Photo Credit: courtesy of VH1
After a fun night of sushi and martinis with three girlfriends last night, I was really looking forward to coming home to Dan, plopping on the couch and watching Jessica Simpson’s new VH1 show The Price of Beauty. (And yes, Dan loves my TV viewing proclivities. Our DVR currently features Jersey Shore, Gossip Girl, Bad Girls Club and Intervention.) The poor girl has been put through a horrific body image ringer over the past few years, including being mocked by the NFL and Burger King and Mom Jeansgate. When her younger sis Ashlee got a nose job, her ensuing hotness gave rise to all sorts of “Who’s the hotter sister now?” charts and graphs and contests. Her mother has Twittered, "Driving home in my GWagon with Jess...both are fast and top heavy!" and her father told GQ that Jessica has "got double Ds! You can't cover those suckers up”. She’s basically the world’s favorite body image punching bag, If anyone had something to say about the price of beauty, I figured it would be her.
The show was…fine. In the first episode, Simpson, BFF CaCee Cobb and hairstylist Ken Paves travelled to Thailand, where they received hardcore Thai massages, interviewed a woman who disfigured her face from whitening cream (in Thailand, a tan symbolizes being lower class), and meditated with a Buddhist monk, who told them, “If your mind is deep in meditation, your body, your skin and your health will glow.” My favorite part was when they met the women of the Karen tribe, who stack rings on their necks in an effort to attract husbands.
But through all of their adventures, Simpson maintained a sort of giggly effervescence, and never seemed to delve deeper than surface-y soundbites. She started laughing during Buddhist meditation, which I can only imagine offended the monk. Choking down a fried worm (said to help burn fat and speed metabolism), her reaction, complete with dry heaving, seemed 104% over the top. And after speaking with the woman who burned her skin with bleach, she walked over, hugged her and said, “It’s going to be OK,” in what seemed (to me, at least) a very naïve, slightly patronizing voice. I don’t think she intended to be disrespectful in these situations, but it definitely came across as such. I’d kill for the opportunity to travel the world -– to travel to just one of these countries! -– and explore the pain caused by cultural expectations of beauty. But the half-hour episode seemed rushed, like they were trying to hit every single mark in a 20-minute time span. I’d rather see her spend the bulk of her time with one tribe, or one Beauty Ambassador (an expert in each country who serves as her guide), or one young girl who’s having her first neck ring clamped shut at age 6.
It was definitely a valiant effort on the part of Simpson and VH1: Educating people about the steep price of beauty and the dangerous toll it takes on women is worthwhile and necessary. (Next week, she hits Paris, where she interviews anorexic former model Isabelle Caro. Here’s a preview.) And I don’t mean to hate on the girl -- I cannot even imagine going through the hell J. Simps has endured from millions of men and women and media vomiting up catty comments and nasty comparisons to large mammals when referring to her body. People are absolutely HORRIBLE towards her and her body, so I can see how she would be an ideal candidate for this job. I just want to see her start taking it a bit more seriously, and maybe a few hour-long episodes so she can dip beneath the surface.