Kimora Lee Simmons Talks Baby Phat Beauty, Running a 20-Year-Old Empire, and Kamala Harris

Beauty

When I hop on the phone with businesswoman and cultural icon Kimora Lee Simmons to discuss her new beauty line, she surprises me with the first question. “How do I say your last name?” she asks, before pronouncing it perfectly.

Simmons has done this for over 20 years: Make women of color feel seen and heard. Since Baby Phat’s launch in 1999, Simmons has celebrated diversity and body positivity, long before 15 percent pledges and black squares on Instagram.

Justyna Fijalska

DIVINE Shimmer Dreams Set

babyphat.com

$45.00

Her newest venture, Baby Phat Beauty, is an extension of the brand’s 2019 re-launch, but Simmons is no stranger to the beauty industry. “If people remember, we had a very big beauty business in fragrance—the Golden Goddess, Seductive Goddess, Fabulosity, Dare Me, Love Me. I also had KLS cosmetics,” she says. “It’s not something that we’re new to, and it just seemed like a great time for a reintroduction.”

This time around, Simmons got help from her young daughters Ming and Aoki. The trio created the Shimmer Dreams Kit, featuring a high-shine lipgloss, moisturizing hand lotion, and body spray. “It’s very important to me to always keep multiculti, ethnic, women of color [in mind],” Simmons adds. “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.”

baby phat beauty

Baby Phat Beauty

Ahead, Simmons talks about her new line, Kamala Harris’s historic VP nomination, and how the beauty industry can create actionable change.

How has it been working with your daughters?

Ming and Aoki are a part of the next generation. Business and lifestyle have taken a change, especially now in this pandemic. Things are shifting online and on social media, so Gen Z, Gen Y, and millennials need to have that voice. That’s what Ming and Aoki bring to the table. Aoki is 18, she goes to Harvard, and Ming is 20. It’s very important and exciting because the girls have grown up in the business, behind the scenes, making clothes, designing things, boardroom tables, etc.

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What beauty advice have you given your girls?

Simple things, like wash your face before you go to bed. I think a big concept for our family and also as a brand is this concept of high-low. We love our beauty products, and people send us things, and we love trying things, but there are also basic products found everywhere from the dollar stores to the drugstores that are also very good. I think the concept of high-low and the idea that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to take care of your skin, body, or mind. Self-care is essential.

What’s a Baby Phat facebeat ?

Justyna Fijalska

Ethereal Shimmer Dreams Set

BEAUTY
babyphat.com

$45.00

It’s very glossy. It’s flirty, fun, sexy, feminine. It’s the gloss, and it’s shimmer, and it’s pink. That’s our color. It’s empowering. I think it represents a powerful movement. The [Baby Phat Girl] is a multiculti beauty, a multiethnic beauty, a woman of all shades, all sizes, and all hair tones and textures. That’s something that we have represented for 20-something years.

Your brand has promoted body positivity and diversity since the beginning. What steps can the industry take to keep improving in those areas?

It’s a very important time to speak on social justice. Brands will say, “Oh, we embrace all shapes and sizes and all colors and hair types.” But if you look back, they don’t. A lot of brands have been there for a while and they don’t. You can see everything nowadays, it’s documented very easily. So when we make comments saying we never had someone that looked like us in their pages or on their products, we know that.

Watch what people do, versus what they say, and make sure that those things go together. That’s also part of the idea of the next generation of beauty. We should own [responsiblity] from beginning to end. [Brands] need to make sure that we have a seat at the table, that we have a voice, that we are being properly represented. So I mentor people in the beauty and fashion space. I’m always trying to give back a little bit of my time or things that I’ve learned.

Who are some Black businesswomen you think are killing it right now?

I love Rihanna. I love Beyonce. Gabrielle Union is doing a lot, and I love her. [Fenty Beauty] came out with all the spectrum’s shades for all the skin tones. To have someone nowadays, continuing that type of work that we started so long ago is very important. I love that she’s doing that, and some [of the products] are probably a little bit pricey. It’s a bit mid-priced, I would say. I think it’s essential to be represented at all ranges. I like what Iman has done or Beverly Johnson. Iman has done a lot in beauty and cosmetics.

A portion of proceeds from the Shimmer Dreams Kits will be donated to Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight initiative. How did Baby Phat Beauty get involved?

These days leading up to the election, it’s important that we all do our part to activate these young voters, 18 to 35. So we want to educate them about voter suppression and prepare them for this experience that they’re getting into and help them cast their ballot.

Suppression of voters of color is a big travesty right now. There are people out there that will try to take away your right to vote. So we have to keep up in that fight, and we know Stacey Abrams fell short in her bid for the governor, but it was such a slim margin. She didn’t stop. She kept going. So we want to get out there and make sure that we have rights and that we are represented.

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Will you be watching the Vice Presidential debate?

Absolutely, yes.

I don’t know if you saw, but Kamala Harris is on the cover of ELLE’s November issue.

I didn’t see that yet! [Kamala] is really exciting. We need more women, we need more people of color. I think that she’s very powerful in moving that needle and pushing that agenda forward.

Is Kamala a Baby Phat Girl?

Absolutely. I hope so! She represents a fearless fight for justice for what’s right. A certain kind of beauty. We want to push that agenda forward. So, absolutely. I would say that she is a strong advocate and absolutely represents a Baby Phat Girl. That’s it.

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