STEVE AND JESSICA: Powerful people sharing a stage is hardly a sight for the similarly situated. This was no exception for those who attended the Forbes Women’s Summit Thursday on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But when Jessica Simpson arrived on stage to be interviewed by Steve Forbes, something was different. Cell phones emerged from purses and briefcases to snap photos of the odd duo, as Forbes sat uncomfortably peering at his companion.

This story first appeared in the May 16, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“This is exciting,” said Simpson, who wore a somewhat sheer long black dress with a high slit that exposed her left leg.

“Well, for me it’s a little unnerving,” a red-faced Forbes stuttered back. “In some ways, it’s even more unnerving than doing a presidential debate.…I hope it goes better than the presidential debate.”

He left a pause for laughter, which eventually came once attendees remembered that he’s run for president.

But Forbes focused the interview with Simpson on her successful fashion career, asking her how she has managed to not “flame out” as many celebrities with dreams of entering fashion have before her. “I think my brand has surpassed my name and my celebrity,” replied a poised Simpson, adding that her success is also due to the fact that she “understands consumers,” having been “every size.”

Without a question from Forbes, she addressed her notorious weight issues. “I fluctuate, I’m a woman,” she said, to which Forbes added, “Guys do, too.”

“I feel like we all need to enjoy life,” she continued. ‘If I’m five pounds heavier or 50 pounds heavier or five pounds lighter, I don’t think that should define who you are.”

Nodding, Forbes asked her sympathetically if all the bad press gets to her. “If I took what people say about me or what sells magazines and all that to heart, I would not be sitting up here and talking to you and all of these people. I look at brushing that stuff off,” Simpson explained. “That’s not to say it didn’t make me cry. I try not to look at it and listen to it.”

With that, the duo exited the stage, with Forbes assured by the rousing applause that it was likely more successful than those debates.

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