At the time of their relationship, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey were one of the most high-profile superstar pairings. The celebs established themselves in the music industry in the late 1990s and found each other when Simpson was 18 and Lachey was 25. It was only a matter of time before the proverbial wedding bells would toll.
Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson stood at the altar and said "I do" with the belief that they really loved one another. Alas, the honeymoon period faded for the 2000s couple in a short time, with the added pressure of the entire world watching them on MTV’s "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica." From "chicken or fish" to camping à la Lachey, "Newlyweds" left viewers with a flawed but funny picture of the stars and their marriage. The Ringer called the program "an early-aughts time capsule" and "an anthropological triumph."
All these years later, the Simpson-Lachey story remains one of the more scrutinized tales in Hollywood. As for what did happen between Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson? And as for why these two ultimately called things off? Read on.
Music Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
Without their initial pursuits in the music business, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey might never have met. Simpson started singing early on and auditioned for "The Mickey Mouse Club" years before getting her record deal with Columbia in 1997. As the Dallas Observer recounted, Teresa LaBarbera Whites, an A&R representative, "discovered Jessica Simpson" by listening to the singer’s demo tape, approving of her vocals in person, and taking her to Sony’s New York headquarters. Tommy Mottola, then the CEO and Chairman of Sony Music Entertainment, signed Jessica Simpson after hearing her perform live.
According to CBS News, Nick Lachey attended the School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati and left "college at Miami University in Ohio to pursue a music career." And that move sure worked out for him. Nick, his brother Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre, and Jeff Timmons joined forces and became a pop group that would eventually become one of the biggest boy bands of the era. According to Sacramento News & Review, "98 Degrees was discovered backstage at a Boys II Men concert when they sang a cappella for a radio station." The band signed with Motown Records in 1996.
The record deals and early opportunities were huge milestones in Simpson’s and Nick’s professional lives, but the events were also instrumental in bringing the artists together later.
Nick Lachey met Jessica Simpson at a holiday parade
Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s dreams of stardom would lead both of them to the 1998 Hollywood Christmas Parade (per EW). When their paths crossed at the holiday event, it was game over.
"It was the smallest moment, two people locking eyes," Simpson wrote in "Open Book." "He came over, walking in a more casual version of the onstage boy-band saunter I’d come to see him do time and again, but still purposeful. ‘Hi, I’m Nick,’ he said. Hello, my life, I thought."
The couple reunited soon after the parade at a Teen People Party in Boca Raton, Florida. Jessica Simpson remembered in "Open Book" that she was at the event with momager Tina Simpson, and Nick Lachey was there with his mom. As legend has it, Nick told his mother, "Mom, your mission for tonight is to get me in good with this girl." Jessica confided in Tina, too: "That’s the man I’m going to marry," she said.
Turning up the heat to 98 Degrees
Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s stars were on the rise as their relationship blossomed. Simpson toured with 98 Degrees throughout the summer of 1999, and that December, the couple appeared on MTV’s New Year’s Eve party. When it came time to ring in the new millennium, the two shared a smooch for all the world to see.
Around the release of Nick and Jessica’s "Where You Are" duet, Simpson was asked constantly about her sex life. In her memoir, she remembered a Teen People interview "where they asked me about being a virgin. I said I wanted to wait until I got married." As BuzzFeed wrote in 2021, "the media fetishized her virginity, sexualized the hell out of her, and then slut-shamed her any time she did anything remotely sexual."
In "Open Book," Simpson shared that she was surprised at all the attention surrounding her personal life and said interviewers "asked Nick and me about my virginity at every appearance, and my take was that it wasn’t so much about ‘saving myself’ but building up anticipation."
Jessica Simpson wanted to take a break to focus on work
Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson were both so busy being pop music stars that they spent much of their relationship talking to each other on the phone. "We were both concerned about our careers, and our anxieties just seemed to feed off each other," Simpson wrote in "Open Book." Eventually, she told Lachey that the two of them "needed to take a break…just to see what would happen if we both focused solely on work."
Despite the idea that they would be individuals and tend to their respective careers, Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson stayed in contact and remained supportive. As Simpson recalled in "Open Book," when "Irresistible" album sold 120,000 copies in its first week, Lachey sent flowers and a card. "I’m very proud of you and with what you’re doing in your life," she said he wrote. "I’m happy I can be a part of it. I love you." A period "of calling and not calling each other" continued as Simpson toured with Destiny’s Child. Things changed again for her and Lachey in the fall of 2001.
Jessica Simpson was in ‘a huge sweatshirt’ when they got engaged
Nick Lachey was in New York City to perform a tribute to Michael Jackson at Madison Square Garden in September 2001. In "Open Book," Jessica Simpson shared that Lachey reached out to her following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and said, "I only want to be with you." She recalled kneeling by her bed and thinking about life on a larger scale: "It felt indecent that God had put this love in my life, and I had the audacity to take it for granted when so many people had just lost those they loved the most." Lachey helped Simpson visit her grandmother one last time and acted as a pallbearer at the funeral.
