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Ashley Simpson-Wentz is in a beautiful place. Just ask her about her husband Pete Wentz’s downtown Chicago bar, Angels & Kings, and she says, “It’s so beautiful!”; or the genuine affection Chicagoans have for her and her Wilmette-born-andreared husband (also beautiful); or the many city landmarks she’s visited recently, such as Lake Michigan, the Chicago History Museum and Wilmette’s Trinity United Methodist Church.

That’s not to say that the actress and pop star, 26, falls short on her powers of description. Far from it—she’s simply perfectly satisfied with this phase of her life, which is focused on her family (she and her husband have a nearly two-year-old son, Bronx) as she continues working at a leisurely pace on her fourth album, due next year.

ON SISTER JESSICA SIMPSON

Simpson-Wentz doesn’t become ruffled easily, unless you discuss the downright ugly way people reacted to pictures of her sister, Jessica Simpson, during the “mom jeans” controversy last year. “She’s gorgeous; she’s absolutely stunning,” says Simpson-Wentz in disbelief. “If you were to meet her in person you’d be like, ‘Oh my God.’ She doesn’t need an ounce of makeup; she’s just one of those people who has always been beautiful.”

She continues: “I don’t think that there’s anything to ever talk about there, and I just feel that people were insane. Have they not looked in the mirror? What the heck! Jessica’s adorable.”

CHICAGO VERSUS LA

It’s no surprise that she finds the Chicago vibe to be a stark contrast to life in Los Angeles. “Chicago is not a city that represents vanity and such rude, wrong words,” says Simpson-Wentz. “It’s a place of warm, loving people.”

And unlike most young celebs, she’s doesn’t court publicity on the red carpet—though if you Google “Simpson-Wentz” you’ll find countless paparazzi shots of her running seemingly mundane errands in simple clothes. “I wear jeans and a T-shirt or shorts and a T-shirt every day,” she says, refusing to play the Hollywood game even though she doesn’t seem to have a choice.

“Isn’t it so ridiculous?” she laughs. “And it doesn’t feel like that in Chicago, which I really love. I can go to the grocery store—it’s awesome! And who cares what I’m wearing to the grocery store? It’s so silly.”

She still finds it a little surprising that she has so much fun interacting with fans here. “They love my husband—he’s like the hometown hero. We’ll go to Whole Foods and people are like, ‘Pete! Pete!’ We’ll walk to Starbucks and everybody will be following him. People are so sweet about it, and it’s really from a genuine place.”

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