Natalie Portman & Jessica Simpson beefed for a few hours, then talked it out

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Natalie Portman is currently on the promotional tour for Vox Lux, which might get her another Oscar nomination. She plays a diva-like pop star, and in an interview with USA Today, Portman talked about the music industry’s favorite trope: the pop star as virgin/vixen. Female pop stars have mined that trope for decades, and since Portman is of a certain generation, she referenced two pop stars in this USA Today piece. Here’s the context:

Pop culture leaves its footprints: Portman grew up up ingesting all things Madonna. “I felt really lucky to have her as a little kid, because I saw someone who was brazen and disobedient and provocative and trying to mess with people and always changing – I thought it was a great thing to see in a woman growing up,” she says.

But she also remembers the virgin/vixen paradigms lobbed by the music industry as the millennium neared. “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. Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl,” she says.

[From USA Today]

I think Natalie had some semblance of a point, if she expounded on it – which she might have done and USA Today simply didn’t quote her any further. But it sounds like Natalie is like “I don’t understand how an attractive young woman would sell a sexy image while still being a virgin.” It’s a tricky conversation to have, and Portman ended up pissing off Jessica Simpson. Jessica posted this message to Instagram:

“@Natalieportman — 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. 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. However, I was taught to be myself and honor the different ways all women express themselves, which is why I believed then — and believe now — that being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body art not synonymous with having sex. I have always embraced being a role model to all women to let them know they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want. They power lies within us as individuals. I have made it my practice to not shame other women for their choices. In this era of Time’s Up and all the great work you have done for women, I encourage you to do the same.”

[From Jessica’s social media]

Jessica… has a point? As many have already said, Natalie wasn’t really attacking Jessica personally, it was part of a larger conversation about the music industry and how young women are marketed. But Jessica took it personally, and I actually like that she stood up for herself and her message of sex-positivity or “you do whatever you want.” Natalie ended up commenting on Jessica’s Instagram too:

Super-classy, ladies. In the year 2018, Jessica Simpson and Natalie Portman had a minor beef for a few hours and then they worked it out on social media and everything is good.

Beautycon Festival LA 2018

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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60 Responses to “Natalie Portman & Jessica Simpson beefed for a few hours, then talked it out”

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  1. em says:

    We are evolving!!!! And that is how we will come out on top :)

    • Lilly (with the double-L) says:

      Yes. For personal balance, I do look for the movements forward. Not that I’m a cynical person, but it’s been a long wave lately.

  2. Becks1 says:

    I think they both have good points. The image of the sexy virgin is definitely a popular one in pop culture and I do think that was a large part of Jessica Simpson’s image at the time, and it can be a confusing image for young girls. “Look like this, but act like that.” It’s possible to do both – be sexy and a virgin – but the messages do get mixed at times.

    But I also don’t know how in control of her image Jessica Simpson was at the time, and also – I don’t know that there is anything wrong with being a sexy virgin. If she wanted to wear a bikini – more power to her.

    The portrayal of women in pop culture is complex and I think its a good convo to have.

    • Enny says:

      I think Natalie was saying that the message Jessica was promoting – “I’m choosing to be a virgin and that’s a valid choice” – was confusing juxtaposed against a highly sexualized image of Jessica. To teenaged Natalie, the message was, ok, be a virgin if you want, but don’t think you can escape society making you a sex object at the same time. Natalie’s explanation could have been better, Fuller (and again, that could just be sloppy editing by the magazine), and doesn’t take away from Jessica’s point that one can choose to be a sexy virgin if one wants. They both made excellent, interesting points and kept it civil, so good for them.

  3. Louise177 says:

    Hardly beef, just a minor disagreement that was quickly resolved.

  4. Beth says:

    I wore bikinis when I was a teenager and was a virgin until I was 20. Does Natalie think a woman has to dress in sweatpants and bulky sweaters until she loses her virginity, and if she dresses sexy, it means she must not be a virgin?

    • smcollins says:

      Of course not. There’s a difference between wearing a bikini to the beach/pool and being displayed in one on a magazine cover. I remember the Rolling Stone cover of a 16/17-year-old Britney Spears laying on a bed with her shirt open, but talking on the phone like a typical teenager. I think it’s that type of imagery (the virgin/vixen as referenced here) that Natalie was referring to, not the mere idea of a “virgin in a bikini.”

