Kimora Lee Simmons is larger than life.
Standing at over six-foot four in sky-scraper heels there’s nothing subtle about this model-turned-mogul. Big hair, husky voice she has the presence of a rock star or a General. It’s impossible to look away from her special brand of fabulousity. A word Kimora coined to describe, well, Kimora.
Kimora Lee Simmons is fabulous!
The model turned media mogul and reality TV star is looking forward to Mardi Gras.
“Fabulousity is confidence and feeling great about yourself,” she says, poured into a bright orange body-con dress. “And sometimes it’s about two hours of hair and make-up.”
The first thing you notice about Kimora is her legs. They’re the kind of long, lean pins that only belong to the genetically blessed. Next is her face which is an extraordinary mix of Japanese, Korean and African American heritage. It was these unique assets that catapulted her to fame at just fourteen years old. But being tall and bi-racial hasn’t always opened such doors. “It was tough for me at school… trying to blend in and get along with other kids. I was an oddity and kids are scared of things they don’t understand.”
Kimora Lee Simmons was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1975. Her father, Vernon Whitlock Jr., was the first African American Deputy Federal Marshal of the city but later went to jail on corruption charges leaving Kimora’s mother Joanne Perkins to raise their daughter alone. Perkins' childhood reads a little like a character from the Joy Luck Club (Kimora's analogy). She was orphaned during the Korean War and later adopted by a US Marine family.
Kimora’s life however is much more like a Jackie Collins novel. Scouted at thirteen, she moved to Paris and within weeks was ensconced at Chanel as Karl Lagerfeld’s muse. This experience and his influence on her developed her taste for the finer things in life and her drive to succeed. “It was amazing for me. I worked with the best – Givenchy, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent – and it gave me an ability to be confident. It turned me into a CEO and a creative director and a brand.”
At seventeen she was courted by hip-hop entrepreneur, Russell Simmons. They dated on-and-off for years before marrying in St Barts in 1998. “We had fifteen amazing years together. We have two beautiful daughters - Ming Lee and Aoki Lee - he's so significant in my life - we’re still best friends.”
Russell launched the Baby Phat fashion brand with Kimora in 1999. Kimora made the move from model to designer easily and it became a partnership that would last a decade and make the pair millions of dollars. “It was about great timing. Russell is a genius and we really created the idea of a personal brand. It was the genesis of taking star power and creating a lifestyle and a product to sell with it.”
In Sydney to promote ‘Kimora: House of Fab” (Mondays, 8.30 on the Style Network), her new reality show reveals the inner-workings of her latest empire and its main players. JustFab is a shopping portal which sells everything from killer heels to skinny jeans, all at just $39.95 each. “I don’t believe that fashion should exclude people – I have always been about making it accessible to everyone.”
Simmons says that sharing her life for the cameras has come more easily than she expected. Does she see herself as different from other reality stars such as the Kardashians? “I wont talk specifically, but generally a lot of shows within the genre are quite negative and aggressive – my show is positive and also I have a business and a job. The show is about my work, [it is] not my work.”
At 37, she’s single again after divorcing husband Number Two, the father of her son Kenzo Lee, actor Djimon Hounsou. Has she learned any lessons about love? “I’ve had two good marriages with amazing children and still have these great guys in my life. I’m lucky, always hopeful... I love my life.”
Kimora: House Of Fab premieres Monday, March 4th at 8:30pm AEDT only on Style.