What You Don't Know About Kimora Lee Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons has been in the public consciousness since she entered the modeling industry at the young age of 13, and she has undeniably made her mark on fashion and culture in general. Simmons was essentially discovered at a modeling conference, where she was signed by an agency that soon sent her to Paris, France to shoot a campaign for Chanel (via Coveteur).

Since then, it's hard to identify something that Simmons hasn't tried her hand at, especially when it comes to fashion and design. She founded Baby Phat, an extension of ex-husband Russell Simmons' Phat Farm, in 1999, focusing on women of color at a time when diversity wasn't exactly the norm (via Elle). She continued to work as a model for years, becoming close friends with heavyweights such as Tyra Banks (per Hello! Magazine). She's no stranger to reality TV, having participated in her show "Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane" from 2007 to 2011.

These days, Simmons runs the beauty brand JustFab and is mom to four kids: daughters Aoki and Ming Lee Simmons and sons Kenzo Lee Hounsou and Wolfe Lee Leissner. Here's a look at what you might not know about Kimora Lee Simmons.

She is the creative director at JustFab

While many people might recognize Kimora Lee Simmons from her time as a model or even her experience as a reality TV star, she is also the creative director at the beauty and fashion brand JustFab. The site offers a personalized shopping experience for customers who are seeking access to celebrity stylists, offering a membership-driven platform with options that work with most budgets (per Women's Wear Daily). Customers can peruse everything from sunglasses to denim to bags and purses.

Simmons took over the reins at JustFab in September 2011. As she explained to Women's Wear Daily, taking over the post felt like a natural extension of her work for the brand. As she said, "I can't even remember my official first day in the office, but I feel like this has been months in the making." Simmons went on to add that she had high hopes for the site, and noted that she ultimately believed it could become representative of her life. She explained, "I see it growing into a lifestyle brand that reflects my whole world, from work to home to kids."

Simmons also made it clear that when it comes to JustFab's customers, it's important for them to understand that she is really the person behind the screen. She added, "That's really me giving fashion tips, talking to them in the ads, answering their questions, and wearing the products."

Kimora Lee Simmons' daughter is a shoe designer

Kimora Lee Simmons is far from the only one in the family who has an interest in fashion and design. In September 2021, her daughter Aoki Lee Simmons revealed her first shoe design collaboration with JustFab, and explained that the shoe line was even inspired by her mom's very first line (via People). While Aoki is currently a student at Harvard, where she studies political science, she also works as a model ⁠— again, just like her mom.

Aoki told People that she is completely enamored with her shoe line. She praised a few of the designs and noted as a whole that "I'm getting a very chic, high-fashion vibe. I really love how everything looks super high-end. I don't think shoes have to be expensive to look classy." Aoki also revealed to the publication that while her mom has been a big part of the inspiration behind her line, she didn't seek her approval before launch. As she said, "I haven't even texted her a photo, but I'm sure she'll love it."

Although she is excited about her shoe line, Aoki also told People that she ultimately would like modeling to be her full-time pursuit.

She began modeling when she was 13

To say Kimora Lee Simmons has been working for most of her life isn't an understatement. She began modeling back when she was only 13 years old. She also began her career with a bang, signing a deal with Chanel in Paris when she was still on the cusp of her teen years. Simmons has been honest about her time as a young model; in 2013, she told Hello! Magazine that there is a lot that girls who want to follow in her footsteps should keep in mind. "I would say there are definitely pitfalls and you have to be careful and keep your head on your shoulders," she said. "But the business is a lot of fun, that's for sure."

It turns out that part of the reason Simmons went into modeling in the first place is that her mother put her in classes. As she told Coveteur, "I didn't realize this at the time, but my mom put me in modeling lessons to have more confidence and better posture — I was 6 feet tall, and wouldn't stand up straight. I felt like the ugliest duckling in the world. I took a variety of workshops, and people said, 'If you want to give this modeling thing a go, you could.'" One thing led to another, and Simmons was signed by Marilyn Gaultier at a modeling conference.

Kimora values a healthy work-life balance

People who are as busy as Kimora Lee Simmons usually have to become great at one major thing: balancing their work lives and their personal lives. Simmons has been open about the fact that making things work as a wife, mother, and business owner isn't easy, and she does have a team of people who help her make sure everyone's needs are met, including her own. 

As she told Essence in October 2020, making everything work for everyone she loves is all about balance. As she put it, while she is a celebrity and a powerhouse in the fashion world, she's still also a real person who has to face a lot of the same situations that the rest of us do. For starters, her kids have to go to school, and they have needs that must be met. "I do normal stuff, I'm a normal mother and I'm a very hardworking woman, and I have hundreds of products and many businesses that I do," she said. "I just try to juggle everything, try to prioritize what's really important."

When it comes to finding time for herself, Simmons told Essence that she enjoys exercising on the treadmill to stay healthy and fit. "I try not to be neurotic, I try to create and present healthy body image," she said.

She is a strict mom with her kids

Kimora Lee Simmons has four children: Wolfe Lee Leissner with her husband Tim Leissner, Ming Simmons and Aoki Summers with her ex-husband Russell Simmons, and Kenzo with her former partner Djimon Hounsou (per People). When it comes to her children, Simmons is ultra-protective. In fact, she's so protective that she didn't allow her kids to have cell phones for quite some time. As she explained to Yahoo! Entertainment in 2010, her two daughters were restricted from quite a lot. She said, "I'm very guarded about my kids. They don't have cell phones or BlackBerrys. They don't wear two-piece bikinis or makeup."

Of course, Simmons did feature all three children on her reality series "Fab Lane. During the Yahoo! interview, she noted, "Yes, they're on TV, but it's only for very guided, guarded moments."