      • Pandy says:

        Agree smcollins. Especially if Papa Joe shot the bikini pic (betting he did ha ha ha). Pure snark but Jessica needs a makeover – badly.

    • Erinn says:

      I have an issue with the way Portman did this. And I can ‘assume’ what she’s trying to say here, but it still is really pretty crappy. She didn’t need to name names. She could have just pointed at the music industry at the time – she didn’t need to drag Jessica into this.

      I say this as someone who finds JS to be obnoxious at best… but I’m solidly on her side of this.

      While I don’t know how in control of her image she was at the time – I don’t understand why this was SUCH a confusing thing for Portman. Jessica Simpson is 10 years older than I am, Portman is 9. Growing up, I never looked at her or Brittney or Xtina or whoever and thought “I don’t get it, they’re dressing sexy but… they aren’t having sex!? I’m SO confused”. One of my first cassettes was Brittney’s first record. I had a Britney doll. I always looked at these women and thought it was cool that they got to dress up in all kinds of costumes/outfits and that’s about the end of it. Bikinis are normal swimwear … I grew up on the Atlantic ocean and going to the beach was a constant in the summer and we have NOWHERE near the warm temperatures that a lot of the US has. I saw kids in bikinis, teens in bikinis, adults in bikinis. I never looked at them and tied it into sex. Portman says she was a teen at the time – I’m not really sure how this baffled her, especially when she had a HUGE breakout while still in high school. She was in the industry and HAD to know that appearance is a HUGE thing. She danced from the age of 4 – a LOT of the costumes that children wear dancing are pretty skimpy as well. So it’s not like this was her first exposure to the concept. Hell, she was HUGE during her highschool days for playing Padme in a series that previously featured princess Leia in a bikini.

      I take her interview as shaming, honestly. I don’t know if that was her intention, but she comes off as being judgey and kind of annoyed that someone was posing in something that made them feel good while proclaiming their virginity. And I don’t understand why that was an issue for her – especially given the industries that she was in.

      • Kitten says:

        I think she was just pointing to the trope of the Sexy Virgin as something that women have had shoved down our throats for centuries. And I agree with her that it DOES send a confusing message to young women.

        She probably shouldn’t have name-checked Simpson, but I took her point to mean that men love a sexy woman but hate a sexually-empowered woman. So, look hot but don’t be a slut. Be sexy, but also be chaste at the same time.

        And I gotta say, Jessica’s father knew exactly what he was doing when he cultivated that image of her. That sh*t sells.

      • Erinn says:

        I mean – I absolutely get why the message as a whole is important. But when she’s made a career in an industry that puts appearance above all else, it comes off a bit strange. It’s not like she was a teenager living in a small town, going to school and working a part time job. She was part of the entertainment industry earlier than Jessica was. There’s no way that she didn’t grasp the concept that sex sells and that women are still expected to be chaste. On top of that… she goes on to say that Madonna’s image was a great thing for her to have grown up influenced by. Madonna who was out there singing songs like “Hanky Panky” “Dick, that’s an interesting name. Ooh, My bottom hurts just thinking about it” Madonna was about pushing boundaries and being edgy – but I don’t see how that message is better for a young teen than what Jessica Simpson was doing. Both are problematic in different ways, so I find it strange that she’d bother to name specific positive and negative examples. If she had talked about all of this in a more generalized way – I’d be more on board with it. But it kind of comes off hollow when she’s made her money from the same image obsessed industry and when there’s no way that she didn’t understand what the industry expected.

        And I 100% agree about Jessica’s dad. He’s a mega creep, and he pimped his daughter out. But I also find the whole religion thing in the entertainment industry as weird to begin with. I think religion should be a private thing, and I don’t think it should be profited on like a lot of celebrities do. But they pander to their audience and a lot of the US seems to have a strange obsession with religion.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        Natalie could have made her point better by keeping names out of it, her problem is that she can come across as very pretentious even when trying to make a good point. She likes to show off that ivy league education. Natalie is a decent enough actress and has done a lot for MeToo but she should have thought before speaking.

        IIRC Jessica has had body/weight issues on and off for years and she has talked about them in the past. Natalie’s comment was not intended to be cruel to anyone but for someone who has those types of issues it would have been like Natalie slapped her.

