Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman felt compelled to apologize Wednesday to Jessica Simpson after the singer chided Portman for “shaming” her over a “virgin” bikini shoot.
The comment that prompted Simpson’s criticism and Portman’s quick apology came in an interview with USA Today Tuesday in which Portman discussed her new film, “Vox Lux,” which has given her the chance to finally fulfill “her Madonna-fueled, teenage pop-star dreams,” as USA Today put it. The film also gives viewers a heavy dose of gun control messaging, as the pop-star, Celeste, rises to fame after writing a song about a school shooting she experiences, something Portman addressed in the interview.
“I think all of us as citizens are at the sort of tipping point of saying it’s enough, it’s too much,” Portman said of gun violence. “And it’s not possible that our government can ignore more than 12,000 people killed this year alone by other citizens.”
But the comment that caused the biggest stir was Portman’s remark about a Simpson bikini shoot. Discussing the influence female pop-stars have had on her, Portman cited Madonna as an important figure for 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.”
However, the “virgin/vixen paradigms,” as USA Today describes it, also “confused” Portman.
“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,” said Portman. “Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl.”
On Wednesday, Simpson responded with a rebuke for what she suggested was shaming another woman for what she wears and conflating “being sexy in a bikini” with having a promiscuous sex life.
“[Natalie,] I was disappointed this morning when I read that I ‘confused’ you by wearing a bikini in a published photo taken of me when I was still a virgin in 1999,” Simpson wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “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. 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. I have always embraced being a role model to all women to let them know that they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want. The power lies within us as individuals. I have made it my practice to not shame other women for their choices. In this era of Time’s Up and all the great work you have done for women, I encourage you to do the same.”
In a statement to ET‘s Nischelle Turner Wednesday, Portman said she wasn’t intending to “shame” anyone, rather she was trying to address the “mixed messages” she received as a young girl.
“I would never intend to shame anybody and that was absolutely not my intention,” she said. “I was really talking about mixed media messages out there for young women and completely apologize for any hurt it may have caused because that was definitely not my intention. What I said was I was confused by mixed messages when I was a young girl growing up, and there are a lot of messages for how women should be, and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.”
“It is a mistake to say anyone’s name,” she added. “I could have made my message without naming.”