On Friday's Tamron Hall Show, the singer and actress, 40, is asked if she's seen the New York Times documentary, which looked at the mistreatment fellow pop star Spears, 39, endured amid her rise to fame. She said it would be too triggering to view.
"Ah, no," Simpson told Hall. "It’s one of those things that if I were to watch it, reliving that for me, it’s one of those triggers. It definitely gives me anxiety. And I lived it," rising to fame in the same era and facing so much scrutiny — especially of her body and love life — in the media.
Simpson went on to say, "I know Britney and I know what she went through," as Spears remains in a legal conservatorship since her 2008 back-to-back involuntary hospitalizations. "It’s so hard because it’s so many people’s opinions on you just trying to live your life as a normal human being. Because inside we’re really just normal" although "we might have a big platform."
Of the criticism, Simpson added, "You can only take stuff for so long. You can only allow people in and attacking you until you have to really put your guard up."
In an interview with People, Simpson elaborated on the topic, saying, "I didn't want to watch and bring back any of the dark pieces of my personal coming of age in the music business. I have worked through a lot and want to keep moving forward in my own story on my own path."
However, "I admire [Spears's] ambition, strength and the capability to live unapologetically and authentically," Simpson added.
She's also "happy that people are supporting Britney," amid the #FreeBritney movement.
There was overlap as Simpson and Spears rose to superstardom. Simpson auditioned for Disney Channel's The Mickey Mouse Club, which Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling had roles on in the 1990s. They all attended a two-week camp to test their chemistry as a group. However, Simpson blew her final audition and watched the rest gang become TV stars.
Simpson was lucky enough to get her own recording deal a few years later — at the time Spears and Aguilera were also making albums. And as explored in the Spears doc, it was kind of a ruthless time to rise to fame, especially as a woman, facing scrutiny over things beyond their talent — including their outfits, their weight, their love lives — as they dominated the TRL charts. The worst, however, was really how they were pitted against one another in the tabloids, fueling the toxic, female, catfight narrative.
For many years, Simpson was called a Spears copycat or wannabe, and both were treated as bubble-headed, talent-less blondes manufactured by record companies. In addition to music, both had reality shows with their husbands (though neither marriage survived), tried movies and found a lot of success in retail.
Last year, Simpson — whose clothing line is now a billion dollar business (take that, aughts haters!) — was asked about that manufactured competition between them in the 2000s
"We grew up in a very competitive environment when it came to our record labels and being pushed to do things that were unnecessary for success," Simpson said. "To know that everybody has found their own way... I just love it that everybody has remained authentic to who they are."
Simpson has been promoting the paperback version of her best-selling memoir, Open Book, which is out now.
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