Vanessa Simmons Reveals What Aunt Kimora Taught Her About Being A ‘Strong’ Mom & Entrepreneur

Vanessa Simmons reveals how her showbiz family – especially Baby Phat creator Kimora – taught her about being a nurturer and an entrepreneur, without sacrificing self-care.

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Vanessa Simmons, 35, says that her aunt, Kimora Lee Simmons, 44, has taught her how to juggle the worlds of motherhood and business without sacrificing her own needs. The Growing Up Hip Hop star is not short of examples of how to maintain a family unit, while being an entrepreneur and an artist. Her dad is Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, the 54-year-old Run DMC hip hop legend. His brother, her uncle Russell Simmons, 61, has made an impact on the worlds of music, fashion and finance, and his ex-wife, Kimora is best known as being a model and the creator of the clothing line, Baby Phat.

Vanessa – an actress, reality TV star, co-founder of Pastry shoes and mother of Ava Marie Wayans, 5 – has happily followed her aunt’s example. “That’s when my story begins, watching Baby Phat become an empire at a young age,” she told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY at the Create & Cultivate Self Care Summit in Los Angeles on July 20. “That’s what really got me into marketing and really got me into wanting to be my own boss when I got older. Because Kimora came at a time when it was such a male dominated field and watching her just be so unapologetically her and build a strong fashion house while being a mother was so inspiring, and I was like, ‘I want to be like that when I get older.’ Watching her do that really inspired me, but then also watching her be a really strong mother is what really got me because you could be a [mom], and you can run a successful fashion business. You can do it all at the same time it just takes limits and balance and finding out what those balances are. I think it’s different for each individual person.”

When Kimora launched Baby Phat in 1998, she was still married to Vanessa’s uncle, Russell. At the height of its success – when it was beloved by everyone from Carrie Underwood and Lil Kim – the model-turned-businesswoman was raising two daughters (Ming and Aoki, now 19 and 16 respectively). “I remember the very first T-shirt that was created before it was even like anything,” Vanessa said.

Kimora Lee Simmons
Baby Phat creator and model Kimora Lee Simmons (center, in black, holding hands with daughter, Ming) is Vanessa’s aunt, the former wife of Russell Simmons. (Amy Sussman/WWD/Shutterstock)
Vanessa Simmons, Ava Marie Wayans
Vanessa Simmons with her daughter Ava Marie Wayans. (Broadimage/Shutterstock)

In March, Kimora (now a mom-of-four) announced that she’s bringing the line back after first selling the label and then parting ways with it for good in 2010. Vanessa – who just signed on to rejoin Pastry as creative director after leaving the company in 2012 – is happy to see both brands come full circle. “Kimora is always setting the bar and kind of inspiring me and I feel like this is the time where things are being revived,” the Games People Play actress said.

Despite all this excitement in her professional life, Vanessa (who is launching a skincare line called Sugar Me to bring the spa experience home) refuses to sacrifice the time to fulfill her own needs. “You got to kind of carve it out,” she told us. “Self-care doesn’t mean that you have to spend a bunch of money. It can mean going to CVS and getting the few extra products and spending a little extra time to shower. Meditation, you can do that anywhere. Transform your living room into an oasis in your mind… It’s just about loving on yourself a little more.” To Vanessa – in addition to giving yourself some “TLC” – self-care is also about getting to the “nitty gritty” and “making decisions that make you happy, that you’re passionate about.”

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