NEW YORK — Singer and sometimes actress Jessica Simpson has paid the price of beauty, and now she's examining people's obsession with looking good.
She made headlines last year when photos of her performing suggested she might have gained a few pounds. That sparked a national debate on TV news channels, talk shows and in print asking if Simpson was, indeed, fat.
The 29-year-old has decided to turn the tables on questions about how she looked. The result is a new show called, "Jessica Simpson's The Price of Beauty." The show premiered Monday and will air weekly on VH1.
Simpson travels the globe with two friends, hair stylist Ken Paves and former assistant Cacee Cobb, to examine people's efforts to measure up to their society's standard of beauty.
The goal is to empower women to accept themselves and ultimately understand that no one, not even celebrities, are perfect.
Paves points out that despite the scrutiny on her weight, Simpson continued performing and doing her job.
"Imagine if the whole world is talking about you," Paves said. "She still followed through, never stopped and nobody ever said, 'That's a strong girl, that's a brave girl.' I was disappointed."
It wasn't always easy, Simpson said.
"You can't walk anywhere without thinking, 'I wonder if they think I'm fat .... I wonder if they've read that story," Simpson said. "I couldn't help it. And I think that once I realized it wasn't going to stop, I had to find a way to accept it, and I had to find a way to use it."
On "Price of Beauty," Simpson and her friends meet a woman in Thailand who burned herself permanently from bleaching her skin lighter. They talk with a former Paris model who starved herself to under 100 pounds to be thin.
Viewers witness a deeper side to Simpson than they saw on her former MTV reality show "Newlyweds" with then-husband Nick Lachey.
"I'm very vulnerable on the show. I'm very open. I don't have anything to hide," Simpson said. "I want people to know I am just a normal girl that faces normal issues just like everyone else."
But the show is not all life lessons and sadness. There are lighter moments, too, when Simpson and her pals try to immerse themselves in local culture.
"In Mumbai, we drank cow urine because it detoxes you and it's good for your skin," Simpson said. "I puked that up like all over the place."
Paves got a Brazilian wax when the three visited Brazil.
"I was screaming, cussing, kicking," he said. "I was in tears, red and raw, I couldn't walk."
Simpson said she's taking a break from music now to focus on the show, which she hopes will get picked up for another season. Next, she plans to start a foundation for girls to help with self-esteem.
She wants to empower young women to accept themselves and ultimately understand that no one, not even celebrities, are perfect.
"I don't look like the girl on the cover of the magazine," Simpson said. "I do not look like my covers. My covers! They airbrush me."
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(This version CORRECTS Paves' quote to 'That's a brave girl,' sted 'That's a grave girl.')