The truth about Russell Simmons' ex-wife, Kimora Lee

Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner, known professionally as Kimora Lee Simmons, is so much more than just Russell Simmons' ex-wife. The entrepreneur took her modeling career into her own hands at the young age of 13, when she signed with Chanel. According to JustFab.TV, legendary Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld crowned the young model "the Face of the 21st Century."

With her picturesque face and stride, Simmons went on to work with many esteemed fashion lines — including Fendi, Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, and Yves Saint Laurent — before designing her own label in 1998 under the umbrella of Russell's men's streetwear brand, Phat Farm. Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons gained a fortune of $70 million under Simmons' leadership as Chief Executive and Creative Director, per Crain's New York Business.

Outside of fashion, Simmons has also created a name for herself in philanthropy, beauty, music, and literature. Her influence reaches far and wide, well outside of her highly publicized relationship with Russell. Let's take a look.

Kimora and Russell had a major age gap

Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons married in December of 1998. According to The Grio, the two met at 1992 New York Fashion Week when Kimora Lee was 17 and Russell was 35. Their surprising age gap was brought to public attention again in 2018, after the hip-hop mogul faced over a dozen accusations of sexual assault, including multiple rape allegations.

Per The Jasmine Brand, Russell defended his relationship with Kimora in a since-deleted Instagram comment by saying "she was legal at 17 But she turned 18 that may her mother and her manager Bethann Hardison approved supported and Rushed us (we really didn't need a push) and the love affair began."

Kimora responded to the litany of allegations against her ex-husband on Instagram, saying, "These allegations against him are nothing like the person I have known in all that time. I have known him to be a caring and supporting father and someone who has worked tirelessly to uplift disenfranchised communities."

Prior to their separation in 2006, the two had daughters Ming Lee in 2000 and Aoki Lee in 2002, who both take after their parents in multiple ways.

Kimora made her mark in multiple industries

After divorcing Russell Simmons, Kimora Lee Simmons went on to have three more children with her next two partners, Djimon Hounsou and current husband Tim Leissner (via Us Weekly). In addition to being a mom of five, model, and fashion mogul, Kimora Lee Simmons expanded her brand into TV by hosting the 1998 TV show, One World Music Beat, and the 2004 lifestyle talk show Life and Style (via IMDb).

Simmons also appeared in Season 1 of Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model and also the show's spin-off, Germany's Next Top Model. She decided to be the face of her own show in 2007 with E!'s Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, which followed Simmons and her daughters Ming Lee and Aoki Lee. The unique reality show — which Simmons also produced — lasted for four seasons and gave fans a look into her relationship with her then-boyfriend Djimon and ex-husband Russell.

Simmons has also appeared in both music videos and video games, and in addition to her small-screen appearances, she was in high demand for the big screen too. She appeared in Beauty Shop, Brown Sugar, and Waist Deep.

Kimora relaunched Baby Phat, with a new twist

On International Women's Day in 2019, Kimora Lee Simmons bought and relaunched the iconic Baby Phat brand to a new wave of streetwear lovers. The announcement came from the entrepreneur herself during the UN Women and the Gender Innovation Coalition for Change, per WWD.

"It means so much to me personally to be involved with UN Women — the impactful work they do resonates with women worldwide. What compels me most is not just its endeavor to bring awareness to gender equality, but the actionable agendas this group creates to facilitate actual change by innovating new standards," she said (via WWD).

Both of Simmons' daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee, are actively involved in designing the new Baby Phat, per Teen Vogue. Ming is also a brand ambassador model for the brand. She's also modeled for CR Fashion Book, Nessy Swimwear, and Disrupshion Magazine.

While Ming — whose Instagram bio jokingly reads, "(insert whatever inspirational quote my sister has in bio)" — graces magazine pages, her sister Aoki Lee focuses her time and energy on activism and education (though she also has a bit of Baby Phat modeling under her sleeve). She was accepted to Harvard University at just 16 years old in 2019, per E! News. 

Clearly, Ming and Aoki are destined for greatness — and as Simmons' daughters, they have quite the role model to guide them along the way.