Kimora Lee Simmons

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Kimora Lee Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons, born on May 4, 1975, in St. Louis, Missouri, embodies the essence of modern success—a fusion of entrepreneurship, fashion, and philanthropy. Her journey from a bullied suburban kid to an internationally recognized model, fashion designer, and TV personality is a testament to her resilience and determination.

Discovered at a young age during a model search event in Kansas City, Kimora Lee Simmons career skyrocketed under the mentorship of Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld in Paris. Her presence graced the runways of renowned fashion houses like Fendi and Valentino while gracing the covers of prestigious magazines such as Vogue and Elle. In 1999, she seized the reins of entrepreneurship by launching Baby Phat, a brand that evolved into a global lifestyle phenomenon celebrating women of all backgrounds and sizes.

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Kimora Lee Simmons personal life has been equally noteworthy. Her marriage to Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, yielded two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee, and marked her role as the creative force behind Baby Phat. Her journey as a mother and businesswoman unfolded in the public eye through her reality TV show, “Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane,” offering audiences a glimpse into her glamorous yet grounded world.

While her life seemed like a fairytale, Kimora Lee Simmons faced challenges, including a divorce from Russell Simmons and navigating new relationships, including one with actor Djimon Hounsou and later marrying Tim Leissner. Despite personal upheavals, Kimora remained steadfast in her pursuit of excellence, expanding her portfolio to include high-end fashion lines like KLS Collection and spearheading online fashion ventures like JustFab.

Kimora Lee Simmons impact extends beyond fashion and entertainment; she’s a beacon of philanthropy and activism. From supporting cancer research to advocating for women’s rights and environmental conservation, Kimora’s charitable endeavors span a wide spectrum, showcasing her commitment to making a difference in the world.

In 2019, Kimora Lee Simmons reclaimed her legacy by relaunching Baby Phat as an independent brand, this time with her daughters Ming Lee and Aoki Lee as creative directors, symbolizing a generational continuity of style and empowerment.

Kimora Lee Simmons’s journey embodies the quintessential American dream—forging success through talent, hard work, and resilience. Her story resonates as a beacon of hope and inspiration for those striving to overcome adversity and make a lasting impact on the world.

St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.

St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Kimora Lee Perkins
NameKimora Lee Perkins
Date of BirthMay 4, 1975
Birth PlaceSt. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
ProfessionFashion model, Businesswoman
Know asKimora Lee Simmons
Career1986 – present
University University of Hartford 
EducationBA
Relationshipm. 1997; div. 1998
Husband 1st Russell Simmons
Relationshipm. 1998; div. 2009
Husband 2stTim Leissner
Relationshipm. 2014
PartnerDjimon Hounsou
Relationship2007–2012
Children5
Height1.83 m
Parents
  • Joanne Perkins
  • Vernon Whitlock Jr.
Eye colorEye color
Hair ColorBlack
Website babyphat.com

Early Life and Background

Kimora Lee Perkins entered the world in St. Louis, Missouri, where she spent her formative years navigating the suburban landscape of Florissant. However, her journey was marked by challenges, as she grappled with bullying in school due to her height and diverse heritage—a mix of African-American and Japanese-Korean ancestry. This blend, though rich, left her feeling out of place and longing for acceptance. Recognizing her daughter’s struggle, Kimora Lee Simmons mother took a proactive step, enrolling her in modeling classes at the age of eleven. It was a decision that would shape Kimora’s destiny.

At the age of thirteen, Kimora Lee Simmons attended a model search event in Kansas City, a pivotal moment where fate intervened. There, she captured the attention of Marie-Christine Kollock, a discerning agent from the prestigious Parisian agency, Glamour. Kollock recognized Kimora’s potential and wasted no time in propelling her towards success. Thus, began Kimora’s ascent in the world of fashion, as she embarked on a journey to Paris, where her unique beauty and charisma captivated industry leaders, marking the start of her illustrious modeling career.

Despite her early trials, Kimora Lee Simmons persevered, graduating from Lutheran North High School in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2017, she made a triumphant return to academia, pursuing higher education with determination. This pursuit culminated in 2018 when Kimora Lee Simmons proudly earned her Bachelor of Arts in Business and Entrepreneurial Affairs from the prestigious Barney School of Business at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. Her academic achievements stand as a testament to her resilience and determination to excel beyond the runway, establishing herself as a formidable force in both the worlds of fashion and business.

