Previously Known For: Daughter of O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson, the controversy surrounding her mother’s murder in 1994
|Currently Known For: Living a quiet life in Florida where she dodges paparazzi and refuses interviews|
“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Only nine years old when she was first thrust into the spotlight after the tragic death of her mother, Nicole Brown Simpson, and family friend, Ronald Goldman, Sydney Simpson has spent much of her adult life dodging cameras and avoiding interviews for the sake of leading a normal, quiet life. But, how normal can life truly be as the daughter of O.J. Simpson, a man who has spent most of his life in the spotlight long after his heyday as a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star turned murder suspect in what’s now known as “The Trial of the Century.” Join us as we put the pieces of Sydney’s life together!
Sydney Brooke Simpson was born on October 17, 1985 in Los Angeles, California where her mother, Nicole, was a waitress and her father, Orenthal James, was a retired football star and Heisman Trophy winner turned actor. While Sydney and her younger brother, Justin, wanted for very little thanks to their father’s lavish lifestyle, fortune and fame, their home life was tumultuous because of their parent’s turbulent relationship. In fact, to better understand Sydney’s story, we have to first look at her parents and the tragedy that unfolded.
At the height of his fame as an NFL star, O.J. Simpson was accustomed to getting everything he wanted, which is why he didn’t think twice about pursuing a relationship with a young waitress named Nicole Brown despite the fact that he was already married with three children at home. Meeting at a Beverly Hills private club where Nicole worked, O.J. and Nicole had instant chemistry and spent the next two years secretly dating before O.J. divorced his wife, Marguerite, in 1979 and retired from the NFL. Over the next six years, they had an on-again, off-again relationship before they married on February 2, 1985, shortly after learning they were expecting a child. “They were a dramatic, fractious, mutually obsessed couple before they married, after they married, after they divorced in 1992, and after they reconciled,” one friend later remarked.
Welcoming Sydney into the world just eight months later in October 1985, the family of three became a family of four on August 6, 1988 with the birth of Justin Ryan Simpson. However, by then, the relationship was already in turmoil as the young Sydney and Justin quietly listened to their parents argue night after night. By 1989, the relationship took a turn for the worse when Nicole called the police and had O.J. arrested for spousal abuse. Reconciling and breaking up again and again, Nicole filed for divorce in 1992, but the ink was not yet dry on the divorce papers as she and O.J. attempted to mend the fences of their broken family. By then, however, it was much too late.
After a decade of 911 calls to resolve domestic disputes between O.J. and Nicole, one final call was made on June 12, 1994 when Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman, were found stabbed to death outside her condo in Brentwood. With his history of violence, O.J. became the prime suspect and was accused of murdering Nicole while Sydney and Justin were asleep upstairs. However, O.J. refused to turn himself into the police and, instead, ignited a car chase as he drove across Los Angeles in his white Ford Bronco while the world watched. Once he was apprehended, he was prosecuted for the murders in what’s now known as “The Trial of the Century.” Later found innocent, he was granted custody of Sydney and Justin as he faced civil charges brought forward by both Nicole’s and Ron’s families. Found guilty in civil court and sentenced to pay $33.5 million in damages, O.J. auctioned off his belongings to pay the fine as he struggled to give his children the life they deserved.
As if the loss of her mother wasn’t enough, Sydney was thrust into the spotlight with her father’s every move and, perhaps because of that, she remained close to the Browns, especially her mother’s youngest sister, Tanya, who wanted nothing more than to give Sydney and Justin a loving and quiet home. “I had to go and pick the kids up at the house where O.J. lived, and I saw him,” Tanya recalled. “It was hard for me, but I did it. My mom gave me a pep talk, like, ‘You’re doing this for the kids.’ I entered the home, packed their bags. I went into his home and I saw the furniture I used to sit on when Nicole was alive. I was so foggy, but I had to put on the face because this is their dad. They will always love their dad. I choose to respect that.”
With financial troubles following her dad from California to Miami, Florida, Sydney was determined to step away from the media frenzy and, after graduating from Gulliver Academy, enrolled at Boston University where she graduated in 2010 with her degree in sociology. By then, her dad had already spent three years behind bars at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada where he was sentenced to 33 years and nine years without parole for armed robbery and kidnapping. After graduation, Sydney moved to Atlanta, Georgia and worked at The Canoe as an event coordinator before joining her brother in St. Petersburg, Florida where she opened her own business in addition to purchasing a few properties of her own.
After spending so much of her life in the limelight and carrying the weight of public opinion on her shoulders as to whether or not her father was involved in her mother’s murder, Sydney has spent the last decade dodging the paparazzi. In 2016, she found that even more difficult when FX released their award-winning true crime anthology, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which not only brought the tragedy back to life but brought a slew of reporters to her doorstep hoping to catch a glimpse of her highly coveted and private lifestyle. Of course, the media frenzy surrounding the anthology now pales in comparison to the headlines Sydney faced in October 2017 when her father was granted parole after serving nine years in prison. With many now wondering what that will mean for the Simpson family and if O.J. plans to stay in Nevada or move to Florida by his children, it’s hard to argue with Sydney’s desperate attempts to live a quiet life—after all, she’s chosen to respect her mother’s legacy by living a private and fulfilling life on her own terms.