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Vanessa Simmons: Focused & In Control

Thanks to her entrepreneurial spirit and creation of a niche market in the design and development of Pastry shoe brand with little sister Angela, the term “role model” instantly became synonymous with Vanessa Simmons. That, and of course being the hip-hop heir to Rev. Run and uncle Russell Simmons.

However, the weight held within the title is one that celebrities, at times, shy away from due to its pedestal-like nature and indirect dare to do something “not so perfect.”

As for Vanessa, she feared it.

“That was very scary because I was afraid to make any mistakes, being held in such high regards, you know, because I’m human. So I was really nervous about that,” she shared with JET.

Since sharing parts of her life on screen through two reality series Run’s House and the spin-off Daddy’s Girls, the eldest of the Simmons’ clan has navigated a career filled with creative direction in fashion and beauty, acting and most recently a hosting gig on Project Runway’s Threads. Her best role yet, however, is becoming a mommy to now one-year-old Ava Marie. 

In this JET interview, we talk to the entrepreneur about growing up Simmons, motherhood and revitalizing her brand.

JET: Many of us grew up watching your family on TV and seeing you and your sister become the curators of your entrepreneurial endeavors. What has the evolution and journey been like in womanhood and fashion for Vanessa Simmons?

Vanessa Simmons: It’s funny. I’ve always felt like not a girl, but not yet a woman. Me becoming a mother, I feel like has helped me transform into the woman I’ve always been meant to be. Being a mother has truly showed me that anything is possible. When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was so scared and afraid that I wasn’t even ready to be a mother. But on the day that I had my daughter, in the delivery room, and this is the God-honest truth, all my fears dropped and I felt like I had no choice. It was like “Okay, now you are a mother” and through that, I feel like I officially became a woman. I’ve had success early on, but I feel like now, fully I’m a woman. There’s something that happens after you have a child and pushes that “off” button “on.” I have arrived!

JET: My best friend is a first-time mother, we both just turned 30, and her son will be one in August and she was sharing with me how her entire focus just changed when she became a mother. How has becoming a mother changed your perspective on life?

Vanessa Simmons: I was turning 30 when I had my daughter. And dealing with turning 30 was also like this whole new world that was about to be thrown to me, But it’s been amazing, honestly. It was crazy that I was growing this human being inside of me and then gave birth to her. My entire perspective on life…honestly, I was shown that I could really be capable of doing anything that I put my mind to. I just want to be a better person because I want to be a good example for her.

JET: You sound so at peace and happy!

Vanessa Simmons: Yeah, it’s a different kind of peace. I always think about this enormous pressure coming from such a large and strong legacy, my family made such an impact on the world and it’s just always made me feel anxious. And now that Ava is here and it’s go time, I am more at peace with my decisions and how I’m doing things. I was honestly reborn that day in the delivery room when I gave birth to my daughter.

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JET: I can only imagine that growing up Simmons has its challenges when it comes to outside perception. What would you say is one of the biggest misconceptions?

Vanessa Simmons: Oh that you know, I’m a spoiled daddy’s girl who can just sit around and spend my family’s money. And I’m not. I’m a hard worker and have always been a hard worker. When I was in high school and in college, my dad made me get a job at the mall so that I understood work ethic and the value of a dollar. My dad was not playing with me when it came to work ethic. And it really benefitted me in the long run. Because [Ava’s] come into my life, I work 100 times harder.

JET: Yeah and we’ve witnessed that over the years from fashion to acting. Digging into the root of your style, it comes off very chic, classic and relatable to the everyday person, but definitely infuses glam. Can you talk about your view of the fashion world today and your plans in the industry?

Vanessa Simmons: I’ve always been a huge lover of fashion and I’ve been very privileged to work under Kimora when she was creating BabyPhat. I was able to attend all of her exciting shows and see how to develop a brand and me and my sister kind of did that with Pastry.

Today, I am working on a new website VanessaJSimmons.com, which will be me relating to my fans in terms of fashion. I’m working on a collaboration with some designers and brands that I love. I feel like these collaborations will really show my growth. The website will also feature a variety show that will touch on women’s fashion, fitness and inspiration. This will be the place where my fans can come and connect with me. I’m really excited about it and it will definitely be drenched in fashion and my perspective and evolution.

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JET: Sounds extremely interactive and cool! Because you’re involved in so much from fashion, to acting, to entrepreneurship, what sets your soul on fire?

Vanessa Simmons: For me, it’s my daughter now. She takes precedence over everything and really inspires me to work harder and look for ways to make myself a better person. I never would have thought years ago, that a kid would have been “it” for me. I was definitely going to wait some more time and I had other plans. But Ava has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. She makes everything better!

JET: With all that you do — when you think of legacy, what comes to mind in terms of what you want to impart on the world?

Vanessa Simmons: Being that I come from such a privileged background, I feel that my key and purpose in the world is to inspire and encourage women to be the best version of themselves. And that’s really how I live my life. It’s really uplifting my fellow sister and helping her out however I can. I take that very seriously through my philanthropic work.

Most recently I signed on to be the creative director for The Miss Teenage California Pageant, which awards thousands of dollars in scholarship funds for education. And you know pageants….people kind of look down on them, but this one is a scholarship pageant and we’re definitely encouraging women to be role models in their communities, bond together and to just be the best version of themselves. We’re awarding scholarship money for education because it’s what’s propelling our generation.

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JET: What is your attitude toward fearlessness and how do you let go of doubt?

Vanessa Simmons: Fear tends to creep up a lot. You just really have to fight it. Once I put myself up for the challenge, all the fear disappears. I think that in life, if people are facing something and seem fearful, you should just go all in and that fear will just drop off the more you become open to what you were fearful of.

JET: Do you have any final thoughts for our JET readers?

Vanessa Simmons: Keep a look out because I’m coming!