Career

Fashion Icon's Journey

At just thirteen years old, Kimora Lee Simmons landed an exclusive modeling contract with Chanel, marking the beginning of a journey under the mentorship of the late Karl Lagerfeld, then Chanel’s designer. Lagerfeld’s decision to showcase a multiethnic model like Simmons on the Parisian runway was groundbreaking at the time, setting a precedent for diversity in high-end fashion advertising. Reflecting on Lagerfeld’s influence, Simmons recalls how his example empowered her to embrace her identity fully and pursue her dreams relentlessly.

Following her iconic appearance as “The Bride” in the 1989 Chanel haute couture show, Kimora Lee Simmons graced the runways of renowned fashion houses such as Fendi, Valentino, Emanuel Ungaro, and Yves Saint Laurent. Her presence also illuminated the covers and pages of prestigious fashion publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle, solidifying her status as a fashion icon.

In 1999, Kimora Lee Simmons ventured into the realm of fashion design by launching Baby Phat, a global lifestyle brand. Initially conceived as a women’s wear extension of Phat Farm, the streetwear label founded by her then-husband Russell Simmons in 1992, Baby Phat aimed to authentically represent the culture it emerged from. However, it transcended its roots, embracing a diverse audience and permeating mainstream fashion and popular culture.

The debut of Baby Phat’s first fashion show at New York Fashion Week in 1999 marked a significant milestone, with celebrities like Aaliyah, Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliot, and Paris Hilton gracing the event. Kimora Lee Simmons, a devoted mother, often concluded her shows by walking the runway hand in hand with her daughters, symbolizing the fusion of family and fashion.

Kimora Lee Simmons’s leadership role within Phat Fashions, overseeing brands like Baby Phat and Phat Farm, shattered barriers as one of the first women of color to helm a fashion conglomerate. Under her creative direction, Baby Phat pioneered a new category of urban lifestyle apparel and accessories, catering to the modern woman’s needs and desires.

The commercial success and cultural impact of Baby Phat propelled Phat Fashions into diverse product categories, including jewelry, handbags, footwear, and fragrance, all distributed globally. Simmons’s entrepreneurial spirit continued with ventures like the Baby Phat fragrance line, featuring iconic scents like Goddess and Golden Goddess.

In 2010, Kimora Lee Simmons transitioned from Phat Fashions to embark on new endeavors, eventually assuming the role of President and Creative Director at JustFab. Her relentless pursuit of innovation led to the launch of KLS by Kimora Lee Simmons in 2015, offering upscale apparel at accessible price points. Marketed in prestigious luxury retailers nationwide, KLS by Kimora Lee Simmons represents Simmons’s ongoing commitment to fashion excellence and inclusivity.

Simmons' Entrepreneurial Ventures

On International Women’s Day in 2019, Kimora Lee Simmons took center stage as she delivered a keynote address at the launch of the She Innovates initiative, spearheaded by UN Women’s Gender Innovation Coalition for Change (GICC). During this momentous occasion, Simmons made a groundbreaking announcement to Bloomberg News: the reacquisition and imminent revival of Baby Phat, the brainchild of Kimora Lee Simmons. The resurgence of Baby Phat, as Simmons revealed, would uphold its original ethos of female empowerment, proudly woman-owned, woman-led, and, as always, designed for women by women.

The summer of 2019 marked the relaunch of Baby Phat, followed by the debut of a new signature collection in the fall of the same year. In an exclusive interview with Women’s Wear Daily regarding the revival of Baby Phat, Kimora Lee Simmons articulated, “The relaunch of Baby Phat will feature a mainstream sportswear collection tailored for millennials, with a focus on mid-tier retail outlets. Over recent years, it became evident that Baby Phat held a special place in people’s hearts and resonated deeply with them. Today’s youth seek purpose-driven design and value messaging akin to what Baby Phat epitomized in its prime, a sentiment that remains relevant even today.”

Kimora Lee Simmons ‘ entrepreneurial spirit extends beyond the fashion realm, encompassing a diverse investment portfolio spanning fashion, skincare, consumer goods, and technology. Notable among these ventures are Codage, an innovative skincare line hailing from France; Pureform Global, pioneers in crafting all-natural CBD products without cannabis or hemp; and Celsius, creators of a “clean energy” negative calorie beverage acquired in 2015. In spring 2019, Simmons embarked on a new venture by co-launching Pellequr, a Beverly Hills spa offering a fresh perspective on the traditional Korean spa experience. Through her multifaceted endeavors, Simmons has solidified her status as a savvy entrepreneur, reportedly amassing a net worth exceeding $200 million.

