In early December, Natalie Portman made an off-the-cuff comment referencing Jessica Simpson that very nearly turned into a full-blown feud. But rest assured, there’s no bad blood lingering between the women — on Tuesday, Portman explained to a call-in fan on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen that all is indeed well.
When asked by the fan if Portman had reached out to Simpson offline following their miscommunication, Portman said, “No, only [online], and I have only respect and good feelings for her.”
The trouble began when USA Today published an interview with Portman in support of her new movie, Vox Lux. In the interview, Portman ruminates on the effect the pop-culture machine had on her growing up. On one hand, she explained, she had Madonna to look up to. “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,” Portman said.
However, on the other hand, she admits she experienced some coming-of-age turmoil over the perceived virgin/vixen paradigms the music industry pushed onto its female stars near the turn of the millennium.
“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,” confessed Portman. “Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl.”
After the interview went live, Simpson took to social media to express how disappointed she was in Portman’s comments.
“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,” Simpson wrote. “However, 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 went on to say she has always taken care to empower women in the knowledge they can “look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want.”
She finished by noting that she chooses not to shame other women for their choices and, “in this era of Time’s Up and all the great work you have done for women,” encouraged Portman to do the same.
Portman certainly seemed to take Simpson’s words to heart. In the comment thread of Simpson’s original Instagram post, she thanked Simpson, agreed with her sentiments and offered an apology.
“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,” Portman told Simpson.
On Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Cohen took the opportunity to applaud Portman (and, by proxy, Simpson) on the women’s thoughtful dialogue.
“Yeah, well, also, I think there’s no need for beef between women,” Portman responded. “We’re all in the same society and living with the same pressures, and we are allies.”