Watch out, Kardashians, Ashlee Simpson is back

NEW YORK • The Kardashian clan may need to look constantly over their shoulders to see whether the person, soon appearing in a time slot right after their reality show, could perhaps overtake them.

The rival is not an unknown upstart, but Ashlee Simpson, who actually helped blaze a trail for such programmes before them, with stints in MTV's Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica and The Ashlee Simpson Show.

She also rode on that fame to roll out three pop-rock albums - Autobiography, I Am Me and Bittersweet World - and got married to Pete Wentz, bassist for rock band Fall Out Boy.

The occasionally brunette younger sister of the always-blonde Jessica Simpson has led a quiet life in Los Angeles for the past decade.

After the birth of her first child, in 2008, Ashlee retreated from fame to focus on motherhood.

But, now, at 33, she is ready to "jump back in the pool".


PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

I feel like people see pictures of us, but they don't know us.

SINGER ASHLEE SIMPSON on why she and her husband Evan Ross (both above) decided to put on a reality show, titled Ashlee & Evan

This autumn, she will release a new album, launch a clothing line and star in a reality show for E! - all at the same time.

The synergistic approach has worked for her before.

The Ashlee Simpson Show, which cast her as the rebellious, dark horse sister of a pop princess, helped her first album go triple platinum in 2004.

A lot has changed since. When her reality show premiered on MTV, only a few celebrities, like Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith, had embraced the medium.

Today, the reality TV pool is a vast ocean, populated by innumerable attractive people with entertaining family dynamics.

The Kardashian sisters picked up right where the Simpsons left off when they launched their reality show on E! in 2008 and have since created a billion-dollar brand.

When Simpson's new show premieres in September, it will air in the time slot following Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Simpson has a new family dynamic that she hopes will be entertaining enough to differentiate her from the pack.

In 2014, she married Evan Ross, youngest son of singer Diana Ross and the late Norwegian businessman Arne Naess Jr.

This unlikely union, between a former teen reality star from Waco, Texas, and the son of a pop legend, who grew up palling around with Michael Jackson in his mother's Connecticut home, will be the focus of the series, titled Ashlee & Evan.

The family's decision to pursue reality TV was born of a desire to broadcast their happiness, Simpson said on a recent Friday afternoon in a recording studio in Hollywood, sitting next to her husband.

"I feel like people see pictures of us, but they don't know us," she said.

The couple started dating officially in 2013, two years after Simpson split from Wentz.

Ross, now 29, was aware of her work before they started a relationship. "I had seen maybe an episode or two of The Ashlee Simpson Show," he said, grinning. "I thought she was super cute."

Simpson's parents were heavily involved in her first show, which premiered on MTV on June 16, 2004.

Her father was an executive producer and her mother, Tina, made frequent appearances to teach her daughter the important lessons of adulthood, like how to use a mop.

The show aired in the time slot directly following Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica, which focused on the latter's life with 98 Degrees frontman Nick Lachey.

Like The Ashlee Simpson Show, Ashlee & Evan will serve as marketing for the real product: music.

"Each episode, it's really true to us and, at the end of every episode, we're releasing a single," Ross said.

The duets the couple have been working on bear little resemblance to the kind of punk-influenced pop she released in the mid-2000s.

Ross and Simpson said they did not have particular sales numbers in mind for the album or a ratings goal for the show.

"I mean, everybody wants things to do well, but I think the good part about this is like, it's all love," Ross said. "What's the worst thing that could happen?"

Simpson said: "People don't like it."

Ross is hoping for the best. "Man, if they totally don't like it, you're like, (well) I must be boring."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2018, with the headline 'Watch out, Kardashians, Ashlee Simpson is back'. Print Edition | Subscribe