prison pen pals, two people who wanted so much to be with each other but were kept apart.” And it was all because, she wrote, “There was something Nick wanted from me that I no longer had. An emptiness I couldn’t fill.”
And although she and Knoxville weren’t sexually intimate, Simpson noted in her book, “It’s funny, I know, because I placed such an emphasis on sex by not having it before marriage. After I actually had sex, I understood that the emotional part was what mattered. And Johnny and I had that, which seemed far more of a betrayal to my marriage than sex.”
But Lachey didn’t help, Simpson wrote. She claimed, “There were so many tabloid stories about Nick in strip clubs or talking to girls that I just didn’t know what to believe. Did he feel caught in this marriage? He kept putting himself into situations where he could be so easily accused of cheating. It was self-sabotage. And I was supposed to stay home and be Betty Crocker?”
After all those quite painful-sounding revelations came via the book, the media was curious to know what Lachey himself thought. On February 1 Us Weekly magazine asked him about it at a Super Bowl party, and he answered “I have not read a single word… and no, she did not reach out before it was published.”
However, two days later, Lachey spoke to the Today show and declared he wished his ex-wife the best, saying, “I’ll be honest, I obviously haven’t read the book, so I don’t know what she said or what she revealed there, but I’m certainly happy for her and her life, I know she is happy for us. There’s definitely a mutual respect there, so that’s, you know — obviously it was a long time ago; we’ve all moved on.”
Despite everything, Simpson seems to bear no grudges for her ex. She wrote in the book, “We meant a lot to each other and we always will. I want to be very respectful because I married him for a reason and we were together for seven years for a reason. He has a family now and I would never say anything to disrespect that.” Fair enough.