      • DS9 says:

        Her original statement is disingenuous at best given that there is nearly no age difference here.

        Natalie is my age exactly down to the day. She couldn’t have been confused by the dicotomy. She was too old and Natalie was already intelligent and educated when Jessica was huge.

      • lucy2 says:

        I agree – I’m totally on board with Natalie’s point about the mixed messages young women receive, but it would have been better without mentioning Jessica by name.
        But eh, they both handled it well.

      • Original T.C. says:

        Her point between Madonna and Jessica Simpson was regarding being straight forward vs being a hypocrite IMO. Madonna didn’t try to play coy or be anyone but herself. Sex sells and she was straight up about that. Simpson and co also knew sex sells but they tried to be preachy about staying chaste *while* selling sex. It’s all about ‘get hot and bothered but don’t think about sex’. The usual right wing hypocrisy. Those purity rings, promises to father dances etc. it was a gimmick sold especially to religious parents. Young girls in those families were being sold a bag of goods.

        I wore bikinis as swim suits not as sexy gear and posed as sex objects on magazine covers. Let’s be real. Simpson should have been more truthful in her response.

      • Arpeggi says:

        I sort of get the reason why Portman would use JS as an example: before her wedding, her virginity/“purity” really was what her dad/manager was using to separate her from the other pop stars. There was a moment where all the popstars were promising to stay virgin and abstain (Britney and JT were part of that movement) which thankfully, ended with the Jonas bros but JS was definitely the most advertised for that. She and Nick wouldn’t have scored a TV show if it wasn’t implied that her wedding night was to be her 1st time.

        It was uncomfortable to see her dad praising her for being a “good girl” while talking about her hot body and sort of trying to sell her hymen to the best bid. None of it was JS’s fault, but the marketing surrounding her as a pop product was messed up.

  5. smcollins says:

    I understand the point Natalie was trying to make, and I also understand Jessica taking it a bit personally and the point she was making. I love that they were both mature in their responses and didn’t resort to petty jabs at each other. Well done, ladies, and a great example of how to handle a misunderstanding.

  6. OriginalLala says:

    I understood what Natalie was trying to get at but I dont think her example was great

    • BB says:

      Especially since Jessica is only one year older than Natalie. She tried to play Jessica as an archetype and didn’t expect it to get back to her.

  7. Mia4s says:

    To be honest while I don’t really blame Jessica Simpson for getting upset…but Natalie has a point. It WAS confusing at the time. And what Jessica doesn’t want to acknowledge or accept is that the image she was projecting at the time wasn’t really hers. It was designed and approved by men (am I the only one who remembers her father?). It wasn’t about young women being free and owning their sexuality (which is great), it was about the patriarchy having a nice piece of ass to look at. Sorry, but it was.

    We need to start having these conversations about who has controlled our pop culture at that time (*cough* Weinstein, *cough* Moonves, etc.) and take real control at a producing and studio running level.

    • Lightpurple says:

      And she and others, like Britney and Christina, were marketed that way, to appeal to middle-aged men. It was a really twisted message.

    • BaronSamedi says:

      Yes, agreed. I immediately and absolutely got Natalie’s point. I too understand why Jessica might have gotten upset but… she really WAS representative of a whole slew of girls who were practically designed for the male gaze. Nothing about what she, Britney or Christina presented about their sexualities at the time was empowering if we’re being honest.

      Jessica wasn’t being ‘herself’. She was selling a product called Jessica Simpson and to act as if she wasn’t banking on a part of the market being male is disingenious as heck.

      I don’t begrudge her the money she made that way for a second, I just don’t appreciate her acting as if she was taking her clothes off for any other reason than making money. At that time she sure was not doing it for feminism…

      • otaku fairy says:

        Christina did manage to take control of her image and make it something more empowering later on in her career during the Stripped era, and afterward.

    • Squirrelgirl says:

      I agree 100%. I was a tween at the time of all those pop stars and I remember seeing them hypersexualized but saying they were virgins. I was so confused. Of course women can wear what they want, etc. But I doubt Jessica had much choice on what to wear back in the day. She was pretty open about how men would make her diet until she was underweight and then tell her to get a six pack. Its why I think she yo-yos to this day.

