In the age of social media, most everyone has a platform, and that means when one celebrity casually mentions another celebrity less than kindly in an interview, they might just clap back pretty publicly. Such was the case the last few days for Natalie Portman and Jessica Simpson.
Ahead of Portman’s latest role as a pop star in the forthcoming Vox Lux, she spoke to USA Today of the mixed messages she received growing up. She said of 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. Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl.” On the on the other hand, Portman was not confused by Madonna, citing the singer as a positive influence. “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,” the actress said, adding this was a “great thing to see in a woman growing up.”
Word clearly reached Simpson, who took to Twitter with an articulate, truthful riposte, mentioning she was disappointed:
— Jessica Simpson (@JessicaSimpson) December 5, 2018
“As public figures, we both know our image is not totally in our control at all times…” helpfully redirecting focus on the industry as a whole. She said she was taught to “honour the different ways all women express themselves”, adding “being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body are not synonymous with having sex.” She ended her post by saying she had made it her practice “to not shame other women for their choices,” and encouraged Portman, a keen champion of the Time’s Up movement, to “do the same.”
Let’s just think about this seriously for a moment. In 1999, Simpson was just 19 years old. Can we really suppose she had full editorial control of her image back then? Surely not. But at the same time, Portman herself was just a teen, and was no doubt overwhelmed by the contradictory messages women are bombarded with, both then and now.
Luckily, Portman quickly saw the error of her ways, and didn’t hesitate to issue an apology to Entertainment Tonight. “I would never intend to shame anybody and that was absolutely not my intention. I was really talking about mixed media messages out there for young women and completely apologize for any hurt it may have caused because that was definitely not my intention.” As it seems her point was aimed at industry-wide messaging, she admitted “It is a mistake to say anyone’s name… I could have made my message without naming.”
And she made sure Simpson heard her loud and clear, commenting on the same Instagram post that, “I completely agree with you that a woman should be allowed to dress however she likes and behave however she likes and not be judged. I only meant to say I was confused — as a girl coming of age in the public eye around the same time — by the media’s mixed messages about how girls and women were supposed to behave. I didn’t mean to shame you and I’m sorry for any hurt my words may have caused. I have nothing but respect for your talent and your voice that you use to encourage and empower women all over the globe.”
We’re glad to see two such formidable ladies using both their words and their platforms to clear up any miscommunication, with honesty and respect.