Nicole Richie on Her Past, Future and Changing Her Life

Exclusive Interview: Nicole Richie and Joel Madden on changing her life.

Aug. 3, 2007 — -- In an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer, Nicole Richie talked about life, love, pregnancy, poor decisions and the future. Richie, the adopted daughter of pop-legend Lionel Richie, is best known for her role as a rich and out-of-control co-star of reality TV's "The Simple Life."

With four arrests, several stints in rehab and a four-day jail sentence waiting to be served, Richie said she is finally ready to make a commitment to change. A change, she says, that is supported and nurtured by her boyfriend of eight months, Joel Madden, lead singer in the alternative-rock band Good Charlotte, and father to her unborn child. Richie says her pregnancy played a large role in her decision to change the way she lives.

Within a month of meeting Richie, through a mutual friend at a party, Madden says he was in love. "There's no way you can't fall in love with her when you get to know her." Madden's love comes with a cognizance of Richie's past: "I think that there was a carelessness that she had that I think she realizes now and … it's not the Nicole I know, you know. The Nicole I know is, is right here."

Although Richie and Madden say marriage is not imminent, a commitment to their relationship and unborn child is ever present. "I kind of feel like we should focus on the baby. The most important thing is, we both know we're not going anywhere. We're really excited about the baby. We're excited about being parents and actually together, learning how to be parents together," Madden said.

Richie's Rebellious Past

In the past, Richie says she rebelled against being a role model. "I did not want to be a role model. And because I didn't want to be, I really fought it. And whenever I made mistakes, at times I didn't even really feel bad for them."

Now, with a new perspective and a plan to lead a healthy and respectable life, Richie is embracing the role. "I want my child to look up to me and be proud of me, and I want to be the best parent that I can be," she said.

For Richie, being the best parent she can be means staying clean -- she has fought addictions to cocaine, heroine and prescription pills. Richie also acknowledges that taking care of herself is a big challenge, referring to widely circulated tabloid photos showcasing her shockingly thin frame.

To the critics who say change is not possible in such a short period of time, Richie said: "Change is all about making a decision to change, and you have to start somewhere. So for me to say I'm a completely different person, I don't know right now. But I've made the decision to not let myself go … and I'm working toward that."

Richie's most recent run-in with the legal system was last month, when she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after she was spotted driving down the wrong side of a California freeway. Accepting responsibility for her actions may seem antithetical to her former self, but Richie said, "I have a responsibility and it's something that I did wrong. … This is my way of paying my dues and taking responsibility and being an adult. … It's been a pattern in my life -- when I get in trouble, I try to get out of it. And the difference is, is that I'm a mother now and I'm not only thinking about myself"

The Future

With full support from Madden, Richie accepts her four-day jail sentence. "This is something that I have to do, and I really feel like I'm doing the right thing. And I think that it's a good thing for me to go because I think that I'm going to be growing from it."

As for the future? Richie is in the process of launching a clothing line, writing her second book and pursuing a life-long dream of performing on Broadway -- a dream Richie says she has been training for her entire life. In her own words, with a new baby on the way, a new outlook and a commitment to change in tow, the future is hers to shape.

"I do understand that actions speak louder than words. I'm here telling you, and now it's really up to me to follow through with what I say. I really mean what I say, and I'm so excited for the life that is in my future. I'm so excited about my baby's life and this is just -- it's so much bigger than me."