with Susan C. Young/Los Angeles
02/01/2010 at 01:00 AM EST
THROUGH THE YEARS
"I haven't always looked at my reflection and loved it," says Simpson (on Jan. 15 in Pasadena).
In the 10 years since Jessica Simpson
released her first hit single, she has repeatedly found herself looking in the mirror and seeing "something I've wanted to fix—because there's always somebody who looks better," she says. But her self-esteem hit an all-time low in January 2009, when—after she performed onstage in unflattering jeans—her fuller figure turned her into a national punch line. "I saw a confidence that was lost in her," says Simpson's father, Joe, "because of what people had said about her."
A year later, however, Simpson, 29, says, "I carry myself differently." The reason? Three months spent traveling the world to explore different primping rituals for her new VH1 reality show The Price of Beauty
, premiering March 14. "Beauty is easy to become obsessed with," she admits. "This journey was about finding what's beautiful inside me." For every episode that had her "standing next to people who eat just salad," like during a Paris fashion show, there would be a trip like the one to a Ugandan village, where the men told Simpson she'd need to "be in a fattening hut for three months for them to even consider" marrying her. The experience "changed me completely"—so much so that Simpson, who split from Tony Romo last July and has been linked recently to singer Billy Corgan, says that "any man I find, they're going to be darn lucky!"