For a brief period in the early aughts, it looked like Ashlee Simpson was going to be pop music's Next Big Thing, eclipsing even older sister Jessica as a sort of Britney for the new millennium. But things didn't continue in that direction, and now many fans are wondering: Where did Ashlee Simpson go? She didn't go far - she's always been in the public eye to some extent - but she did take what appeared to be a very conscious step back after one particularly embarrassing, arguably career-defining incident.
Ashlee Simpson started her career as a backup dancer for her sister while still in her teens. A few small acting roles followed, and within a few years, MTV gave the budding singer/actress her own reality show. But in the years since that show folded, what has Ashlee Simpson been up to?
From The Ashlee Simpson Show to Ashlee+Evan, the younger Simpson sister has found success in reality television, and she's also done stints on Broadway and landed a few small film roles. She's a mom to Bronx and Jagger, supports global charity work, and has even returned to the recording studio with husband Evan Ross. Simpson may not be the same pop star she was in the 2000s, but she's not letting adulthood keep her out of the spotlight.
At one point, it seemed all but certain that Ashlee's fame was going to reach stratospheric heights. Then something happened that arguably stalled her career for years. As the musical guest on a 2004 episode of SNL, Simpson performed the first number without a hitch. Next, she was supposed to sing "Autobiography," but the wrong track played, no sound came out of Simpson's mouth, and it was clear in an instant that she had been lip-syncing her first performance. To cover up for it, she did an awkward little jig. No one laughed, and the damage was done.
As gossip blogger Nicki Swift later pointed out, fans were particularly enraged by Simpson's slip-up because of a previous vow she'd reportedly made never to lip-sync. "I'm totally against [lip-synching] and offended by it. I'm going to let my real talent show, not just stand there and dance around. Personally, I'd never lip-synch [sic]. It's just not me," she allegedly stated.
She later told TRL she had been advised not to sing live because she had acid reflux.
A year after the SNL incident, Simpson released her second album, entitled I Am Me. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and produced two hit songs, "Boyfriend" and "L.O.V.E." She even redeemed herself with another SNL appearance, this time singing both her numbers live.
Nevertheless, I Am Me failed to achieve the same sales as her first record.
Simpson's third album, Bittersweet World, was released three years after I Am Me, and it generated relatively weak sales. It was her first album that failed to debut at the top of the charts.
The album's first single, "Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)," failed to break the Billboard Hot 100. Bittersweet World also elicited a lukewarm response from critics.
Simpson has played the role of Roxie Hart in the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago in three different productions. Her first stint came in 2006, when she played Roxie in London's West End. One critic called her performance "near flawless." In 2009, she reprised her role as Roxie on Broadway.
In 2013, she played the role yet again in a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, but Variety gave the performance a snarky review. "If Ashlee Simpson possessed a sense of her life hanging in the balance when she assayed Roxie Hart in Gotham and London, it’s gone now, replaced by mugging," Bob Verini observed. "She whispers her way through the songs... Still, she’s game, moves well, and is clearly an audience favorite."