Jessica Simpson ELLE cover shoot

Photo: Gilles Bensimon; Styled by Isabel Dupré

"Something big is happening," Jessica Simpson declares, opening her eyes so wide that it seems as if she's about to announce something earth-shattering, like that she's decided to shave her head and start work on a death metal album. After a long pause, she comes out with it: "I am so happy right now."


In light of what Simpson has experienced recently, her declaration is no less surprising than if she'd actually pulled out a pair of shears and started hacking away at her curls. The world fell head over heels for Simpson during her rocketlike professional ascent as a young bride. How cruel would it be to turn its back on her during the traumatic upheaval she's faced since the ending of her fairy-tale marriage to Nick Lachey? What Grinch-like heart would hold it against Simpson if, rather than put on a good face, she wanted to plunk down a bottle of Jack Daniel's, dissolve into a puddle of drunken tears, and warble a few Hank Williams tunes, her only accompaniment the occasional cymbal crash of her wedding china smashing against the wall? The newly divorced deserve a wide berth for their emotions, and Simpson espe­cially so, considering that on the heels of her split, she hit another snag. Billboard, upon hearing the title track from last summer's A Public Affair, her postdivorce album, pronounced the Madonna-reminiscent single "perfect" and predicted the song was good enough to make "habitual Simpson detractors see her in a new light." But the album, for whatever reason these things happen, hasn't sold as well as might be expected for a performer whose face moved tabloids from the newsstands week after week. Health problems? There was that internal bleeding discovered last year around the time she was filming Employee of the Month; doctors found the presence of the little bugger thought to cause ulcers. Recently, Simpson tells me, after she was still feeling not quite right, an allergist delivered news that would chill the heart of anyone reared on Texan cuisine: She's allergic to cheese. And wheat. Oh, and tomatoes, hot peppers, coffee, corn, and chocolate.

So what could convince us that all is butterflies and buttercups in the world of Jessica Simpson right now? Perhaps a new romance, with, as the gossips have been speculating, shaggy-haired singer John Mayer? "I want to tell you everything, but I have to sew my lips together," she says of her dating life. "It's hurt me in the past. I really hope you understand." Apparently, we've just got to take her word for it. "People don't need to know why," she says. "They just need to experience it."