Philanthropic Legacy: Kimora Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons has cultivated a profound legacy of philanthropy, marked by a series of impactful initiatives and contributions. Her commitment to humanitarian causes spans various realms, showcasing a multifaceted dedication to improving the world around her.

Since her involvement with the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Kimora Lee Simmons has been a stalwart supporter of initiatives promoting compassion and kindness towards animals. In 2008, she collaborated with PETA, lending her voice and image to the “Be an Angel to Dogs” campaign. This endeavor sought to elevate awareness about the ethical treatment of household pets, a cause close to Simmons’s heart. Her participation, adorned with angelic wings crafted by renowned designer Martin Izquierdo, resonated deeply, symbolizing a call for greater empathy and responsibility towards our furry companions. Simmons further solidified her commitment by donating $20,000 to PETA’s Angel for Animals Project, underscoring her tangible support for initiatives fostering animal welfare.

Acknowledgment of Simmons’s humanitarian endeavors came to fruition during a homecoming ceremony at Washington University in St. Louis in 2008. The mayor of St. Louis honored her contributions by bestowing upon her the key to the city and proclaiming March 14 as Kimora Day, a testament to her impact on society.

Kimora Lee Simmons’s philanthropic endeavors extend beyond animal advocacy, encompassing a diverse array of causes. In 2014, she established the Kimora Lee Simmons Scholarship Fund at FIT, epitomizing her commitment to nurturing the next generation. This fund, seeded with a generous personal donation of one million dollars, aims to empower students from underserved communities to pursue careers in fashion. Additionally, Simmons actively supports organizations such as amfAR, The G&P Foundation, Keep a Child Alive, and the Hetrick-Martin Institute, further exemplifying her dedication to fostering positive change.

Moreover, Kimora Lee Simmons’s humanitarian efforts extend globally, particularly in supporting refugees and migrant women and children facing adversity. As the Lead Global Ambassador for The Unmentionables, she has spearheaded initiatives to provide essential hygiene products to vulnerable communities, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to alleviating suffering and promoting dignity.

Kimora Lee Simmons’s advocacy for gender equality and innovation is equally noteworthy. In 2018, she delivered a compelling address at The Global Innovation Coalition for Change, partnering with UN Women to advocate for women and girls in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. Continuing her advocacy, Simmons remains an active Global Innovator for Change, championing gender equality in the workplace and collaborating with UN Women and GICC to launch Gender Innovation Principles and She Innovates calls to action.

Her philanthropic journey reached new heights in 2021 with the #AllSmilesAreBeautiful campaign in partnership with Smile Train. Through the design and production of an exclusive limited edition t-shirt, Kimora Lee Simmons and Baby Phat directed all net proceeds towards supporting mental health programs for children with cleft palates, underscoring their unwavering commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of those in need.

In August 2022, Kimora Lee Simmons, alongside Baby Phat and Phat Farm, joined forces with Family Dollar and Crayola to host a back-to-school giveaway benefiting families facing financial hardship in the Los Angeles area. The event, held at the Boys and Girls Club of Carson, exemplified their dedication to uplifting communities by providing essential school supplies and fostering a sense of hope and opportunity for children in need. Additionally, distributions were made to boys and girls clubs in the Atlanta and Southeast Virginia areas, further extending the impact of their philanthropic endeavors.

Kimora Simmons: Television Journey

Kimora Lee Simmons has had a multifaceted career in television, spanning roles as a host, actress, reality star, and producer. Notably, she co-hosted the music and pop-culture series “One World Music Beat” from 1998 to 2001, showcasing her versatility in the entertainment realm. Her contributions extended to VH1 projects like “Uncut New York Fashion Week” and “Party Fabulous,” demonstrating her wide-ranging involvement in the industry.

In 2003, Kimora Lee Simmons stepped into the judging panel alongside Tyra Banks for the inaugural season of “America’s Next Top Model,” further solidifying her presence in the television landscape.

