“I'm trying not to be too in my head about it,” says Ashlee Simpson-Ross of her upcoming reality series, Ashlee and Evan, premiering Sunday. The show marks the younger Simpson sister’s reentry into a genre her family helped pioneer, with The Ashlee Simpson Show and Newlyweds in the early 2000s, before she withdrew from the public eye for the past half decade.
Since then, some changes have reshaped the reality canon — and how we metabolize it. The Kardashians became TV’s first family. Everyone got Twitter. People became fascinated with housewives. Trump. Meanwhile, Simpson-Ross’s life was changing too. After divorcing ex Pete Wentz, with whom she shares a 9-year-old son, Bronx, she married Evan Ross (as in Diana) and welcomed a daughter, Jagger, last year.
So she’s a little nervous, sure — but this comeback was carefully crafted, Simpson-Ross says. “It didn't come to us,” she notes of the show’s genesis. “We decided to do this, and we brought it to a bunch of different places.” They landed on E!, in the slot following the Kardashians’. “Putting my life out there definitely was a decision that my husband and I had to think about for a minute, but we were like, ‘it feels right,’ because we were making music together.”
The singer, now 33, intends for the show to be full of positivity, and each episode will culminate with the release of a duet sung by the couple. “I feel like right now, people need to see a little love and vulnerability,” she says. “The only thing we really discussed was, ‘Let's be open and show our hearts.’”
It’s a brilliant way to bring an album into the world. But Simpson-Ross has been business-minded from a young age. Her father doubled as her manager and helped her turn a fledgling dance career (Simpson-Ross trained as a ballerina and was a backup dancer for sister Jessica Simpson) into a personal brand anchored in TV (remember 7th Heaven?), film, and most of all music.
While she took a step away from all that, Simpson-Ross still engaged in entrepreneurial brand partnerships — like her clothing line with Zadig & Voltaire and her most recent collaboration, with youth makeup brand Petite ‘n Pretty, which she’s at a launch for when we speak (“Jagger can have her own makeup session right next to me, which is very sweet,” she coos). But Simpson-Ross will always see herself as a singer first. “I've really missed music. I've missed that part of my life that I love and that is such a big part of who I am,” she says. “I feel also, as a mother, that's something I want to show my kids and share with them.”
Below, Simpson-Ross opens up about the piece of advice that changed her career, her son’s allowance, and the beauty splurge both she and her husband can’t resist.
On spending her first big paycheck… I grew up being a ballerina and a dancer, and then I danced with my sister at age 14. I would get paid then. Living off of that was really wonderful. But when I left dancing with her at 16, I started doing a TV show called 7th Heaven for two years. When I first got that, my parents got me a car, a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was great. But soon after, when I started to work, I was like, “Oh, yeah! I'm gonna get a convertible!" That was probably my first splurge. I was 16.
On what her parents taught her about money… Especially as a woman, saving your money is so important, as much as you can be.
On the best money advice she’s received… Honestly, to sign your own checks. A lot of people actually told me that.
On stepping away from the spotlight… This time was such a beautiful blessing for me because I felt like I had such a great run, and I needed time for family, to become a mother, and to become the woman that I wanted to be. In that, there was a lot of discovery of who I am, and I feel like doing that in my safe place was crucial. I found the love of my life, my husband and my soulmate. And now I feel stronger and better than ever. I have a beautiful family, and that's everything that matters. Music is just something I want to share with the world.
On how her kids feel about her return… [Bronx] is excited. He got to see me perform and come to our rehearsals, and that's something my son’s never got to see. And Jagger, too. Jagger's like, "Give me the mic!”
On why she’s coming back to TV now… I feel like we have good love, and we're at a place where we want to share where we're at in our lives with the world. and we are at the same time learning and growing and being a parent learning how to do that too. [I’m at] a place in my life where I can do what I'm passionate about and love and also be a mother.
On how she teaches her children about money… Not quite Jagger yet. But Bronx gets an allowance. It’s understanding exactly what you're spending on, like video games. He's like, "Oh, I want to save my money for certain things!” He's really cute about saving it. And then he knows he wants to go get a toy when he's reached however much it is.
On the best thing money can buy… A life for my kids to look forward to. [I want] to set it aside and not spend it all on me but save money for them.
On her most frequent luxury… I love La Mer. That's the thing I splurge on. I use the moisturizing cream. I use Neutrogena face wipes when I'm washing my face or Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser, but I love La Mer for my skin and hydration. And Epicuren Tropical Lave. It’s body soap, and my husband uses a lot of it, so it goes pretty fast.
On brand partnerships and #sponcon… I've definitely done partnerships with brands. I feel like social media is an interesting platform that I'm still learning about. But I think it's a beautiful way that people can be able to be out there. I think it's a platform for people to back a line or a product and express that on their own page. It’s a nice way to connect.
On Petite ‘n Pretty… Every time I'm getting ready, it's something that Jagger wants to be involved in because she knows it's mommy's process. So I feel like this is so cute because it's a line that gives her something to do. Sometimes, I'll be like, "Okay, I'm getting ready now — sit on the floor." But everything is then all over her face, so it's great she has her own product to play with.
On her earliest makeup memories… Well, I have an older sister, so I can always remember being in my Nanna or my mom's makeup drawers. It was probably Lip Smacker, which still exist and I still use now with Jagger.
On producing Ashlee and Evan… We definitely talked about everything before we did it. We're letting you into our world a little. A lot. But watching the episodes, I feel very proud of what we've done, and I'm excited to share that with the world.
On her mother-in-law Diana Ross… She always gives great advice. Everything she says is inspiring. The woman that she is, and the mother that she is to all of her kids, and being able to have the amazing career that she has, is all very inspiring. She definitely keeps it all beautiful and positive.