“The First Lady of Hip Hop”
—Kimora’s unofficial title
Kimora Lee-Simmons began her meteoric rise to stardom before she was even a teenager, and she has never had a chance to sit back and relax. She has traveled the globe as one of the world’s top models, hosted her own television show, appeared on the big screen, and even created her own line of clothing and accessories.
THE EARLY YEARS
Kimora Lee was born on May 3, 1975, in St. Louis. She grew up quickly, literally, where she was nearly six feet tall as a young teenager. Her height and unique looks of Japanese and African American descent were soon paying dividends as she started working as a model at age twelve. Despite the heavy time commitment of being a teenage model, she still graduated from Lutheran North High School in St. Louis. After completing her education, she hit the road full time and built a multimillion-dollar empire in the process.
RISE TO FAME
At the same time she was learning the basics of education in middle school, Simmons was also getting a real-world business education. Famous fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld took an interest in her when she was only thirteen as he personally picked her to be a model for Chanel. It was a big step for the two, but the gamble turned out great for both Chanel and Simmons. She graced the covers of magazines and walking the biggest catwalks in Europe and America, all before she could legally drive a car!
The fashion world and Hollywood were becoming synonymous during the 1980s and 1990s, where stars in each field were successfully crossing over. This was the perfect combination for Kimora, who was already a superstar model with savvy business skills. Her modeling success translated into TV shows like Fashionably Loud on MTV, America’s Next Top Model on UPN, and as co-host of the nationally syndicated talk show, Life and Style. Movies were next on her list as she landed a part on the successful movie Beauty Shop in 2005. She also helped develop a reality show for Style Network titled Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane in 2007.
Kimora enjoyed great financial success with her numerous entertainment ventures. Her insatiable work ethic also drove her to become the creative director of a line of clothing called Baby Phat. She and her then-husband, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, became some of the biggest names in the entertainment world. Phat Farm was sold in 2004 to the Kellwood Company of St. Louis for an estimated $140 million, which allowed Kimora to become president and creative director of the Baby Phat clothing line. Only in her early thirties, she has already proven her success in modeling, fashion, music, television, movies, cosmetics, jewelry, books, and housewares.
*Kimora’s foundation provides scholarships for disadvantaged students at Lutheran North High School in St. Louis.
*She won a prestigious Tony Award in 2003 for work as executive producer on Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.
*Model/actress Tyra Banks was the maid of honor at her wedding.
*Kimora and Simmons filed for divorce in 2006.