      • entine says:

        I think the whole culture is confusing. J. simpson in a bikini is really not that confusing, IMO. I understand that the US is huge and there are different ways people like to dress or act al over, but when visited it surprised me how open people were for some things, like my sister in law mom -daughter duo who were comfortable naked around each other (I loved that, in my house we were taught to shower with panties on!). Where I come from people in beach towns dressed more lightly and we were not sluts.
        I tend to think that Natalie comes from a culture with certain points of view, even if she presentes herself as an academic, and worldly, her conservative culture comes across.

      • tealily says:

        They were hypersexualized and saying they were virgins, as if being a virgin was only acceptable if one was hypersexualized. They (the image machine/ patriarchy) were pushing this fiction of teenagers who are both pure and knowing. It’s f**ked up.

      • xo says:

        Yeah. I think they both handled this exchange well, but I’d like Jessica to take Natalie’s point without feeling personally defensive about it.

    • Kitten says:


    • Oh_Dear says:

      I don’t know that you can say she wasn’t being herself. We assume that she would have crafted a different, more wholesome image if left to herself, but she might not have. I think Jessica Simpson truly likes dressing up in tight clothes that show her body off. And I also believe that she was a devout Christian teen who believed in her message. I also believe that record executives capitalized on it, and sold her image. I equate this view to those who believe women who wear a hijab because the men in their lives tell them too. Pink, Alanis, Gwen, Dolores O’Riordan, Sarah McLachlin, etc were also popular in that era, so she had choices. The one she chose feels most authentically her.

      Do I think this image serves the gaze of men – yes, I do. But I think that problem is for the men to work out, not women. We should be able to dress how we want and have it stand alone from sexuality. And I say this as a mom of 2 teenage girls, one of whom is a tomboy and prefers her body covered and the other who likes tight clothes and who wants bikinis. We have frequent conversations about who she’s dressing for and what messages others are reading from her clothes – I feel like a hypocrite because I want her to make her choices for herself, and I want her to be critical of the messages that shape how girls see themselves, others see them, and how society responds to every single choice women make.

    • tealily says:

      Yup, you’re right.

  8. Snowflake says:

    I get what Natalie was saying, as women we get mixed messages all the time. We are supposed to dress sexy or we are a frump. If we dress too sexy, we are a slut. We are expected to be receptive to men’s passes but if we sleep w them, we’re a slut. If we don’t sleep w them, we’re a lesbian or frigid. If we sleep w a man on a first date, we’re a slut. If we don’t, what are we waiting for? Why are you playing around, you’re not a virgin. We can’t win

    • Becks1 says:

      What’s the saying, a Saturday night whore and a Sunday morning saint?

      I think Natalie was referring more to that, like you said, then specifically slamming Jessica Simpson.

  9. Chaine says:

    Great, I’m glad they sort it all out, now can someone give Jessica a hair extension intervention?

    • Kitten says:

      They are SO. BAD. I don’t know why women like Simpson and Lohan still cling to their too-long extensions. It’s such a dated look. I would love to see her with a bob or even hair a little past her shoulders.

  10. skipper says:

    I understand what Natalie was saying but when she specifically singled out a person to use as an example then that person has a right to respond publicly. I’m glad that they worked it out so quickly.

    • Div says:

      Yes, Natalie would have been better off not singling out anyone in particular. I understand what she was saying—that the media often markets pop stars in a conflicting, and sometimes creepy, manner—but she just didn’t go about it in the best way.

    • courtney says:

      yes, and natalie is the same person who signed a petition in support of child rapist roman polanski, so shes not a moral authority or feminist icon to me. nope and shes smart enough to have made a better statement without punching down on another woman.

  11. Tw says:

    I enjoyed that exchange. Sure, people love a cheap, messy feud or train wreck, but in the current climate, this mature exchange briefly quenched a civility thirst.

  12. asdf ert wreetra says:

    I feel like the point Natalie Portman was trying to make (but didn’t quite articulate well enough) is that a woman’s virginity status shouldn’t be used to market her. It’s creepy.

  13. Kat Loug says:

    I actually understand where Natalie is coming from and did not read it as a personal diss at all, but rather aimed at the people behind Jessica.

