Natalie Portman, Jessica Simpson Debate About the Media Sexualizing Young Women

Portman referenced a 1999 photograph of Jessica Simpson to point out the way the media unjustly covers young women.
Natalie Portman and Jessica Simpson
Natalie Portman and Jessica Simpson

Jessica Simpson and Natalie Portman got into a small debate over the way young women are portrayed in the media after the latter brought up in an interview a bikini photo of the former. Portman was promoting her new movie, “Vox Lux,” in an interview with USA Today. The Brady Corbet-directed film partly tackles themes on the sexualization of women in media, which led Portman to remember a magazine cover featuring Simpson.

“I remember being a teenager, and there was Jessica Simpson on the cover of a magazine saying ‘I’m a virgin’ while wearing a bikini, and I was confused,” she said. “Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl.”

Simpson wasted no time replying to Portman on social media. “I was disappointed this morning when I read that I ‘confused’ you by wearing a bikini in a published photo taken of me when I was still a virgin in 1999,” the singer and business mogul wrote. “As public figures, we both know our image is not totally in our control at all times, and that the industry we work in often tries to define us and box us in.”

“I was taught to be myself and honor the different ways all women express themselves, which is why I believed then – and I believe now – that being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body are not synonymous with having sex,” Simpson continued. “I have always embraced being a role model to all women to let them know that they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want…In this era of Time’s Up and all the great work you have done for women, I encourage you to do the same.”

Portman later clarified her USA Today quote, telling Simpson that it was not the singer that confused her but the media’s portrayal of her by juxtaposing her look against her beliefs. It was the “media’s mixed messages about how girls and women are supposed to behave” that left Portman puzzled, which is something she thought about while starring as the bitter pop star Celeste in “Vox Lux.”

“I didn’t mean to shame you and I’m sorry for any hurt my words may have caused,” Portman wrote to Simpson. “I have nothing but respect for your talent and your voice that you use to encourage and empower women all over the globe.”

Neon opens “Vox Lux” in select theaters December 7 and will expand the movie throughout the month.


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