Her name is synonymous with glamour, style and tenacity. She first burst on to the fashion scene at the tender age of 13 as a muse for Karl Lagerfeld and signed a modelling contract with Chanel. Fast forward 22 years and she continues to excite and provoke the world with her larger than life personality, Baby Phat fashion line and reality show, Life in the Fab Lane. She recently married the actor Djimon Hounsou and had a baby, but this stunning mother of three isn’t taking her foot off the gas yet! Kimora Lee Simmons takes five from her busy schedule to let us in on the secrets to her fabulosity, family life and fashion empire.
What excites you most about life when you wake up in the morning?
My family, my children and life itself! Every day is a new day and it’s yours to conquer.
You’re famous for the term fabulosity – what is your fabulosity mantra?
Fabulosity is more than a philosophy: it’s a way of life. I invented the term to define the qualities I love: glamour, style, charisma and heart. It’s the way I live my life every day.
How would you describe the Baby Phat woman?
She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it! She understands that fashion bestows authority and power to the wearer. She lives large and lets her style tell the world ‘I’m here so clear some room’. She understands the importance of incorporating heels into her daily routine – they make her taller, walk with a strut, and give her presence.
Wow that’s super-confident! As the ultimate business diva, what advice would you give young entrepreneurs?
Every day you have to get up and put on your best game face. You’re the best example of what you’re trying to say and do and you are pushing a product: you are the believer; you are the one who’s done the work, has the knowledge and
will bring that to other people.
What’s the toughest lesson you’ve learned as a business woman?
Be a lady 99 per cent of the time, but in that one per cent instance when you need to be a bitch – be it! Own it! Do it!
You were teased at school because of your height – how did you deal with that?
By the time I was ten years old, I was 5 foot 10. I didn’t fit in with other kids because of this and because of my racial mix [Japanese/black], I couldn’t really identify with other kids. It was difficult but it makes you strong. My mother saw the advantage of my height and enrolled me in a modelling class when I was 11 years old. People say to me now that I have beautiful caramel skin. What most of them don’t know is that it’s thick skin too.
What advice would you give to a girl in a similar situation?
I want young women to understand that being fabulous is something that’s inside you: it’s your spirit, it’s your energy. My message is that you have the drive inside you to go be a great citizen that other people look up to.
Who inspired you to chase your dreams?
People like Karl Lagerfeld taught me everything I know about the fashion industry. I took what I learnt and turned it into so much more. I saw the people in the fashion industry and knew this was where my heart belonged.
Do you find it hard balancing bringing up your children and running successful enterprises?
It’s definitely harder raising the children. I want them all to grow up to be well-rounded, grounded, loving, caring, sensitive individuals. That’s the single biggest challenge of my life. Work comes after my children. But it’s one of my babies too.
How do you keep life normal for your kids?
It’s hard growing up in the public eye – people talk about your spots, dating and break-ups. I love the craziness of Hollywood, but I want my kids to have normal lives full of laughter.
Is teaching them about all of their cultural influences important to you?
I’m so proud of my heritage and the children’s heritage. We’ve got a little bit of everything going on there! I just want my children to know that they are beautiful and loved.
You found love again after divorcing. Was it easier second time around?
I think if you’re open to love, it will come to you. I feel like my family has grown into a very good space. I’m just very, very happy. My husband is such a great force in my life. He really helps me to feel grounded. Our son definitely takes after him – he’s so laid-back!
You star in a reality show – there must be times you wish the cameras were off?
The thing I love most about my show [Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane on Sky] is that it’s real and everyone can watch it. You wouldn’t be embarrassed to watch my show with your granny. There are moments when you do something silly or embarrassing which you wished the camera crew hadn’t filmed, but you can’t take it out or edit it because that’s life!
What’s next in the fab lane for you?
I’m expanding the Baby Phat brand internationally, I have a new fashion line Kouture by Kimora, and I have fragrances, jewellery, cosmetics and shoes. There’s so much work still to do!
Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane is on at 8pm on The Style Network (Sky 253)
Interview by Mary Bello