By Melissa Goldstein
Kimora Lee Simmons, started modeling for Chanel at age 13. Since then, she’s added fashion designer, author, mother of three and producer of her own reality television show, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane to her impressive resume. And if that isn’t enough, she recently launched a new skin care line, Shinto Clinical. TheCelebrityCafe.com had the chance to talk with Kimora about modeling, motherhood, and the secret behind her flawless skin.
TheCelebrityCafe: You started modeling as a young teenager for Chanel with the esteemed Karl Lagerfeld. What did you learn from that early experience that has contributed to your success today?
Kimora Lee Simmons: Well, it impacted me greatly just to be around him, certainly such a creative and inspirational figure. From a fashion point of view, it certainly taught me a lot of things about creativity and just learning the business from the inside out. But also, at the time I was so young – I was 13 – the youngest model ever for Chanel. I think even to this day it’s illegal. So it taught me independence, freedom and made me a little more unafraid to explore my life and expand my wings.
Whereas growing up in St. Louis, Missouri had it’s difficulties and it was a different life. It gave me a different springboard as I was growing up. It was kind of like being exposed to some surreal boarding school if you will. Just imagine yourself from this environment, I was a girl from St. Louis, Missouri with parents of mixed race, living in a single parent household and my mom is Asian and I look the way I do. That’s not exactly easily explainable. Now-a-days, you may think that is because now I’m like your girlfriend or your sister. Now-a-days we are all one the same a little more. But then it was kind of different to be Asian and black. So we have to talk about a time that this was. I was in St. Louis Missouri, that was like Nebraska or Dorothy from Kansas. So it was really like a dream and it gave me a wonderful platform both in my personal life and in my creative and business life.
TheCelebrityCafe: What are some of your most memorable runway moments?
Kimora Lee Simmons: One of the craziest was my first season at Chanel. I was the bride so I had this huge finale gown. It was so big and heavy and it took them weeks to make it and they made it all by hand. To this day his would be the kind of dress like the equivalent of a million dollar royal wedding dress. I don’t know how much it was then, but I’m sure it was crazy. It was huge with the big skirt and it had a classic Chanel pillbox hat. But a big one with the upside-down bow and it was ivory. But think, how do you walk? How do you not fall? How did I even get here? I just turned into a teenager yesterday. I can’t remember everything that was going through my mind other than why it was chaos.
TheCelebrityCafe: How would you describe your own style now?
Kimora Lee Simmons: My own style now I think is very feminine, elegant, and chic. I like to be edgy at times, but always with a classic twist. I think it’s always those kinds of words about me that definitely take me back to those beginning Chanel days.
TheCelebrityCafe: How did you make the transition from creating your own perfume and clothing brands to reality television?
Kimora Lee Simmons: For me it wasn’t really about a transition, and that’s more one of the important things to say about my show. My show is focused on my business. So the show came into capture something that I was doing in my life. I think that’s why it’s been so popular and that’s why people like it. So it was overlapping responsibilities, it wasn’t like doing two different jobs.
TheCelebrityCafe: What is the most challenging aspect of producing your own reality show?
Kimora Lee Simmons: It’s very difficult. It’s your life that you’re putting out there in front of the cameras. So you are sensitive as to how that may come out, but at the same time you’re passionately wrapped up in the moment in doing what you’re doing. So there is bit of vulnerability, a bit of intrusion and a lot of things all rolled into one.
TheCelebrityCafe: Do you ever forget that the cameras are there?
Kimora Lee Simmons: I don’t think that you ever forget that they are there. No. But, depending on the situation, hopefully if something’s going on they’re not in your way. They should be more like a fly on the wall and more out of my way than in my way. And that’s a problem for me. You’re trying to get something done or I’m with the kids, or whatever you’re doing at the moment. So imagine the urgencies of being a mom, or being a businesswoman, or being a CEO, and then you add a camera to that. That’s the challenge is what I’m trying to say.
TheCelebrityCafe: Speaking of reality, how do you manage your reality with family life, a husband, three kids and a demanding career.
Kimora Lee Simmons: I think it’s always about doing the best that you can. I don’t ever claim to be, or feel bad that I’m not, supermom or some figure like that. It’s okay. I think you should do the best that you can and usually that’s pretty darn good. I prioritize and my family always comes first. I have a great team of people around me that support me. A small team, but I feel like we just kind of get it done. And when I run into women all over the world, and literally wherever I am – getting off a plane, people see me, families, and women, and business people. They all want to stop and tell a story or tell you why they watch your show. I feel like we all go through things and that’s also a part of what makes the show so entertaining. I probably go through them a little bit different. The pattern of my life being in fashion is a little different in that respect. But when it comes to the juggling, and the madness, and the kids, and all the responsibilities, I think everyone understands that.
