Kimora Lee Simmons Teaches Tolerance - With Lessons From Mom

As a child, model and Baby Phat CEO Kimora Lee Simmons felt the pain of being teased and ridiculed by other kids.

“Outgoing as I am today, I was a loner growing up,” she tells Working Mother. “I was a mixed-race girl with a Korean-Japanese mother and an African-American father, and none of the other kids at my school were like me. I was nearly six feet tall by the time I was 11 years old. Everything about me seemed to be a source of ridicule to other kids: my face, my height, the texture of my hair, my body shape.”

Feeling beaten down by the teasing, Kimora’s mother Joanne Perkins taught her to keep her head up. “My mother wanted me to turn my tears into something else, something positive,” Kimora explains. “She did her best to make me feel comfortable in my own skin. She always reminded me that we’re all different and that’s to be respected. ‘Put on your game face,’ she’d say. ‘Yes, it hurts, but don’t succumb to it. It will pass.'”

And pass it did — Kimora was discovered at 13 and began modeling, yet the lessons that her mother taught stayed with her. Now a mom to three, Kimora is determined to pass on what she learned to her daughters — Ming, 9 ½, and Aoki Lee, 7 — and her 10-week-old son Kenzo.

“As my mom did for me, I’m helping my own girls learn about tolerance — to respect differences in culture, religion and even the way we look. I also try to set boundaries, let them know what’s expected and give them room to develop and grow. I will do the same with my infant son.”

Kimora also makes it a point to “involve my kids in my work, so they can see that even though the balancing act [of motherhood and work] isn’t easy, it’s possible.” Having the kids involved not only gives Kimora more time to spend with them, but has also sparked Ming and Aoki’s creativity — and their mom’s as well.

“Ming and Aoki love to sew and make their own clothes. They have a real fashion sense and inspire me creatively. I listen to their ideas and often consult them, especially for Baby Phat Girlz, one of our children’s fashion lines,” Kimora says. “They love to go into my closet and pick out my clothes. Our kids help us stay youthful.”

Click below for Kimora’s mom must-haves.

As a mom working in the fashion industry, Kimora is tuned it to what’s in style — but says moms need to be realistic about what they wear as well. “We need clothes that are fashionable and functional,” she notes. “We need great basics and accessories. Every mom needs a wonderful extra large leather tote, for instance.” What else do mothers needs? “Respect,” Kimora says.

“We’re all in the same boat. We have similar fears and hopes for our kids. We bring home the bacon, and then we enjoy it with our kids. They need us and we need them. My kids and my business make my world go ’round — they’re what I live for.”

Ming and Aoki are Kimora’s children from her previous marriage to Russell Simmons, while Kenzo is her son with husband Djimon Hounsou.

Source: Working Mother

— Angela

Kimora’s Back to School Fashion Tips.

Invest in the staples.
Buy great jeans, along with cardigans, tank tops and t-shirts for boys to layer. For girls, skirts and good pairs of leggings are musts.

Buy quality, not quantity.
Shop for value. Make sure clothes are fashionable and sturdy.

Go for dashes of color.
Rely on blacks, browns and camels — accented with red and green for boys, purples and blues for girls.

Accept who they are.
Kids express their personalities in their clothes. Allow them to be creative in how they dress.

Let them be cool.
Don’t buy them styles they don’t like, thinking they’ll come around. They won’t.

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