Jessica Simpson's billion-dollar brand went bankrupt after she sold it — here's why she 'drained everything to buy it back'
Jessica Simpson wants you to know something important: "I don't have a perfect life."
That's despite two decades of high-profile work as a pop star and business mogul. At age 19, Simpson was a bestselling recording artist. By age 34, she was one of the first celebrities to build a billion-dollar fashion brand, the Jessica Simpson Collection, which appeared in department stores like Macy's, Dillard's and Lord & Taylor.
Her success, she says, is due to her openness about sharing her own imperfections. Over the years, she has been vocal about plenty of them, from her divorce from boy-band singer Nick Lachey to her struggles with alcoholism and weight, and says the honesty helps "women really relate to me."
"I've been every size, with three pregnancies. Even without pregnancy, my weight fluctuates and people obsess over it," Simpson, now 41, tells CNBC Make It. "I've put all that shame away. I don't attach myself to that anymore."
Most recently, Simpson's focus is recovering — and rehabilitating — her eponymous brand that once broke $1 billion in annual sales.
In 2015, licensing company Sequential Brands acquired a majority stake in Simpson's brand for an undisclosed sum. Last year, Sequential filed for bankruptcy — and in November, a bankruptcy judge approved Simpson's $65 million bid for Sequential's ownership stake, financed largely by the Simpson family and two additional lenders, according to Bloomberg.
"I drained everything to buy it back," Simpson says. "But I'm my best investment to myself. I believe in big things. I don't think anything is impossible."
Today, Simpson says she's in a good place, both mentally and physically: She recently lost 100 pounds for the third time, after having her third child in 2019. She's partnering with brands like nasal spray Flonase to help her rebuild her lifestyle brand, which she says will soon include more health and wellness products, men's and boys' clothing, and home goods than it used to.
Here, Simpson discusses the secrets to her success, why she sacrificed so much to repurchase her brand and how she manages her mental health every day:
Why Simpson is confident that she can rebuild her brand — even after 'draining everything' to recover it
Buying back my brand was a lot of faith in myself. It's been rocky, and it's been amazing. It's also been a challenging moment for me, when it comes to finances, because I drained everything to buy it back — but I'm my best investment to myself.
I never sought out to do fashion for money. I did it because I love it, and I wanted to celebrate women and style. It's just fun for me. I think if I looked at it [just as a] business, it wouldn't be as successful.
I'm not just a brand because I'm famous. I think that I'm a brand because I know how to communicate with fashion, and I know the stories that people want to tell when they're putting on clothes. I know how people want to feel.
Everybody deserves to be celebrated. If one person is wearing a crop top that's a size two, I think that as a size 12, you should absolutely be able to wear it, as well. We were [among] the first in the fashion industry that said, "You deserve to wear this at any size because it's cute."
How she sums up her 'secret to success' in just one word
Honesty is my secret to success. Being open, and not being afraid to be uniquely myself. That's really a beautiful thing, when you can embrace that.
I'm always the type that [thinks] slow and steady wins the race. I have "determined patience" — it's patience, but you also have that drive and determination to be the best that you can be for the company and your name.
As far as my career goes, everything you see is what you get. I think that women really relate to me because I've shared parts of myself that aren't perfect. I know how to accept everyone for who they are, and I find those individual unique qualities in people something to celebrate.
I've been every size, with three pregnancies. Even without pregnancy, my weight fluctuates and people obsess over it. I've had to accept it. I'm at that place where I'm like: My husband celebrates me, that's all that matters.
I try my hardest to just accept and love people for who they are — in a very open way — because I've been there too. I don't have a perfect life.
How taking a break from social media changed the way she approaches mental health
I believe your mental health is the most important thing to understand, embrace, and not get frustrated over.
It's hard to take on everybody's opinions and judgments. I've put all that shame away. I don't attach myself to that. When it comes to Instagram and likes, it just doesn't matter how many likes you get. It doesn't matter how many people are commenting negatively. The three people that comment positively? That's the people you meant it for.
It's hard with everything looking so perfect on Instagram. I had to take a break. I felt awful about my life. I was like, "Gosh, I want all these people's lives." To constantly want somebody else's life, you forget the power you have in your own life.
People have different forms of meditation. For me, I didn't understand silence because it's so chaotic in my mind. For someone just to say "be still" and not have a thought? That seems selfish to me. [So] I journal. Since I was 14, I've always called it my prayer journal.
For example, I woke up today, and just had to write down some of the negative thoughts that I woke up with. If I write that out, then I'm like, "I'm gonna accept this day with gratitude. I feel blessed to live this day."
It makes everything more pleasant, and it makes everybody around you feel comfortable.
Why she often looks to her 'younger self' for advice
My younger self gives me advice a lot, because [she experienced] way less fear and responsibility. When I was a kid, there was just this drive, ambition and hope to change the world. The fact that I was given a platform at such a young age, I've learned, was a blessing — and I've disregarded the curse of it.
I really think our thoughts towards ourselves [shouldn't include] anybody else's opinions. You have to accept yourself for who you are, and know the parts of yourself that you want to better.
As a child, I always wanted to achieve. I'm definitely a perfectionist. I was also a preacher's daughter, and looked at as a leader from Day 1. Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to be a light and a positive role model, so I go back to the innocence of that childlike faith in myself a lot.
It's just not my responsibility to "save people." That's where I got myself in trouble with relationships.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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