New mom to 2 1/2-month-old baby boy Kenzo Lee Hounsou, Kimora Lee Simmons found the time to write an article for Working Mother. The 34-year-old Baby Phat CEO and Style Network star addresses the racism she faced as a young girl, how her mom always encouraged her to believe in herself and work hard, and how she plans to instill these same values in her three children.
“My friends are surprised to learn that, outgoing as I am today, I was a loner growing up. I was a mixed-race girl with a Korean-Japanese mother and an African-American father, and none of the other kids at my school were like me. I was nearly six feet tall by the time I was 11 years old. And I was an only child being raised by a single mother.
At school in the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, MO, everything about me seemed to be a source of ridicule to other kids: my face, my height, the texture of my hair, my body shape. I was a real fish out of water. And because I had so many growth spurts, it took time for me to grow into my body. The popular kids were into sports, but I was awkward and gawky. I was super clumsy—I still am. Kids can be cruel. They called me “chinky giraffe.” I cried all the time. But my mother wanted me to turn my tears into something else, something positive.
…As my mom did for me, I’m helping my own girls, Ming Lee, 9, and Aoki Lee, 7, learn about tolerance—to respect differences in culture, religion and even the way we look. I also try to set boundaries, let them know what’s expected and give them room to develop and grow. I will do the same with my infant son, Kenzo Lee Hounsou. I recently married his father, Djimon Hounsou. He’s an actor and a model, and he speaks five languages. We learn a lot from him.
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