This checks out with an earlier interview about parenting that Simmons gave to People in 2007. She told the publication that she has high expectations for her kids, and she's concerned about every part of their lives. As she said, "I'm very strict with my kids. I let them be free and happy, but I expect respect, discipline, and self-control. I'm always with them or on the phone checking every little thing. Did they flush the toilet? What did they eat? What time did they go to bed? I'm a very hands-on mother."

Kimora Lee Simmons was Karl Lagerfeld's muse

When Kimora Lee Simmons began modeling at 13 years old, she immediately made an impact. As Entertainment Tonight has noted, at the time, the fashion industry wasn't well-versed when it came to recognizing and supporting the value of diversity. As a young model, Simmons had to deal with a lot of stereotypes and was described as "exotic" by the fashion world due to her Japanese-African descent.

However, she continued to press forward, and was soon working with none other than fashion powerhouse Karl Lagerfeld. She has since been described as the designer's muse, a designation that catapulted her into superstardom. She told Entertainment Tonight in 2020 that this kind of attention isn't always easy for people to handle, especially at a young age. As she said, "I think it's something that I think you have to be pretty stable for, because everyone says, yes, I want it — and then, when it hits you, you don't know what to do with it. Some people do get caught up in it and it totally knocks them over. But as far as I'm concerned right now, it's fine."

She is of Japanese, Korean, and African American descent

Kimora Lee Simmons hails from a diverse ethnic and racial background. Her mother is Korean and Japanese and her father is a Black American (via Vibe). While she is abundantly proud of her background, she's been honest about the fact that she's had to wade through a lot of challenges when she was first starting out as a model, because the industry wasn't quite prepared for someone who looks like her.

As Simmons told Vibe, "Well, being a model of mixed ancestry may be fun and hot and hip and cool today, but years ago, there were a lot of casting agents and brands that didn't know what to do with me." She went on to add that it became crucial to make sure she was working with people who understood that her ethnic makeup is a huge strength and something to celebrate, not something to diminish or try to hide. Ultimately, doing so is what helped her go on to be successful in so many avenues and pathways. 

Simmons had to face these challenges and instances of discrimination in her personal life, too. She once told Entertainment Tonight that because she was already 6 feet tall at the age of 15, she was often picked on by her peers at school. As she put it, "I know inside I was so much more fabulous than that, so I just had to roll with the punches."

Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons were married for 7 years

Kimora Lee Simmons met her first husband, entrepreneur and record executive Russell Simmons, in 1994, when both were attending events at New York Fashion Week. They got married four years later in 1998 (per The New York Times). Their relationship was shrouded in a bit of controversy, however, because Russell is a full 31 years older than Kimora, and many believed that he began dating the young model when she was still underage. In fact, Russell has had to defend their time together more than once. In a since-deleted Instagram comment (via The Jasmine Brand), he said, "We got to know each other ... and by May we were dating. She was legal at 17 ... but she turned 18 that May. Her mother and her manager Bethann Hardison approved, supported, and rushed us (we really didn't need a push) and the love affair began."

Kimora and Russell share two daughters, Aoki and Ming. Kimora has been open about their co-parenting journey. She once told The Frisky (via Heavy) that she doesn't shy away from fighting for what she thinks is in the best interest of her girls, but she does try to toe the line and keep things upbeat and civil with their dad. As she put it, "We had some issues and some fights and I had to stand up for what I believe in, and he had to say, 'You're being a little too pushy.' And I said, 'I don't care — it's my kids!' When it comes to parenting with the ex, you have to be respectful and try to be considerate and you always have to think of the children first."

She used to run Baby Phat

Kimora Lee Simmons started the clothing brand Baby Phat in 1999 as a side-by-side business that paired with her then-husband Russell Simmons' Phat Farm. Offering clothing, shoes, and accessories for girls and women, Baby Phat celebrated body positivity during a time when the concept wasn't entirely en vogue, according to Elle. The brand celebrated Black culture and bodies, bringing on celebrities such as Lil Kim to walk the runway and represent Baby Phat.

In October 2020, Simmons launched an extension of the brand called Baby Phat Beauty, which focused on the beauty industry. This endeavor also allowed her to bring daughters Aoki and Ming into the fold. Together, they developed the Shimmer Dreams Kit, which is made up of hand lotion, body spray, and lip gloss. Simmons told Elle that Black women and women of color were at the center of the development process. She explained, "It's very important to me to always keep multiculti, ethnic, women of color [in mind]. I'd like to bring these young women along on my ride. Black beauty and beauty for women of color is important, and it's an important time, so I figured what better way than to jump in with a little kit."

Kimora Lee Simmons secretly married Tim Leissner in 2014

Kimora Lee Simmons began dating Tim Leissner in 2013 after she and boyfriend Djimon Hounsou broke up. She married Leissner in February 2014, though the news didn't come out publicly for a few days. In fact, no one knew Simmons and Leissner were married until it became clear that she was expecting her fourth child with the banker. The details of her marital status were revealed by none other than her ex-husband, according to Us Weekly.

However, things between Simmons and Leissner began to break down in February 2022, when the banker revealed in court that he had faked a divorce to be able to marry Simmons (via the New York Post). Leissner admitted to photoshopping a divorce decree, and even admitted that he asked ex-wife Judy Chan Leissner to help him pay a down payment for a home for himself and Simmons, despite the fact that he and Judy were still legally married.

Leissner also admitted to having taken part in several affairs, though it appears that they took place before his marriage to Simmons. In court testimony, he admitted that one woman blackmailed him into buying her a $10 million home after he told her he was ending their relationship to get married, per the New York Post.