TheCelebrityCafe: What character traits have helped you excel? Which ones do you hope to pass on to your children?
Kimora Lee Simmons: I think I am very honest. That probably is also one of my character flaws. I’m very honest and also I’m a Taurus, so I give it to you kind of straight. You know what I’m thinking or saying. You don’t have to second-guess it. I’m very blunt. I think that’s very helpful particularly for a woman in the business.
I’m very caring. When you interact with a team of people it’s really the whole engine of how the system works. I think that’s very important and taking care of all those individual pieces. Those are the kinds of things I would want to pass on – determination, strength, honesty, and a concern for people.
TheCelebrityCafe: You always find new ways to challenge yourself. Is there anything in your life that has made you feel insecure?
Kimora Lee Simmons: Business every day is a whole daunting thing. I don’t ever think it’s easy. I always feel like it’s not enough, or I should be doing something more, or better, or different. I feel like I am hypercritical of myself.
TheCelebrityCafe: You’ve recently launched a skincare line, Shinto Clinical. What inspired you to create your own skin care products?
Kimora Lee Simmons: This line is really interesting because it’s an anti-aging line. I wanted to create it because it addresses things I need in my life right now. I like some of my finer beauty treatments in life, but I don’t necessarily have time. Other people don’t necessarily have all of the money that they want to spend or the time.
I want a beauty treatment, system, whatever you want to call it, that works double time. That is what we’ve created with Shinto. I’s east meets west so it has all of you’re eastern botanicals like kelp and pearl powder, and it combines it with western science and technology. So, the efficacy and product itself is just really amazing.
And again it’s anti-aging and that’s what I need in my life right now. I want a lot of bang for my buck. I want don’t want to spend a lot on a cream that over-promises and under delivers. I juggle a lot of things and my skin care has to be able to keep up with me.
TheCelebrityCafe: How much research went into the new line? Where can readers purchase the products?
Kimora Lee Simmons: We’ve been developing this line for a couple of years. Every day I was in the lab creating and perfecting and tweaking. Our clinical [trials] are amazing. We have clinicals that are with real people, real human grade testers, not a machine, not a computer algorithm, but a person.
Recently, I launched on QVC and it’s very rigorous over there. Their standard of measure is hard. So to say that you launched there definitely says something about the message behind the product and the efficacy.
Other than QVC, the line can be purchased at Fred Segal, and some Nordstrom stores. It will be rolling out in more Nordstrom doors in the coming months.
TheCelebrityCafe: In addition to your own collection, do you have any other advice on how to achieve healthy skin? Do you think diet plays a role?
Kimora Lee Simmons: I definitely think that diet plays a role. And that’s another thing, growing up I haven’t always had the best diet and the times that I am on the better diet is when I’m sticking closer to my Asian roots with a lot of fish and seaweed and things like that. And this is what I have tried to pack into that by-product, the omegas and kelps. In terms of tone, elasticity, luminosity, they’re all affected by what you put in. They can be affected by what you put on too. You’re going to need moisture and nutrients, so I do think diet can affect it greatly.
TheCelebrityCafe: What are your favorite things to do when you have any down time, if you even have any down time?
Kimora Lee Simmons: It seems like I don’t really have a lot. I don’t know, maybe a little nap. Moms should treat themselves. I love to go to the spa but I don’t really have a lot of time.
A nice bubble bath is great with candles and a little wine. But even though I’m in there, I have three kids, and my kids run in and lean over the tub, so it’s not as romantic as I just made it sound.
Meditation is great for me. I can do that a few minutes a day. I can do that alone. So it’s about the little moments we can steal away because we are never afforded a lot.
TheCelebrityCafe: How do you define success?
Well, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I feel like I’ve been successful when maybe the work that I’ve done in the world impacts people in different ways. When people say, oh I read your book and it changed my life. Or, I saw your show and it inspired me to do this for myself, start this business or get out of a bad relationship. These are all things that people have told me. I think it’s all about levels of inspiration and how we reach people. I think that’s a big measure of success how you can reach other people. Because that’s kind of the heart of the fabric that weaves us all together.
Check out this season’s schedule of Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane on The Style Network.