Aoki Lee Simmons defended her choice to pursue a modeling career after the 19-year-old Harvard student and daughter of Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons faced backlash on social media.
Aoki took to TikTok to respond to a troll who asked her why someone “articulate and obviously educated” would want to model.
“Why am I going into a field that doesn’t necessarily require a degree, or require a whole lot of book smarts, when I have a lot of education?” Aoki asked in the video. “One, because I love it. I think we should normalize you liking something. You don’t have to do what you’re immediately good at.”
She then gave a personal example of how one does not always have to pursue something just because they have a talent for it.
“You don’t have to do what you’re immediately good at,” Aoki said. “Growing up I was a great volleyball player because I was tall. I didn’t have to go into volleyball forever because I was good at it from a young age.”
She reminded viewers that someone can be good at something and “not want to do it forever” adding, “You can be bad at something and still pursue it.”
“Hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard. You don’t have to be immediately talented to go into a field, and you may end up the best one through hard work,” she said.
Aoki noted that she would like to move toward a future where smart young women aren’t put in a box and can choose creative passions.
“I would like to change the idea that you can’t be smart and pretty, or you can’t be smart and enjoy your looks, or enjoy a creative/beauty/fashion-based career,” she said. “One that requires plenty of smarts. Two, you can be two kinds of people in one person. That’s really who I am.”
Aoki — whose mother is also a model — concluded her TikTok video by encouraging others to pursue their own passions.
“Get a degree, don’t use it. Get a degree, use it later. Don’t get a degree, never use it. Get a degree later. Do whatever you want to do,” she said. “Nothing is a waste of your talent… if you are enjoying it, and you’re happy, and you’re living your life, then whatever path took you there was the right one and nothing was wasted.”
Aoki’s first runway experience was in July 2021 for fashion house, Pyer Moss.
She got accepted into Harvard University when she was 16 years old. Kimora Lee announced her daughter’s acceptance into the Ivy League school with an Instagram video in March 2019.
“We are sooo super proud of YOU!! Such hard work and only 16! You did it! It took years of super dedication and lots of tears! But HERE YOU ARE!!! GO GIRL!!! Enjoy the journey,” Kimora Lee wrote in an Instagram post at the time. “We are excited to see the great things you will do! Sorry I’m one of those SUPERLOUD MAMAS!”
Simmons added that her daughter was also accepted into Dartmouth, Vassar, and Barnard. “Woooo! #BeautyAndBrains!??❤️????,” the proud mom concluded the post.
Meanwhile, Kimora Lee made her own runway debut when she was 13.