    My god daughter is hugely in to a group in UK called Little Mix. She is their target audience – kids and tweens. They put out really empowering girl power type quotes all the time. I like them.

    However, at the same time they promote an FHM type sexy image. They don’t wear much. Now, I also love to dress up and I wear a lot of small dresses so I am not dissing how they dress, it is that I find it hard to believe that *all* of them actually want to dress like that e.g. some of my mates do, and others only wear trousers or jeans, don’t wear make up etc etc.

    Who knows, maybe they have complete freedom over what they wear, but I do understand where Natalie is coming from when she talks about mixed messages in the media.

    • tealily says:

      Yeah, I agree that it was aimed at the people behind Jessica, but I also think that I would bristle at the comment if I *was* Jessica. I’m sure she doesn’t/didn’t see the extent to which her image was constructed by other at the time.

  14. Tanesha86 says:

    Natalie could have made her point without naming anyone specifically and this whole thing could have been avoided. Jessica had every right to defend herself since she was dragged into the situation.

  15. Tiffany says:


    Your breakout role was in The Professional.
    I know it not music, but it is in the entertainment field.

    Just. Sayin.

    • Scarlet Vixen says:

      @Tiffany: Portman is extremely aware of how problematic ‘The Professional’ was (along with ‘Beautiful Girls’), and has talked about it pretty extensively, along with how she refused to do nudity or sexualized roles for quite awhile after that.

    • Steff says:

      @Tiffany So you’re saying she shouldn’t throw stones in glass houses because she was also sexualized?

    • tealily says:

      I think that’s exactly why she is talking about this!

    • CoffeePot says:

      Lol, came here to say the exact same thing. Why pick on Jessica when you epitomized that gambit from the acting side?

  16. SG says:

    I thought it was clear what NP meant even though it wasn’t articulated well (or maybe just wasn’t quoted properly). We are meant to either be “The Virgin” or “The Whore,” and when NP learned that those two things were not actually in opposition to each other it must have called into question whether those two things were even real (spoiler alert: they’re not). I was confused about it when I was young, too.

  17. adastraperaspera says:

    This headline is why I love Celebitchy!

  18. Lady Keller says:

    They each make a good point and they each had a well written argument. It’s nice to see them keeping it classy and having a meaningful dialog at the same time.

  19. minx says:

    I don’t like either of them lol.

  20. Electric Tuba says:

    If Natalie was so confused about a hot virgin in a bikini then she must be simply spinning over her little Lolita lite role in Leon.

    Did Natalie live her entire life up until that point of being”confused” by Jessica Simpson just breathing the rarified air of her own butt? Because high school is filled to the brim with virgins who wear bikinis. They always have been since the invention of bathing suits that fit on virgin bodies.

    She used Jessica as an example in her BS interview because Natalie is a snob who thinks Jessica is stupid and benethe her.
    To read a Portman interview is the same as signing your eyeballs up for gymnastics cause your eyes are going to get stretched out before being rolled around.

    So yeah Natalie gets no praise from me for being a bish and getting called out for being a bish and then having to clean up her own mess. Jessica gets one cookie for not throwing a can of tuna at Natalie’s pretentious, stuck up, over hyped, fartsniffer self.

  21. MrsBeast says:

    I appreciate Natalie Portmans adult response but I don’t think it is genuine and I have to say I find her truly insufferable in general. She has constantly lorded herself over other people throughout her career, has given 100s of interviews where she comes off as an arrogant snob, and never really taken a look at her own attitude and choices. Pot meet kettle. I cant stomach her movies so I never watch them.

  22. Rabbitgirl says:

    I agree with Natalie. If you take the time to really read what she said (and she did not say it as well as she could have). What she is saying is on the one hand you have someone who is honest about who and what they are (Madge). And on the other hand, you have the willfully exploited “virgin”… the half naked, gyrating, sexualized object professing to be a virgin. There is a lie in this somewhere and as a teen, this comes off as very confusing. Sexualized virgins is a paradigm that is as old as time. That is what made Madge (and those before her) so interesting. They were simply willing to embrace their sexuality without selling the desirable lie.

    I still think that Jessica had no great talent. I still think that Jess is fake. But she is a lovable dumb blonde, which is a role she likes to play into. I see nothing wrong with Natalie pointing out the obvious, the image that Jessica herself cultivated.