Jessica Simpson On The Time She Was Pursued By A Backstreet Boy & An *NSYNC Member
Simpson shares a very 2000s dating anecdote in her new short story. Read an exclusive excerpt here.
In this exclusive excerpt of Jessica Simpson’s short story Movie Star: They Always Say They’re Single, Simpson shares a personal dating experience from the early aughts — the days when Motorola Razrs and the Backstreet Boys were all the rage.
The giant black Motorola flip phone kept exploding in my purse, making me jump each time it buzzed. Around me on the red carpet of the 2001 MTV VMAs after-party, the female pop stars I most admired in the industry radiated with glamour. And then there was me. Picture a black off-the-shoulder cocktail dress with a giant, wide black belt and black booties that cut off my legs. The outfit did not make the “I belong here” statement that I thought it did. Jennifer Lopez, who was hosting the party, had changed into a bubblegum pink crop top and skirt only she could pull off. She was so kind, stopping to take a picture with me—which Ja Rule photobombed with his Burberry bucket hat. All around us, women seemed to have followed a directive from their stylist to rip up their clothes and wrap the scraps of fabric around them again, topped with a closetful of accessories—chokers and handcuffs weighed down these beautiful women in jeans cut to their hoohaa bone. I looked like I was about to reach into my giant belt to pull out a humongous autograph book and offer a selection of Sharpies.
My purse. I was dodging calls from two boybanders, one from *NSYNC, the other from the Backstreet Boys. Earlier, at the hotel, I had separate calls going with them at the same time on my Motorola and the room phone. I kept switching between the calls, putting each on hold when talk became too serious about when we were actually going to meet up. I was good on the phone and could talk the talk, but in person, I knew my shyness meant I wouldn’t even be able to look them in the eye.
The Backstreet Boy might be at the party, he’d said. I figured I could avoid him. When I was a teenager, I’d stood in the front row of one of his concerts. During a song, he poured a bottle of water all over himself, gyrating his body as he looked at me the whole time. I’d asked him if he remembered that, and he laughed. It was probably one of his moves.
The other boybander told me he was living in his car by choice. I knew enough about the industry to know that money in those boybands was always ... iffy, but he seemed to double down on this conviction. “I’d be fine doing it the rest of my life,” he said. “Just keep a few belongings.” He used that word — “belongings” — and I pictured myself trying to cram all the stuff my Cancer heart wouldn’t let go of into his car. That was not going work.
“I’m just gonna put you on hold again,” I had said, and hung up for good.
It was early September 2001. I had spent that summer apart from my first real boyfriend, Nick, and I still didn’t know how to be single. We had dated for nearly three years, starting when I was eighteen and he was twenty-four. Now he was twenty-seven and was ready to marry me. But my dad wouldn’t give his blessing. He thought I was too young to get married.
It’s funny I thought I was old enough. I didn’t even know how to date. Before Nick, what I considered a relationship was talking to boys in the middle of the night and getting in trouble with my parents. In a way, my career made me grow up faster, and in other, fundamental ways it kept me frozen in high school.
My diary entries from those months of being single are full of resolutions about dating. “I need to go out and experience other relationships.” I wrote the morning after I turned twenty-one that July, and I marvel at how I could be so clear about something I knew so little about. I had no idea what “experience” meant. I was still in love with Nick and felt guilty getting butterflies about anybody else. Even thinking something might be possible with another man felt like cheating, and I never took the bait. Heck, I didn’t know what the bait was.
I didn’t know that night at the MTV party that I was exactly five days away from going back to Nick and eventually marrying him, but that’s another story. For now, picture me in the black cocktail dress, doing what I was told to do by Columbia Records. Tonight was part of my job—to get as much press as possible for my new single “A Little Bit.”
The party on the red carpet got so crowded that we were all top of each other, and my security guard stopped me from falling when I got jostled. I was determined to stand my ground, because my bosses at Columbia Records had told me, “We want you on the red carpet.” I truly thought that meant I was supposed to keep at least one foot on it at all times. My new album, Irresistible, had just come out, and these men sitting at the executive table had said it would define me—even as they had refused to let me write any of the songs on it. They scolded me to get down to a hundred and two pounds, and they dictated my hair’s exact length (past my shoulders) and color (keep it blonde). If they knew I was avoiding another famous boybander, they would not be pleased. That much I knew. Dating a famous boybander would bring them the headlines they wanted.
Movie Star: They Always Say They’re Single will be available as an ebook and an audiobook on Feb. 1.