June 24, 2009 -- Who says only skinny people succeed in Hollywood?
Jessica Simpson is the latest star to parlay a few extra pounds into a paycheck.
The pop singer-turned-country-singer turned into a tabloid target in January when she donned the wardrobe "don't" of the year: a pair of high-waist jeans and a leopard print belt that showed off curves unseen during her "Dukes of Hazzard" days of short shorts and belly-baring shirts.
"Clearly, since we saw her last, she slayed that dragon named dignity and just spooned frosting into her mouth full time," wrote the blog "What Would Tyler Durden Do?" at the time. "Honest to God, her appearance couldn't have been any more shocking unless she had grown glow-in-the-dark tentacles."
Mean-spirited? Sure. But when Simpson's critics pulled out their claws, they also threw her more publicity than she'd seen in years.
Now, thanks to the column, inches devoted to the "fit or fat?" discussion that ensued in the weeks following her fateful appearance at a Florida country radio station's chili cook-off, the 28-year-old's got a new gig headlining VH1's upcoming reality series, "The Price of Beauty," which will follow her as she travels the world in search of what people find beautiful and why.
"I have always believed that beauty comes from within and confidence will always make a woman beautiful, but I know how much pressure some women put on themselves to look perfect," Simpson said in a statement to ABCNews.com. "I am really looking forward to discovering how beauty is perceived in different cultures and participating in some of the crazy things people do to feel beautiful."
While Simpson didn't specifically reference the weight debate that played into her scoring her new job, Jeff Olde, the executive vice president of VH1's original programming and production, made the connection clear.
"Perhaps more than any other pop culture figure on the radar today, Jessica Simpson has been the target of our obsession with beauty on both sides of the equation," Olde said in a statement to reporters. "She is a woman who can set trends and create firestorms with a single photo."
Jessica Simpson Joins Valerie Bertinelli, Kirstie Alley
Simpson's also furthering a recent trend in Hollywood: taking advantage of America's obsession with celebrities' yo-yoing weight to revive a career.
Valerie Bertinelli gained a new generation of fans and reminded an older one that she still existed when she started singing the praises of Jenny Craig in 2007. The 49-year-old actress, who shot to fame in her teens on the 70s and 80s sitcom "One Day at a Time," lost 49 pounds while serving as the face of the diet plan for the past two years.
Not only did Bertinelli score scads of commercials while promoting Jenny Craig, earlier this year, she landed a People magazine cover featuring her new svelte figure in all its bikini-worthy glory. Bertinelli also got a book deal out of her weight gain and loss, "Losing It -- And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time."
Before Bertinelli, Kirstie Alley wrote the book on turning the battle of the bulge into a career boon. In 2005, after her weight ballooned to more than 200 pounds, the ex-"Cheers" star launched the based-on-reality comedy series "Fat Actress."
Alley played herself in the Showtime show, which detailed the daily life of a not-so-svelte actress trying to keep a job in Hollywood -- fictitious, of course, because her weight enabled her to launch the show in the first place. Alley went on to serve as the face of Jenny Craig, losing 75 pounds and paving the way for Bertinelli's career revamp.
Alas, Alley's weight loss didn't last. In May, the 58-year-old actress confessed to People magazine that since giving up her Jenny Craig post, she's gained 83 pounds. But Bertinelli's trying to buoy her with an offer that would double as a perfect photo op for both stars.
"She should come work out with me!" Bertinelli told People. "She should remember you can't do everything in one day [and] her exercise has to be consistent. She can do this. There's no doubt in my mind."
The moral of the story? To the skinny starlets, skipping meals and slogging through workouts in hopes that slimming their figures to mere slivers will bring in the big bucks: stop. Sometimes, embracing weight's ups and downs yields greater (to say nothing of healthier) results.