1984–2003: Early life and career beginnings
Simpson was born in Waco, Texas and raised in the Richardson area of Texas. She is the daughter of Tina Ann (née Drew), a homemaker, and Joe Truett Simpson, a former psychologist and Baptist youth minister who works as her manager. Simpson has an older sister, Jessica, who is also a singer and actress. She attended the same schools as her sister, Prairie Creek Elementary and Richardson North Junior High. She is of Scottish, English,and Native American ancestry.
At the age of three, she began studying classical ballet, eventually becoming an accomplished dancer. When Simpson was 11 years old, she enrolled at the School of American Ballet in New York City a year in advance. During this time, Simpson suffered from an eating disorder; the condition lasted for about six months before her parents stepped in and got her the help she needed to overcome the problem. At age 15, Tina and Joe Simpson made the decision to relocate to Los Angeles, California for Jessica's singing career. Subsequently, Ashlee was cast in television commercials.
Eventually, Simpson made appearances in films and television series, including Malcolm in the Middle (2001), a minor role in The Hot Chick (2002), and a recurring role on the family drama series 7th Heaven (2002, 2003, and 2004).In the summer of 2003, she worked as a video personality for MTV. Occasionally, Simpson appeared on Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, a reality show documenting the married life of her sister Jessica and her former husband, Nick Lachey.