Jessica Simpson released her memoir, Open Book, on Feb. 4, opening up about her life in incredibly detailed fashion for the very first time.
The book recounts Simpson's childhood, her ascent to fame, romantic relationships and more, touching on difficult topics including sexual abuse, her divorce from Nick Lachey and abuse of alcohol and pills. Speaking to PEOPLE, Simpson explained that she had previously received an offer to write a motivational book "to living your best life," but knew that to do so wouldn't be speaking her truth.
"I didn't feel comfortable talking about myself in a way that wasn't honest," she said. "I'm a horrible liar."
"It’s been a long hard deep emotional journey, one that I’ve come through the other side with pure happiness and fulfillment and acceptance of myself," she continued. "I've used my pain and turned it into something that can be beautiful and hopefully inspiring to people."
Read on for the biggest reveals in Simpson's memoir.
Simpson wrote that she was first abused at age 6 "when I shared a bed with the daughter of a family friend." The abuse took place from ages 6 to 12 and happened when during family visits around three times per year.
"It would start with tickling my back and then go into things that were extremely uncomfortable," she wrote. "I wanted to tell my parents. I was the victim but somehow I felt in the wrong." Simpson also wrote that her younger sister, Ashlee Simpson, was in the bed during the second incident.
"I lay between them, fiercely protecting my sister from this monster," she wrote. "I didn’t want her to feel as disgusting as I felt. … I never let her near Ashlee, but I also never screamed or told her to stop."
She eventually told her parents, Tina and Joe Simpson, when they were in the car together when Simpson was 12. Tina slapped Joe's arm and yelled, "I told you something was happening."
"Dad kept his eye on the road and said nothing," Simpson wrote. "We never stayed at my parents' friends house again but we also didn't talk about what I had said."
Simpson shared that the trauma of her abuse combined with later pressures eventually led her to later self-medicate with alcohol and stimulants.
"This feeling of being alone and scared in the dark was one I’d had since I was abused as a child," she explained. "I was killing myself with all the drinking and pills."
The 39-year-old ultimately decided to get sober in 2017, the day after she and husband Eric Johnson threw a Halloween party and Simpson realized she couldn't even dress her children. "I need to stop," Simpson told her close friends at the time. "Something's got to stop. And if it’s the alcohol that’s doing this, and making things worse, then I quit."
She got sober in November 2017 and has not had a drink since. Simpson received support from her parents and friends, working with a team of doctors and going to therapy twice a week.
"When I finally said I needed help, it was like I was that little girl that found her calling again in life," she wrote. "I found direction and that was to walk straight ahead with no fear."
Simpson married Nick Lachey in 2002, and the couple began starring on their own reality show, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica from 2003 to 2005. Simpson filed for divorce in 2005 and wrote that multiple factors, including insecurities about their respective careers, damaged their relationship. Simpson referred to Lachey as her first love and wrote that she respects him "very much."
"We worked and we were great at it, but when it came time to being alone, we weren’t great at it anymore," she explained. "We really got crushed by the media and by ourselves. ... I couldn’t lie to our fans and I couldn’t give somebody hope that we were this perfect golden couple."
"We meant a lot to each other and we always will," she added. "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."
During her marriage to Lachey, Simpson starred in the Dukes of Hazzard and revealed that she had an emotional affair with her co-star Johnny Knoxville, who was also married at the time.
"I felt a force drawing us together," she wrote. "To me, an emotional affair was worse than a physical one. It’s funny, I know, because I had 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."
Knoxville denied having an affair with Simpson at the time and Lachey went to visit his wife on set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
"We wrote these flowery love letters back and forth, often at night with Nick passed out in the bed next to me," Simpson recalled. "We talked about music, and I would listen to Johnny Cash songs he suggested just to feel like we were still together. … It’s like Johnny and I were prison pen pals, two people who wanted too much to be with each other but were kept apart — by bars, by our stars, by our respective spouses."
One of Simpson's most publicized relationships was with John Mayer, who she dated off and on. "He loved me in the way that he could and I loved that love for a very long time," she wrote. "Too long. And I went back and forth with it for a long time. But it did control me."
The 39-year-old explained that being with Mayer made her feel insecure and that she "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."
"He’d dump me, then come back saying he had discovered he loved me after all. I always saw it as him mercilessly taking me in from the cold," she wrote. "Every time John returned, I thought it was a continuation of a love story, while my friends saw a guy coming back for sex with some foolish girl."
Ultimately, Mayer's infamous Playboy interview, in which he called Simpson "sexual napalm," served as the wake-up call the designer needed.
"He thought that was what I wanted to be called. I was floored and embarrassed that my grandmother was actually gonna read that," she recalled. "When he reached out to me, I changed my number and changed my email. Delete."
In 2007, Simpson began dating quarterback Tony Romo and revealed that he broke up with her after finding an email Mayer had sent her in 2009 following a gathering at Simpson's father's home in Los Angeles.
"By a fire in the backyard, he stood and told all of us that he loved me and that we could all trust him to be a good man. I told him I would always love him, but I was with Tony,” she said. "But I didn’t tell Tony. I broke my own rule of full disclosure about any contact, even accidental, with John."
When Romo found an email from Mayer to Simpson on Simpson's phone soon after, he broke up with her.
"I hadn’t cheated on Tony at all, but I could not lie and say I hadn’t even seen him," she wrote. "And within that second, he broke up with me right there. Two years, gone with an email."
Simpson shared that she went back to Mayer for a few months but ended things after the Playboy interview in 2010.
When Simpson was 17 years old, Tommy Mottola, former CEO of Sony Music, told her to "lose 15 pounds." She "immediately" went on an "extremely" strict diet and began taking diet pills, which she wrote that she would do for the "next 20 years."
"I want a six-pack for the next video. Janet Jackson abs," Mottola reportedly told Simpson after her "I Wanna Love You Forever" video, which prompted the singer to draw abs on her stomach with eyeshadow.
Simpson devoted an entire chapter of her book to a 2009 performance at a chili cook-off in which she was photographed wearing high-waisted jeans that were, she wrote, a size 4. Titled "Death By Mom Jeans," Simpson explained that the headlines accompanying the photos, which disparaged her weight, triggered her body dysmorphia.
"I had always been in on the joke and that gave me power," she wrote. "Now that it was everybody else making it, I didn’t think it was funny."
"I no longer trusted the mirror," she added. "With every reflection, every single pane of glass I passed, I took myself in quickly to try to catch myself, to see what the world apparently saw."
According to Simpson, she was sent the script for the rom-com but decided not to pursue it due to the film's sex scene.
"And it would have been with Ryan Gosling, of all people," she wrote, having previously revealed that the actor was her first crush back when she met him during auditions for The Mickey Mouse Club.
She later watched the movie for the first time while it played on a flight at the same time a statement was released announcing her separation from Lachey.0comments
"The statement went out while I was in the air, but nobody on the plane knew a thing, except that Jessica Simpson was sobbing in first class," Simpson wrote. "Then they announced that the movie we all had to watch was The Notebook. Oh God, I thought. The most romantic movie in the world, and I was leaving Nick."
Photo Credit: Getty / Kevin Mazur