In February 2002, Nick Lachey asked Jessica Simpson to marry him. The picturesque proposal took place in Hawaii. "I was wearing a huge sweatshirt that came down to my knees," Simpson told People. "If I had known he was going to propose, I would have at least dressed up cute." The romantic moment in the serenity of the ocean ushered in a seven-month engagement for the happy couple.
Wedding planning wasn’t a breeze for Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
Jessica Simpson was all in when it came to wedding planning, but Nick Lachey was more interested in watching the budget. In "Open Book," Simpson shed some light on the legal conversation Lachey initiated at the time. He wanted to talk about a prenuptial agreement, but she was not interested.
In her memoir, Simpson pulled back the curtain on how things really went: "Part of the tabloid mythology of our marriage is that my dad played hardball and refused. No, this was an intimate discussion between a man and his soon-to-be wife. Which is to say that I exploded." Even though her dad wasn’t the driving force in dropping the prenup talk, she claimed he "was awful through the whole engagement" and against the marriage.
In preparation for the big day, Simpson said she followed the "extremely strict diet" that had begun in her teen years at her record label’s urging. As she wrote in "Open Book, " "I had upped my dosage of diet pills and was eating even less to be super-thin for the wedding. Speedy and hungry, I was easy to set off."
A special day for Mr. and Mrs. Lachey
As InStyle reported in a special about the duo’s big day, Jessica Simpson became Mrs. Lachey in Austin, Texas on October 26, 2002 with over 300 guests present. At one point, the guys of 98 Degrees sang the song "My Everything," the 2000 love ballad they paired with a music video that features a cameo by Simpson. What’s more, Simpson revealed to InStyle that she had the words "My Everything" etched into her engagement band. The bride shared that she was decked out in Neil Lane jewels and wore a Vera Wang "Cinderella dress" as she walked down the aisle of her "perfect chapel" and entered a reception filled with over 15,000 roses.
After Mr. and Mrs. Nick Lachey were introduced, they celebrated on their own with a vacation like no other — the couple honeymooned at the exclusive Turtle Island in Fiji. Richard Evanson is Owner and Managing Director of Turtle Island. He told NBC News, "Famous guests are not swamped with fans looking for autographs; everyone is left alone in peace." Experiences at Turtle Island are abundant, ranging from horseback riding and mountain biking to diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, or kayaking. Guests can also hit the spa after laying on the beach or eating dinner on top of a mountain. Sign us up.
Reality TV rocked Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson’s world
As Jessica Simpson shared in her "Open Book" memoir, the newly minted Lacheys became even more famous with their reality show on MTV, "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica." The ’00s series set the couple up for drama, and they had to deal with the duality of living their lives and becoming entertaining caricatures of themselves. Simpson wrote, "When the show premiered on August 19, it was like someone slammed the accelerator on our lives and marriage, pushing it to the highest possible speed."
Both Simpson and Lachey have acknowledged the problems that their "Newlyweds" personas created. "Jessica and I began playing these parts even when we were by ourselves," Lachey told Rolling Stone. "It became a truly blurred line. There was a question about what truly was our reality."
Even the activities captured on the show weren’t always real-life. The camping trip episode in season one was production’s idea, not the couple’s. Simpson recalled in "Open Book," "As Nick did stuff like load the car or cook the burgers, I asked aloud, ‘Am I supposed to be helping?’ Not so much to fulfill my role as a new wife but to act out my role as a character." So, whose idea was "Newlyweds" to begin with? None other than Joe Simpson, Jessica’s dad. As she recounted in her book, Papa Joe pitched the reality series in hopes of getting his eldest’s music more MTV airtime. The show was a lot more than anyone had bargained for though.
At least Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey made good TV
The cameras kept rolling for "Newlyweds," but the spark between Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson dissipated with time. Lachey and Simpson were surrounded by attention as Simpson’s music excelled while Lachey’s solo ventures didn’t. "Jessica’s label did this really smart thing and tied her next single into the show," the boy bander told Rolling Stone in 2006. However, Lachey’s label did not do the same thing. "So my record stagnated," he said.
In her 2003 Rolling Stone cover story, Simpson said, "I believe Nick and I are going to last forever. And if we don’t, it’ll make a good reality show." The latter proved true.
Simpson hinted at the difference between "love" and "like" in her memoir — she and Lachey were fine at loving, but they did not necessarily along. "[E]verything I did seemed to annoy him," Simpson noted. The couple had little tiffs over money, with Lachey continually surprised at Simpson’s expensive purchases. "Newlyweds" episodes show him questioning the money she spent on sheets, undergarments, and a $55,000 watch for his birthday. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can cause drama.
Rumors swirled around about Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey continued to have trouble with one another and grew more distant. Rumors began to swirl about divorce and infidelity on both sides, particularly regarding Lachey’s night at a bachelor party and Simpson’s time with her "The Dukes of Hazzard" co-star Johnny Knoxville. In "Open Book," Simpson noted she and Knoxville "were both married, so this wasn’t going to get physical." The singer continued, "But to me, an emotional affair was worse than a physical one."
