Like mother, like daughter! Kimora Lee Simmons earned her college degree at the same time that her eldest daughter, Ming Lee Simmons, graduated high school.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” the former model, 43, exclusively told Us Weekly after attaining her Bachelor of Arts in Business and Entrepreneurial Affairs from the University of Hartford in Connecticut. “Well, Ming Lee says I stole her light. She’s upset to have to share it with me, but it’s a great example of setting an example for yourself and your kids. When they say you’re never too old to go back, it’s true. No matter what situation you’re in, it’s possible.”
The fashion designer leaned on Ming Lee, 18, and daughter Aoki, 15, to make it through challenging moments. “My daughters would help me format my papers. They helped me with the formatting and laying it out,” she told Us of her children with ex-husband Russell Simmons. “I’ve had pure breakdowns on my Instagram Lives. They’ve helped me overcome that, and as a parent, I’m there to encourage them, to help push them and being there for when they stumble. I want that to be the message that in the last few months, I’ve dealt with school bullies, long nights, writing papers and everything else in our lives. I was doing this for me though. I was doing it for myself and it feels good.”
While completing online courses, Kimora also taught business and entrepreneurship classes. “The students in my class were so diverse, people from graphic design, business, music, fashion and teaching them helped me see my reach and influence,” she explained. “I think that’s the true measure of success is how many people’s lives you touch and how many people you can impact and I’m proud of how many people I’ve influenced and how I could change lives in that way.”
The former Phat Fashions CEO also reflected on her “emotional” graduation ceremony. “My cap and gown was the best gown I’ve ever worn. And my favorite accessory to go with it, my National Honors Society tassel!” she teased. “I didn’t know it was going to be as emotional as it was, but it was, and I was nervous! … It’s never too late to go back to school and get your degree. It had nothing to do with my business. I’ve taught classes and they’ve taken my speeches and turned them into six-week courses on entrepreneurship.”
Kimora, who is also mom to Kenzo, 9, with Djimon Hounsou, and son Wolfe, 3, with husband Tim Leissner, added that her children inspired her decision to go back to school. “I did this for myself and I did it for my kids. I believe in continued education and I think there are a lot of different ways you can go about it … I think it taking 20 years and having four kids made it even more fulfilling to me,” she noted. “Even though finishing up my classes was grueling at times, it makes me feel so good to have done it.”
With reporting by Travis Cronin