From her days on reality TV to her memorable runway moments, get to know Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons' 16-year-old daughter

By Colleen Kratofil
March 29, 2019 02:53 PM
Kimora Lee Simmons/Instagram

Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons are two proud parents!

On Thursday, Kimora, 43, announced on Instagram that Aoki Lee, her daughter that she co-parents with ex-husband Russell, has been accepted into Harvard — and the whole family couldn’t contain their excitement on social media.

Kimora gushed in a series of emotional Instagram videos and stories about how proud she was of her daughter. Russell, 61, congratulated his ex and his daughter on both of their accomplishments. And of course, Aoki shared the news as well, posting a video of herself reading the acceptance letter.

While it’s a feat to get into the Ivy League school at any age, Aoki, Simmons’ younger daughter, accomplished the task at age 16. But she’s no stranger to attention; look back at the college-bound teen’s life, from her baby model moments to her reality show spotlight.

She made her runway debut as a toddler.

Aoki first took a turn on the runway at 18 months old, joining older sister Ming Lee to celebrate mom Kimora during the final bow for her Baby Phat fashion line in 2004. Aoki was so young at the time, she was carried on her mom’s hip.

Throughout the rest of her childhood, Aoki and Ming continued to be by their mom’s side at every runway show. Below, Aoki, Ming and their brother, Kenzo Lee Hounsou, (Kimora’s older son with her partner at the time, actor Djimon Hounsou) all supported their mom at the Baby Phat and KSL Collection show in September 2009.

She starred on a reality show as a kid.

From 2007 to 2011, Kimora’s reality TV series, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, ran on E! and focused on her life raising daughters Ming (now 19), Aoki and son Kenzo, 9, while documenting her relationships with then-boyfriend Djimon Hounsou and ex-husband Russell Simmons. From running Baby Phat design meetings to taking her kids back-to-school shopping (you can see the cute clip here), Kimora shared everything for the camera, including many memorable scenes raising Aoki.

She’s close with her family.

Kimora and Russell separated in 2006, but Aoki is very close with both parents. She recently traveled to Bali with Russell, where she co-hosted a fundraiser for earthquake and tsunami victims.

And she regularly shares sweet moments with her two younger brothers, Kenzo and Wolfe, 3 (whose dad is Kimora’s husband, Tim Leissner), on Instagram.

She spent the summer volunteering in Europe.

Throughout the summer months in 2018, Aoki documented her time helping The Unmentionables’ refugee resource center in Athens and her work as the youngest archaeologist on the Pollentia Roman dig in Spain on her Instagram account.

She didn’t just get accepted to Harvard…

Aoki also got accepted into “Dartmouth, Vassar, Barnard etc.,” her proud mom Kimora wrote in an Instagram caption.

…and her mom wants you to know she did “on her own merit.”

In emotional videos shared to her Instagram Story, Kimora praised her daughter for getting into the school on her own – and poked fun at the celebrity parents involved in the college admissions scandal at the same time. “I’m still crying and beaming,” Kimora said in the video. “You don’t understand this has been a ride for me. I’m two out of two kids in college. I have two boys left, I don’t know if I can do it… Quite honestly she really did it on her own merit and we’re so really proud.”

“Aoki can’t row or anything like that. There was really no hope for us in that area. I’m just so proud that you did it on your own… Praise the Lord,” Kimora says in the video, referencing the college admissions scandal allegedly involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. (Loughlin is accused of paying $500,000 to an admissions fixer to have her daughters admitted to USC as “members of the rowing team”.)

She’s close with Sean “Diddy” Combs and his kids, including his twin daughters with ex Kim Porter.

Aoki regularly posts selfies and pics with Diddy’s daughters: Chance, his eldest daughter with ex Sarah Chapman, and D’Lila and Jessie, his twins with late ex Kim Porter (pictured below). At the time of Porter’s death, Aoki referred to the model/actress as a “second mom” in an Instagram tribute featuring a photo of Porter as a bridesmaid at Kimora and Russell’s 1998 wedding.

She’s helping mom Kimora re-launch her iconic fashion line, Baby Phat.

In addition to her college studies, Aoki will be stepping in (along with sister Ming) to assist her mother in re-launching the Baby Phat fashion line.

Kimora launched the line in 1999 as part of then-husband Russell’s Phat Fashions company, and it took off – but by 2010, she exited her role as creative director when it became a part of the Kellwood Company. In 2019 she bought it back to give it new life with help from her daughters. “This is a woman-owned company, run by me and my daughters,” Kimora told PEOPLE. “I’ve been in fashion for 30 years. But now it’s about passing the torch from one to the next.”

Kimora Lee Simmons/Instagram

“It’s going to be an ode to the past but then they will pick it up where we left off,” she said at the time. “They are involved in every aspect of the business. Ming studies business and fashion in college in New York, and Aoki is in Los Angeles and will be in college next year. They’re very much innovators and influencers. We’re like the Three Musketeers.”

Their first collection is set to launch in May or June.

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