OK, so Vanessa Simmons needs zero introduction. We've all been watching her for years, literally, on reality shows Run’s House and Daddy’s Girls, but at 33, she's no longer a girl, and as an entrepreneur, mother and model, she seems to be doing an excellent job of standing on her own, sans dad. When I meet Vanessa, I'm early, really early, to crashing the set of her new campaign with Colgate. She greets me with a glowing smile, fitting. I watch her work from afar and when she's done, we sit down to talk about her burgeoning ventures. It’s clear to me that while she might still be daddy’s girl… she’s also making her own noise as a powerful woman.
Vanessa, who is in front of the camera today, just debuted her most recent project, a fashion line (co-created by Project Runway alum Candice Cuoco) called “Bad Butterfly.” They showed at LA Fashion Week. To Simmons, the butterfly is “symbolic of how we as women are ever-evolving, ever-changing and how we become more powerful through our experiences and our stories,” she says.
“And 'bad' doesn’t mean bad,” she adds, explaining the meaning behind the line’s name. “Bad means good… like badass.”
Vanessa says she wants to dress women to not only “look pretty but to feel powerful,” adding that she’s “always felt like [her] job in life is to empower and inspire women to be all they can be… to embrace who they are and where they are in the moment.”
not that busy superhuman, Vanessa also does this through her lifestyle blog, www.vanessajsimmons.com, where readers get everything from confidence challenges to tips and tricks on how to become a mega-mogul. It is not easy to put yourself out there like this, but if you spend just a single minute perusing her site, you can see that Vanessa cares deeply about her readers and the message that she sends. Additionally, as the co-owner and creative director of Miss Teenage California, Simmons embraces being a voice for women of color, saying, “If it’s giving back to the community in a positive way, I’m OK with taking on that pressure.”
“It’s all about empowering our women from a young age,” Vanessa says about Miss Teenage California, a scholarship pageant that awards $25,000 to young women for their education. The competition has no swimsuit portion and is “about crowning the young lady who is goal oriented and really wants to go somewhere in life,” Vanessa explains.
Inspiring her daughter, Ava, whom she calls her “best accomplishment”, is essential. “I want her to have a positive image to look up to. There’s a lot of riff-raff going on in the world – some of it’s fun, some of it’s good – but I want to make sure I set a positive example for my daughter so she sees that at home.”
Vanessa credits Ava as one of her greatest sources of confidence and is quick to answer “my daughter” when I ask what makes her smile.
Partnering with Colgate for its newest whitening beauty product, Radiant by Optic White, is a perfect fit, given Vanessa’s recent entrance into the beauty blogging world and her naturally radiant smile. In addition to the cosmetic, whitening aspect, the product is “actually really, really working on your teeth from the inside out. It’s for your oral health too, which is super important.”
Vanessa is currently filming a third season of Growing Up Hip Hop, which she describes as “a little bit more mature [than Run’s House and Daddy’s Girls]” and “highlights how [the ensemble cast are] building our own empires, coming up under parents who were so influential.”
Family is important to Vanessa, who says her “super strong” parents are her “greatest inspiration,” and reveals that the best advice she’s ever been given is from “one of the coolest people” she knows, her dad.
The advice: “Do your best and forget the rest” is something she uses all the time, saying, “we can get so wrapped up, trying to do so much, trying to hit all these goals, but honestly the only thing we can do is just do our best and let everything else fall where it may.”
Speaking about her celebrated last name, she confesses, “Having the last name is both a blessing and – I won’t say a curse, it’s not a curse – but a blessing and a hindrance.” The blessings being that she “grew up with all this amazing stuff and amazing people to watch growing up” but the hindrance, she feels, is that “people don’t allow [the Simmons kids] to grow at a normal rate.”
She says she feels like the world looks at them with an attitude of “You came from this family, you should be a unicorn already.” Being the oldest of seven kids, Vanessa admits she’s used to the pressure but adds, “It takes time to grow that horn; it takes time to become a unicorn, you have to give us that time.”
Vanessa describes herself as “constantly evolving” and trying “every day to be a better version” of herself, so if you ask her if she’s the unicorn everyone expects her to be, she answers, “I don’t feel like I have [the horn] yet… but I think I’m definitely getting close.”
But eight years since the end of Daddy’s Girls, Vanessa is going about her business, making a name for herself while doing her already famous name justice.
(Photo: Michael Rowe Photography via UWG Gina Torres, Digital PR Director)
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