“I don’t regret it,” Aoki, 21, told Teen Vogue in her cover story, which was published on Tuesday, September 12, referring to her decision to call out her dad online. “Part of it was already out there. There were reasons I thought it was reasonable to publish because it was playing out in, like, a silent bubble.”
Aoki’s family made headlines in June when her older sister, Ming Lee Simmons, shared a Father’s Day tribute to their mother, Kimora Lee Simmons, without addressing Russell, 65. (Russell and Kimora, 48, were married from 1998 to 2009.)
Russell subsequently took to Instagram, seemingly alleging that Kimora interfered in his relationship with his kids. “Stop telling fathers they should have fought harder to see their children and start asking mothers why he had to fight at all,” read a quote he shared at the time.
Aoki later chimed in, publicly refuting Russell’s claims. “My father is not well, for years, he needs help and won’t accept that he refuses to acknowledge he is not himself,” she wrote in a since-deleted Instagram note, posting screenshots of their past texts. “He has threatened and bullied my sister, my grandma … He lashes out at ANYONE who does not say, ‘Ooh Russell everything is fine.’ Well it’s not fine.”
Aoki even accused her father of verbal abuse, which Russell has denied. Kimora, for her part, fervently supported her daughter speaking out via her Instagram Story.
Russell issued a public apology to both Aoki and Ming, 23, later that month. “God is testing you a little bit, it’s OK, be strong,” he wrote via Instagram. “They are called growing pains … as you know, we grow through adversity and struggle … you read my books and heard me preach your whole childhood … reach back to old lessons and remember to remember ‘smile and breathe’ ❤️ ‘smile and breathe’ … you are the watchers of this world … so let go … be at ease.”
He continued: “God is driving and he is working on you ❤️. DEEPLY sorry for being frustrated and yelling … but know this … there are no conditions … for sure I love you guys more than I love myself.”
In her Teen Vogue cover story — her first with a major magazine — Aoki further noted that she’s chosen to ignore the misogynist comments she received after the scandal. “If you don’t look at it, it’s not at all real,” she explained, adding that she has learned to cope with not being close to her dad. “[A celebrity I recently met was] like, ‘Oh, I saw your thing. I did the same thing when I was, like, 20, and it was fine.’”
Aoki insisted hers is a “normal family” despite their public drama. She declined to comment on the multiple sexual misconduct claims made against her father, which he has also denied. (Russell was accused of assault by 18 women in 2018.)