The couple downplayed their strife to Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" in 2004, and according to Simpson, they used the attention and speculation as fuel to try to succeed in their marriage. She explained in "Open Book," "We didn’t want to give anybody the satisfaction of seeing us publicly humiliated with a divorce, so we continued to play our ‘Newlyweds’ roles. Sometimes we did this so well that we convinced each other." Lachey had a slightly different point of view at the time, stating to Rolling Stone, "I wasn’t trying to defend myself in the press. I was trying to defend my marriage to my spouse."
The couple worked as "a team" once more for a trip to Iraq, with a stop at an air base in Germany, to entertain and spend time with the troops (per People). After the excursion, Simpson wrote that they gave marriage counseling a shot, but apparently, it did not save the relationship.
Things came to an end for Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
While promoting "Open Book" in 2020, Jessica Simpson talked to "Today" anchor Hoda Kotb about "Newlyweds" and her relationship with Nick Lachey. "I would watch episodes back and I didn’t like what I saw," she shared. "And that wasn’t just editing, that happened on and off camera. I think that, like, our success together was beautiful, but our success separately was not as accepted."
Alas, this pop music power couple would not make it to the next decade. As Jessica recalled in "Open Book," she told Lachey just before Thanksgiving 2005 that she wanted to end their marriage. Lachey admitted to Rolling Stone he felt "blindsided," and even after they decided to "sleep on it," Simpson was sure she was ready to move on.
In December 2005, People reported Jessica filed for divorce from her then-husband. "After three years of marriage, and careful thought and consideration, we have decided to part ways," read their joint statement. "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." Jessica’s mom, Tina Simpson, helped her daughter move out while Lachey was out of town.
In "Open Book," Jessica Simpson recounted a conversation she had with Lachey where he apparently told her he would go to counseling again in an effort to make their relationship work. "Love is not enough," she replied. "If love was enough, I would stay forever."
Life after love for Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson
2006 was a fresh start for both Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. The 98 Degrees member released "What’s Left of Me," which sold over 500,000 copies and went gold (via CBS News). That same year, "Total Request Live" VJ Vanessa Minnillo appeared in the music video for Lachey’s post-split ballad "What’s Left of Me." While it wasn’t the first time their paths crossed, it set the wheels in motion. And as the now-couple recalled to Billboard, sparks flew when it was time to promote the clip on "TRL." Chatting with Tamron Hall about the first time she saw the visual for "What’s Left of Me," Simpson said, "I feel like he showed it to me. I opened my doors back up to him one night, out of weakness … He did play it for me that night, and it was heartbreaking."
After the divorce, Simpson focused on her clothing and lifestyle brand, the Jessica Simpson Collection. She also continued to pursue an acting career and got back in the dating game. In "Open Book," Simpson got into her life as a single woman and the beginnings of her tumultuous relationship with John Mayer, whom she "dated in secret for months."
Though it couldn’t have been painless, Lachey and Simpson were moving on without each other as the late 2000s carried them in different directions.
Jessica Simpson’s memoir opened up chatter about her past
Onlookers have been interested in the spectacle of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson for decades, but the relationship became a piping hot topic again in 2020 with the release of Simpson’s bestselling memoir "Open Book."
For the first time, Simpson was laying everything out for fans who wanted to know the truth about her time with Lachey. Even though both pop stars are now married to other people, interviewers have had no problems bringing up their old relationship. For example, on a 2020 episode of "Today," Hoda Kotb mentioned that Jessica Simpson said something about Nick and Vanessa Lachey sending her a gift, but Vanessa clarified that they never did.
Bravo star Andy Cohen tried to get to the bottom of what really happened. While chatting with Simpson for Sirius XM’s "Town Hall" series, he asked her about the confusion surrounding the Lachey present story. When Cohen asked if they did or did not send her something, Simpson replied, "I didn’t get a gift. … I don’t know where that came from." The topic came up again when Cohen had Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on "Watch What Happens Live." Kotb told Cohen she thought she heard Simpson "mention something … about a gift," but neither the "Today" anchor nor the "WWHL" host got the full story.
Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson thrive in their separate worlds
Now that interested parties have read "Open Book" and have asked their questions, it’s clear that Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey are living separate, successful lives without the past intruding too much. After Nick and Vanessa Lachey became husband and wife, Simpson married retired NFL tight end Eric Johnson in 2014. The Lacheys share three children, and so do Johnson and Simpson.
In addition to happy personal lives, Lachey and Simpson are doing well professionally. Following his big win on "The Masked Singer" (he was the Piglet), Nick Lachey is making music and performing again with 98 Degrees. According to Cincinnati Enquirer, the boy band launched "98 Days of Summer" in June 2021, promising to drop "a new surprise for fans" every day. The group also has new music and live shows in the works.
Meanwhile, Simpson continues to tell her story through an Amazon deal. According to Variety, Simpson’s memoir inspired a scripted series in addition to an unscripted docuseries. She also has not one, but two essays for Amazon Original Stories. When Simpson released the first piece in 2021, she wrote on Instagram, "I felt strong, resilient, and God-inspired through my pen teaching me as I was sharing with you ways to get to the other side of fear."
Simpson and Lachey have walked through heartache, but they’ve "moved on," as Lachey said on Today in 2020, noting "there’s definitely a mutual respect there."