Jessica Simpon’s Nude “Elle” Cover Reveals More About Prejudice Than Pregnancy

Jessica Simpson normally flies so low under my radar that I hardly remember what she’s supposed to be famous for, but when a friend of mine sent me a link to an online Elle article about the star, I clicked out of curiosity. Why, I wondered, would anyone send me a link to a Jessica Simpson article?

I’m sure my friend was probably surprised by the nude and almost-nude pictures of the heavily pregnant Simpson, but I hardly noticed the pictures, so amazed was I by the excerpts from the”interview”  Elle writer Marshall Sella conducted with Simpson. Why? Read on:

Ah swear, ah will croak if she asks me for a pair of Nikes instead of Christian Louboutins!” she blurts out, her Dallas accent swooping back in this moment of heightened anxiety. “Eric is so athletic. We’re gonna have this ath-a-letic girl and I won’t even be able to take her shopping.”

“I’m still standin’,” she drawls. “I grew up very strong! You know, my father used to be an adolescent therapist. I remember sitting at his office, watching the girls walkin’ in and out. Kids doin’ coke at 16…heroin. Pregnant at 14. I could see what I didn’t want to be.”

We get it, Sella. Simpson has a pronounced Southern accent (pun intended). What I don’t get, however, is why this is such a big deal to Sella that the writer not only remarks on it more than once, but proceeds to write Simpson’s responses in dialect.

I was blown away by the utter crassness of the interview excerpts. It reminded me, honestly, of early 1900s interviews with black entertainers or Southern entertainers — interviews from an era when it was okay to marginalize people from other races or regions.

That Sella pulled this off in the 21st Century is amazing to me, but the fact that an army of editors and fact-checkers that work on a piece of this magnitude in a magazine like Elle had no problem with it is just insulting.

What’s worse is knowing that if Simpson were a New Yorker with a Bronx accent, or a Minnesotan with the well-recognized Midwestern accent, I wouldn’t be writing this. Because I doubt that Sella would have commented upon her accent at all, much less have written Simpson’s responses in dialect.

Evidently Simpson is not known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer — one of her claims to fame is thinking that Chicken of the Sea really is chicken, I discovered — but she’s doing something right. She’s parlayed dubious talents into a billion dollar clothing/shoes/accessories empire, and she’s also starring in something called “Fashion Star.” Yet Sella can find nothing more compelling about Simpson than the fact that she’s afraid her unborn child will be “ath-a-letic?”

To get an idea of just how asinine Sella’s slant on the article is, contrast it with this excerpt from a 2007 Elle profile of Jessica Simpson I dug up on the magazine’s website. The author, by the way, was Andrew Goldman, and this is one of Simpson’s responses:

It’s that whole “They build you up to tear you down” thing. But in a lot of ways I think I brought that on myself because I did a reality show. I let people in on who I am and how I react to my husband. That’s a big deal. Celebrities don’t do that. So I think they brought me down just because I stopped talking and because I have not spoken—and will not speak—about my divorce. And I think that people feel like I owe them my reality right now. And I’ve learned to keep it sacred. Yes, it gave me an amazing career, but there are just some things I want to keep private now, and I’m begging and pleading for privacy. I’m still a very open person, but now I know what to guard.

If you know that Simpson is from Texas, and everything I’ve found written about her today points that out absolutely, then it’s easy to read the Goldman interview passage hearing a Southern accent. The difference is, Goldman didn’t feel compelled to make Simpson read as “different than” or “less than” because of her Southern accent. While it’s obvious that Goldman didn’t taken any pains to make Simpson read as more witty or well-spoken than she probably is, he also didn’t take any pains to make her read like Ma Kettle.

Marshall Sella, whomever that may be, should be ashamed. I just hope that when she reads the article, Simpson isn’t ashamed. She has nothing to be ashamed of — even if she does think that Chicken of the Sea is truly chicken.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: