Also Credited As:Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, Ashlee Nicole Simpson
|Ashlee Nicole Simpson on October 3, 1984 in Dallas, Texas, USA|
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Born Oct. 3, 1984, Simpson-Wentz was raised in the North Texas town of Richardson where her father, Joe Simpson, was a Baptist minister. Her talent for dancing was apparent at the age of four, and by age 11, she was the youngest student admitted to study at the esteemed School of American Ballet in New York City - mainly due to the fact that Joe misrepresented her age on the application by a year, when minimum age for acceptance was 12 years old. After a few years spent training, she began dancing professionally, jumping at the opportunity to join the crew backing older sister and new-found pop star Jessica on tour. After moving to Los Angeles with her family in 1999, Simpson-Wentz landed her first small screen bit as a high school student on the sitcom, "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06) and landed a recurring role on the WB family drama, "7th Heaven" (The WB/The CW, 1996-2007), playing the girlfriend of youngest son Simon from 2002-04. Simpson-Wentz also appeared in a small part in the big screen comedy "The Hot Chick" (2002) and made her first move into music with the song "Just Let Me Cry," found on the soundtrack of the Disney feature, "Freaky Friday" (2003).
In late 2003, older sister and already forgotten pop star Jessica was enjoying new-found celebrity, thanks to her father Joe's brainchild, the reality show "Newlyweds" (MTV, 2003-05), which showcased the behind-the-scenes life of Simpson-Wentz's ditsy older sister and her fellow pop singer husband, Nick Lachey. Once he had made a major star of Jessica, Joe sought to piggyback his younger daughter's success onto the elder, convincing her (and MTV) to produce another reality show - to air following "Newlyweds" - based on the making of Simpson-Wentz's upcoming album, Autobiography (2004). Reluctant at first, Simpson-Wentz agreed to the idea and "The Ashlee Simpson Show" (2004) enjoyed a huge following right from the start, establishing the dark-haired Simpson-Wentz as an "edgy," more free-spirited alternative to her wholesome pop-singing sister. Simpson's best-selling single "Pieces of Me," written about then-boyfriend actor Ryan Cabrera, experienced heavy radio-play even before the album was released, and helped to differentiate the fiery, tomboy rocker from her bubblegum pop singer sister. The album Autobiography hit stores in July 2004, debuted at number one, and reached platinum status.
But while "Pieces of Me" was named "Song of the Summer" at the Teen Choice Awards, Simpson-Wentz went from budding pop icon to national punch line almost overnight when, in the fall of that year, she made an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) where she began lip-synching to the wrong guided vocal track. Caught in the act and unsure what to do next, Simpson-Wentz did a strange jig-like dance, then walked offstage as her band continued to play. During the embarrassing fallout, Simpson-Wentz blamed her band members in the press. When her explanation failed to convince skeptics, iron-fisted Joe stepped in to claim that a bout of acid reflux had damaged her vocal chords, despite the fact that a "60 Minutes" (CBS, 1968- ) segment filmed the week of Simpson-Wentz's appearance showed the singer tearfully leaving the rehearsal stage when her voice was not performing up to snuff. The media blasted the inexperienced performer for her lack of professionalism and things went from bad to worse when she performed a badly off-key version of "La La" at the Orange Bowl in January 2005. After subjecting 70,000 rabid beer-soaked football fans to her ear-splitting caterwauls, Simpson-Wentz was treated to a hearty round of boos.
Throughout 2005, Simpson-Wentz laid low after the back-to-back debacles, but was happy that appearances on "American Top 40 Live" (Fox, 2005) and "The 2005 Teen Choice Awards" (Fox, 2005) going off without a hitch. She then landed her first major role in a feature film with "Undiscovered" (2005), where she played a young singer, not unlike herself, living in Los Angeles with a group of other wannabe singers looking to become famous. Critics were merciless, though Simpson-Wentz rebounded somewhat with a return appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in October 2005 in which she demonstrated that she could, indeed, sing live. She performed two songs from her 2005 album I Am Me - "Help Me When I Fall" and "Beautifully Broken" - both of which she wrote in response to the depressing period of time she experienced the previous year. Album sales were disappointing, though the single "Boyfriend" did crack Billboard's Top 25.
Entertainment columns were abuzz again when the rising starlet had a very obvious nose job; something Simpson-Wentz essentially confirmed by saying that anyone with two eyes could tell whether or not she had the procedure done. The surgery ignited a minor backlash when it coincided with Simpson-Wentz being featured in Marie Claire magazine, where she critiqued the pressure a Hollywood image puts on young women to conform to traditional notions of beauty. In 2006, Simpson-Wentz made her London stage debut in the role of Roxie Hart in "Chicago," and later that year, the 22-year-old who had been romantically linked during her rise with actors Josh Henderson and Wilmer Valderrama, as well as her guitar player, Braxton Olita, began dating musician Pete Wentz of the pop/punk band, Fall Out Boy. The couple was married on May 17, 2008, shortly after the release of Simpson-Wentz' third album, Bittersweet World. That album was marked by a move away from guitar-driven rock and more towards dance-pop, reaching the No. 4 slot on the Billboard 200 but selling less than any of her previous efforts. Following a brief club tour to promote the album, Simpson-Wentz gave birth to a son named Bronx Mowgli Wentz on Nov. 20, 2008. Apart from the paparazzi shots of her new family, her visibility remained low over the next year.
The new mommy returned to the spotlight in the fall of 2009 when she was cast at the center of an updated version of the campy 1990s nighttime soap, "Melrose Place" (The CW, 1992-99). However, after only 12 episodes playing a naïve young country bumpkin in Hollywood named Violet Foster, show producers announced that they were writing the character out of the show. Rumors abounded as to why: to make room for the return of the original series' iconic star, Heather Locklear; because her acting skills were not up to par; that Simpson-Wentz herself asked to be let go. In any case, she was again made the butt of jokes in the announcement aftermath, but the ever-resilient star picked herself up, dusted herself off and announced that she was offered a six-week run on Broadway as Roxie Hart in "Chicago," giving her the last laugh. Simpson devoted herself to motherhood for the next several years: her next screen credit came in the indie action comedy "Pawn Shop Chronicles" (2013), which also starred Norman Reedus and Paul Walker. Simpson married actor Evan Ross in August 2013.