A significant milestone came in 2007 with the premiere of “Kimora Lee Simmons : Life in the Fab Lane” on the Style Network. This reality series offered viewers an intimate glimpse into Simmons’s daily life, balancing her roles as a businesswoman and a mother. Spanning from 2007 to 2011, the show not only featured Simmons but also showcased her prowess behind the scenes as a producer. Her involvement in shaping the narrative continued as she assumed executive producer duties for several episodes across different seasons.

In 2013, Kimora Lee Simmons embarked on another television venture with “Kimora Lee Simmons : House of Fab,” airing on The Style Network. Unlike its predecessor, this series delved exclusively into Simmons’s professional endeavors as the Creative Director of JustFab, an online fashion company. Despite its brief run of one season, Simmons’s starring role and executive production ensured a compelling portrayal of her professional journey.

Beyond her television exploits, Kimora Lee Simmons contributions extend to the stage, earning her a Tony Award in 2003 for her production work on “Def Poetry Jam” on Broadway. This accolade underscores her versatility and impact across various entertainment mediums, solidifying her status as a dynamic force in the industry.

Other Media

Kimora Lee Simmons, renowned for her multifaceted career spanning fashion, media, and empowerment, made her mark with the publication of “Fabulosity: What It Is & How to Get It” in 2006. This empowering lifestyle guide garnered praise from notable publications such as the Washington Post and Boston Globe, affirming Simmons’ influence in female empowerment discourse.

In 2006, Simmons joined the illustrious roster of celebrities supporting the iconic Got Milk? campaign, further cementing her status as a cultural icon. Her participation reflected her commitment to promoting health and wellness within her sphere of influence.

A significant milestone in Simmons’ career occurred in February 2008 when Mattel unveiled the Kimora Lee Simmons Barbie Doll. Reflecting her distinctive style, the doll donned a faux chinchilla coat paired with vibrant pink thigh-high boots, symbolizing Simmons’ unique brand identity meticulously crafted over the years.

Simmons’ presence extends beyond literature and endorsements into the realms of television and film. Her versatile talents have graced screens in various roles, including appearances in notable productions such as “Beauty Shop,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Waist Deep.” Additionally, her captivating presence has been featured in music videos alongside acclaimed artists such as Ginuwine, Usher (“Nice and Slow”), and Rich Gang (“Tap Out”). Furthermore, Simmons has showcased her charisma as a co-host on Sony Television’s syndicated talk show “Life & Style,” further solidifying her position as a prominent figure in entertainment and lifestyle.

Personal life

Kimora Perkins tied the knot with Russell Simmons in December 1998. Their union bore two daughters, Ming Lee Simmons (born January 2000) and Aoki Lee Simmons (born August 2002), before their divorce in 2009.

In May 2009, Simmons welcomed her first son, Kenzo Lee Hounsou, with actor and model Djimon Hounsou. Subsequently, in February 2014, reports surfaced of her marriage to investment banker Tim Leissner. Their first child together, a son named Wolf Lee Leissner, was born in April 2015. Simmons expanded her family further in 2020 by adopting Gary Lee Foster, bringing the total count of her children to five.

However, in February 2022, it came to light that Kimora Lee Simmons and Leissner had grown estranged from each other. Despite this revelation, the exact status of their relationship remains ambiguous.

Additionally, pertinent details about Kimora Simmons include her height of 183 cm (6 ft 0 in), black hair, and brown eyes. You can find more about her on her website, babyphat.com.

Career Statistics

Filmography

Film 6
Television 4
Video games 2
Music Video 3
Total 15

Awards

WonN/A
NominatedN/A
TotalN/A

Television

YearTitleRoleRef.
2001For Your LoveShamira 
2003America’s Next Top ModelJudge 
2007–2011Kimora: Life in the Fab LaneHerself 
2013Kimora: House of FabHerself

 

Film

YearFilmRoleRef.
1993For Love or MoneyModel 
1999The Big TeaseDick Miyaki’s Hair Model 
2002Brown SugarHerself 
2005Beauty ShopDenise 
2005ReboundFemale Reporter #1 
2006Waist DeepFencing House Lady

 

Video Games

YearTitleRoleRef.
2004Def Jam: Fight for NYHerself 
2006Def Jam Fight for NY: The TakeoverHerself

 

Music Video

YearTitleOriginal artist(s)Director(s)
1998“Nice & Slow”UsherHype Williams
2003“Change Clothes”Jay-Z (feat. Pharrell)Chris Robinson
2003“In Those Jeans”GinuwineCleetis Mack

Awards

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