By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ
Just in case folks don’t know much about this couple: Evan Ross is a member of one of the most famous and beloved families in the entertainment business: his mother is global icon Diana Ross. His father, Arne Naess Jr, was a successful Norwegian businessman.
Ashlee Simpson is an artist in her own right and the younger sister of actress Jessica Simpson. The couple were married in 2014, had their own reality show and previously sang together. They are on tour again, making a stop on January 12 at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall, which is located not far from DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus.
I simply adore Evan—not because of his lineage—but over the years his acting chops, in my opinion, have presented him as a seasoned and sophisticated soul. Growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut, in a home filled with music and love, provided a solid foundation to explore his creative talent as a recording artist.
Evan has been acting ever since he was a teenager. He’s appeared in more than a dozen films and numerous television shows with some of Hollywood’s greatest actors. In 2006, Evan played an orphaned teen in the feature film “ATL” alongside T.I. The roles kept coming. He also starred in the films “Pride” (2007); “Life Support” (2008); “According to Greta” (2009); “96 Minutes” (2011); “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” (2013); and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 & Part 2” (2014-15).
For Evan’s work in “96 Minutes,” he received the SXSW Competition Award for Breakthrough Performance. He also earned an NAACP nomination as Outstanding Actor for his role in “Life Support,” which also starred Queen Latifah. Even with Evan’s impressive list of movie credits, many fans first came to love him as teen heartthrob Charlie Selby on “90210.” Today, Evan can be seen as Angel Rivera, which presented the chance to bring music and acting together on the hit Fox drama “Stars.”
Adoring fans have watched Evan evolve from a little boy on stage dancing with his mother to teen idol to making movies to launching his own recording career. Yet, Evan remains humble. He says the time he spends at home with his wife and young daughter brings a joy that is unmatched. There’s no stopping this artist whose talent transcends form.
And now to Evan’s better half. Since bursting on the scene as a teenager, Ashlee Simpson-Ross has proven she is determined, authentic and resilient. According to the couple’s website, Ashlee became one of the biggest names in pop music in 2004 when she released her debut album “Autobiography.” It debuted at number one on Billboard’s album chart and went on to sell more than five million copies worldwide. No matter where you went, you couldn’t avoid hearing the album’s monster hit “Pieces of Me,” which hit the Top 5 and went gold.
Co-writing all of the songs on “Autobiography,” Ashlee proved she tapped into the hearts and minds of a generation. Whether it was singing about insecurity in the hit single “Shadow” or exhibiting her flirtatious side in “La La,” Ashlee illustrated that there were many layers beneath her powerful voice. The album’s success brought Ashlee many accolades, including the Billboard Music Award for Best New Female Artist of the Year and two Teen Choice Awards.
After touring the world to sold-out shows, Ashlee set her sights on theater. In 2006 she took on the role of Roxie Hart in the West End production of “Chicago.” Her captivating stage presence earned rave reviews. Broadway took notice. Ashlee made her Broadway debut in “Chicago” reprising the role of Roxie. Television soon came calling. Ashlee delighted viewers and gained a fan base playing Cecilia Smith in the long-running family drama “7th Heaven.” Chronicling the recording process of the “Autobiography” album, MTV’s reality series “The Ashlee Simpson Show” became a bona fide hit. In 2009, Ashlee kept audiences on the edge of their seats playing the vindictive Violet Foster in the CW’s reboot of “Melrose Place.” The couple has their own reality television show called “Ashlee+ Evan.”
But for all the hit songs, awards and roles she has played, Ashlee says her biggest achievement is her family. Ashlee has a 9-year-old son Bronx. In 2015, she and Evan welcomed their daughter, Jagger Snow.
Ashlee once said: “Fear is not something I live by. I’d rather go to the edge and see what happens.” For close to two decades, audiences have seen Ashlee touch the stars, navigate life’s ups and downs and come through it all filled with love and a song to sing.
Lincoln Hall is a live music venue with an on-site restaurant and bar. It is located at 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., and Ashlee+Evan will perform Saturday, January 12. For ticket and more information about this event visit http://www.lhst.com/Show/01-12-2019+Ashlee+and+Evan.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. She is also the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago.”