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by Matt Netter

Now we know who 'N Sync was singing about when they crooned "For The Girl Who Has Everything." Ever since pop's newest princess, Jessica Simpson, came on the scene, the expression "nobody's perfect" has lost all validity. The Texas born 19-year-old has a hit record, a hot boyfriend and looks that stop guys in their tracks. Though Jessica's sweet and polite in person, her rise to the top did not come so easy. "In high school a lot of kids were really mean to me," she reveals. "They thought I was lying about my music career and I was just making it all up for attention." If you had a gorgeous classmate who got to skip out of geometry to go to the recording studio, you might harbor a bit of resentment too.

Jessica's story, of course, has a very happy ending. Her debut album, Sweet Kisses, is bursting with passionate songs about romance like the smash debut single "I Wanna Love You Forever" and "Heart of Innocence," a song Jessica wrote for her future husband. Speaking of long-term romance, Sweet Kisses also features "Where You Are," Jessica's tender duet with her boyfriend, 98 degrees Nick Lachey.

When we caught up with Jessica for this interview, she was with Nick at, of all places, the mall. Needless to say, two pop stars walking though a suburban shopping mall hand-in-hand draws more attention than a clearance sale at Contempo Casuals. Jessica didn't seem to mind though. She was home with her love, hours shy of leaving for a much needed vacation to Hawaii. Jessica was so happy and excited, she could barely contain herself. In between giggles she answered TC's questions about finding fame and true love, and dealing with the ups and downs of both.

How are you feeling? We heard you were sick.
I'm feeling a lot better. I think I got run down there, you know, cause I did the 98 degrees tour, I did my own promotional tour and I did the Ricky Martin tour, I went back out with 98 degrees and I did radio shows. I was beat. So it ran me into the hospital for five days.

Wow. Sounds like it's time for a vacation.
Yeah. So I'm taking like three weeks off and I feel a lot better now.

Do you have plans to have your own headlining tour at some point?
I would love to tour in the summer. They're putting together a tour right now, actually. I don't know what the tour will consist of, if it's just me or me and a couple of other girls, or whatever. But it's going to be great. I'm really excited about going back out on the road. I know I go overseas in February, so that's really exciting. I'm going to Japan and Europe.

Your suddenly getting a lot of attention. Is it overwhelming?
It is overwhelming because to me, I'm just little Jessica. It's no dig deal. I burp and fart in front of all my friends, you know? So it is kind of weird for people to pay more attention to you like that just because you're on TV or whatever.

Do you have any trouble going out in public yet? I know you're at the mall right now.
Yeah, actually I do, especially when I'm with Nick.

How challenging has it been that, in the midst of your growing celebrity, you're dating a full-blown celebrity?
It's hard to have a relationship on the road. I'm not going to lie. We definately want to go to Blockbuster, rent a movie, and lay down and watch it on the couch, you know, and eat food. Right now we're like having to order room service and wear hats when we go out. You have to make sacrifices, but it's definately worth it. We just wish that we could do normal things like go to the movies. We do do that. It's just always a hassle, you know?

So, you've got separation, distance, hectic schecules and a lack of privacy working against you.
Yes, that's definately right, but like I said, it's worth it. Our time together cancels all that out and makes everything beautiful.

Wow. You're head-over-heels aren't you?
Uh-huh. We've been together a year now.

Is he as tough as he looks, or is he a big old softie?
He is a huge softie. He cries in movies. He just looked at me. He is a softie definately.

What's something really romantic he's done for you?
Well, for Christmas he bought me a diamond tennis braclet. I think that's pretty romantic. I was bawling when I opened it. I was like, you have to take this back. But then I really was kidding. I didn't want him to.

You've said that you weren't treated so well by some of the kids you went to high school with.
I wasn't treated well. Well, I mean, there were girls who didn't like me, but then I had my group of friends who were amazing.

How do those people treat you now when you go back home?
I don't see them. I don't see them at all. I mean, we'll see when I run run into them how they react. But I don't really put myself in a situation where I run into them.

What are your fans like when you run into them?
They're so cute. They are the best. It's so cool to have people respect your music and idolize you and look up to you. That's just the best part about it for me. I love to meet the fans.

No stalkers or weird things in the mail yet?
Not really. I mean, there are people who somehow get up to your room. That's kind of weird, but not anything too crazy yet.

What's been the best perk of celebrity so far for you?
I like the award shows. I get to see all the other celebrities, to be star-struck by everybody, you know? That's fun for me.

Do you think that will ever wear off?
Oh, definately. It's all new to me right now. I definately think that it will wear off unless it's Celine Dion or somebody.

Is she the person you admire the most?
Yeah, definately. I love her.

Has celebrity changed you?
I mean, you're taking on a new life basically. I've definately left behind my old life and picked up a new one. But I'm still the same person, you know. I just lead a different life that requires more of you. I sleep in hotels every night now, and there are really high expectations.

High expectations, like being compared to Mariah Carey and that sort of thing?
Oh, my gosh, yes. I mean, can you imagine they're comparing you to her? She like the biggest selling artist of the decade. I admire her, too.

Do you feel a sense of competiton with Britney and Christina?
No, not really. I really look at it like a compliment to be compared to them because they're so successful in what they do. So when people compare me to them, I don't really get frustrated very much. I appreciate it. I think all of us are different artists.

Is there anyone whose style you tried to emulate when you were fist starting to sing?
I loved Amy Grant. I grew up trying to do everything she did.

You're planning to shoot a new video soon. Has it been decided what the single is going to be?
It's me and Nick's song, "Where You Are." I'm really excited to see how it will turn out. It's on the soundtrack for the movie Here on Earth. It's cool because everybody will be able to see what the song's about. Because the song is about death and a lot of people might not get that from listening to it. But once they see the movie, it will definately lay it all out and give people a chance to relate to it and realize what it's about.

You also did a more uptempo single with Destiny's Child.
Yeah, "Woman in Me." It's a very inspirational song. It's so important to me that people love themselves for who they are and that they appreciate all of the beauty that's in their souls.

Any new word on your "WB" show?
No. That's still in the making, still in the process of developing. Right now I'm really focused on my music career. I did sign with the WB and there is something developing, but right now my main focus is touring and I've already started my next album.

Wow. Do you have a timetable for that?
I don't know. We'll see how long this one last.

Are you planing on doing a lot of writing on the second album?

Okay. Aside from the new album and the "WB" show, you seem like you have a lot going on. Do you have any future goals.
I want to do a movie. I love acting.

Are you getting scripts thrown your way?
Yeah, I am. I definately am. My dream is to have a movie with a soundtrack, like Whitney Houstin did with The Bodyguard. That's a huge dream of mine.

Fabulous. Are you looking at dramas? Comedies?
Well the thing is that everyone always wants me to do a comedy, but I don't think I'm funny. So, we'll see if I can pull it off. I don't see it. I'm not very funny. We'll see.

When you manage to find a little bit of free time, what do you do?
I go to a movie, and I definately go shopping. I love movies, so it's kind of like an escape just to go and sit there and chow-down on popcorn and JuJuBees.

The last time we spoke, you talked about the message behind your music. You talked about things like positive self-image. Do you think you're getting the message across?
I hope so. It's such an amazing cool thing to go on my website and see fans write in and say that my music inspires them. That's my favorite part about it all because that's the most gratifying thing. It makes me feel that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do.

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