Did you miss Ashlee Simpson?
The occasionally brunette younger sister of the always-blonde Jessica Simpson has led a quiet, private life in Los Angeles for the last decade. So if you forgot about her stints in MTV reality television (“Newlyweds,” “The Ashlee Simpson Show”), or the three pop-rock albums that followed those shows (“Autobiography,” “I Am Me” and “Bittersweet World”), or her marriage to Pete Wentz (now you remember), consider it forgiven.
After the birth of her first child, in 2008, Ms. Simpson retreated from fame to focus on motherhood. Now, at 33, she says she is ready to “jump back in the pool.”
This fall, she will release a new album, launch a clothing line and star in a reality show for E! — all at the same time. The synergistic approach worked for her before: “The Ashlee Simpson Show,” which cast her as the rebellious, dark horse sister of a pop princess, helped her first album go triple platinum in 2004.
A lot has changed since then. When Ms. Simpson’s eponymous reality show premiered on MTV, only a few celebrities, like Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith, had embraced the medium. Ms. Simpson’s father and then-manager, Joe Simpson, saw in television an opportunity for his daughters. He first engineered a new level of fame for Jessica beyond her singing career with the 2003 MTV reality show “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica”; it focused on Jessica’s “dumb blonde” antics, Christian upbringing and young marriage to the 98 Degrees frontman Nick Lachey. For “The Ashlee Simpson Show,” Mr. Simpson, a former pastor, abandoned the Christian message and presented Ashlee as a success-driven teen determined to get out from under her sister’s shadow. Both shows were immediate hits and made the Simpsons household names.
Today, the reality TV pool is a vast ocean, populated by innumerable attractive people with entertaining family dynamics. The Kardashian sisters picked up right where the Simpsons left off when they launched their reality show on E! in 2008 and have since created a billion-dollar brand. When Ms. Simpson’s new show premieres in September, it will air in the time slot following “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” (Again, synergy.)
As of this moment, the sisters from Calabasas are the biggest names in reality. But Ms. Simpson has a new family dynamic that she hopes will be entertaining enough to differentiate her from the pack. In 2014, she married Evan Ross, the youngest son of Diana Ross and the late Norwegian businessman Arne Naess, Jr. (Like many of his siblings, Mr. Ross uses his mother’s last name.) This unlikely union, between a former teen reality star from Waco, Tex., and the son of a pop legend, who grew up palling around with Michael Jackson in his mother’s Greenwich, Conn., home, will be the focus of the series, titled “Ashlee & Evan.”
Mr. Ross, who sings and acts in the Fox series “Star,” will also share top billing on Ms. Simpson’s new album. The couple has recorded a series of soulful duets — inspired, they say, by those performed by Ms. Ross and Marvin Gaye in the 1970s — and they will release a new track with each episode of the show. (The clothing line is similarly a joint effort: It is named after the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Jagger Snow, and features gender-neutral pieces reflective of the couple’s tendency to share clothes.)
The family’s decision to pursue reality TV was born of a desire to broadcast their happiness, Ms. Simpson said on a recent Friday afternoon in a recording studio in Hollywood, sitting on a deep leather couch next to her husband.