I had nearly an hour in line to figure out what I’d say to Jessica Simpson at her pre-concert autograph signing. My friend Kayla and I played out scenarios in the 98-degree Florida sun, imagining that in just a minute or less, we’d say something so witty and delightful that she’d have to be friends with us. Instead, my sweaty fingers curled the edges of the September 2001 issue of Teen People, where Jessica shared cover space with stories like “Hanging Out with ’NSync on Tour” and “How to Get into College and Survive” (even though I wouldn’t need this advice for another four years). Finally, we were up next. Witty, brilliant, sparkling banter time.
“Um, uh, hi,” I squeaked.
“Hi,” Jessica replied, barely glancing up as she took my crumpled magazine, swirling a fast “JS” and passing it back. My moment was slipping away!
I blurted out something about loving her new album, and she smiled and thanked me before moving on to the next person. I honestly can’t remember the exact words, because all I could think—now that we were two feet away from each other—was she’s so thin. Even thinner than she’d looked in her “Irresistible” music video (a body transformation that also made the magazine’s cover lines). Her jawline and arms were all sharp angles—but once the surprise subsided, the resounding takeaway in my 14-year-old brain wasn’t that she had already looked great before her second-album weight loss (which is 100 percent true). It was, So that’s what it takes to be thin and pretty and successful.