Behind the Scenes With Ming Lee Simmons

Andrew Warren catches up with Ming Lee Simmons on the set of her latest magazine cover shoot.

Ming Lee Simmons chatted with Observer behind the scenes of her latest cover shoot. Breanna Lynn

We’re in the midst of New York Fashion Week, and I’m sitting with Ming Lee Simmons while she’s getting her hair and make-up done for her tmrw magazine cover shoot—one of many covers I’m confident you’ll see her on in 2024. Ming, who just arrived back in New York after a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, is exhausted and not in the mood to get all dressed up for just anything—it’s not worth it to attend the opening of an envelope. After this shoot wraps, Ming Lee is ready for a minimum 24-hour hibernation recovery period.

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Not only is it a big day for Ming, but it’s also the biggest snowstorm New York has seen in quite a while, and truth be told, I can count the number of people for whom I’d trek out to Brooklyn for in this weather on one hand. 

Matcha latte not pictured. Courtesy Breanna Lynn

True to form, shortly after I arrive, Ming informs that she is extremely tired and simply does not have time for any of my craziness today—I don’t mind; we have this type of close relationship. While the set had Dunkin’ Donuts coffee waiting, I knew the way to get Ming’s energy and mood up was with a hot vanilla matcha latte—she’s partial to Gregorys. With Ming, the key is always being five steps ahead; knowing what she wants before it’s even crossed her mind.

Doubling as one of her best friends and her management is key in this scenario. What I’ve learned since the pandemic is that managers should be there for the long haul. I love the stories of talent like Jennifer Lopez, Serena Williams, Zendaya and Madonna, who have had the same managers throughout the majority of their careers. At the end of the day, I am going to support Ming as a best friend regardless, so we’ll see where that takes us. 

Now, back to Ming and her big shoot. It goes without saying that Ming is jaw-droppingly beautiful. She’s almost a mirror image of her mother, Kimora Lee Simmons, who signed a Chanel contract at the age of just 13—Kimora was the youngest Chanel bride, and quickly became a muse to Karl Lagerfeld, who remained a close friend and mentor. Kimora is a model and successful entrepreneur; she’s a fashion designer, television personality and author. So, yes—Ming has some big footsteps (ahem, size 10 shoes) to follow in, but I have no doubt she’ll succeed. 

She is always down to try different looks on set. Breanna Lynn

On set, everyone loves Ming; she gives off great energy. She holds everyone’s attention without even trying, and gives it back, too. It’s a fun shoot; Ming is very open to trying out new looks, including suggestions on hair, make-up, and clothing. Stylist Andrew Gelwicks pulls out a garment I’d describe as a green terry cloth robe-slash-kimono of sorts, and while Ming is initially unsure of this look, she ends up loving it. Little does she know, I warned the team on set before she arrived that if I say I love something, she will purposely say the opposite. But with anyone else’s suggestions, she will kindly take their styling opinions into consideration—it’s all part of the process. 

The shoot wraps up faster than expected, largely because Ming quickly nails every photo—she’s just that good. Modeling seems to be effortless for her. Ming’s sister, Aoki Lee, is walking in designer shows these days, but Ming isn’t sure runway modeling is for her. I, on the other hand, think she needs to try it at least once. She’s fought me on this topic, so let’s just leave it as “to be continued.” 

She may live Life in the Fab Lane, but she’s not committing to sticking to one specific lane anytime soon. Ming is already a model, businesswoman and content creator, who has amassed over 1.5 million followers on social media, with followers including Kim Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Ice Spice, Khloé Kardashian and Nicki Minaj. She’s partnered with brands including Sol de Janeiro, Peter Thomas Roth, Verizon and Android, and modeled in campaigns for Alexander Wang…and this is just the beginning. So, what is Ming Lee up to next? Let’s find out. 

Observer: You just landed back in New York from Las Vegas—tell us about your first Super Bowl experience.

Ming Lee Simmons: It was cute. I’m not a huge sports girl, but I was obviously thankful to have gone. Honestly, the best first football game I could have gone to. I went with NYX on a brand trip, and the team was super accommodating. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine going without a brand or my mom. It was so hectic everywhere. 

A peek at the glam process. Breanna Lynn

Less than 24 hours after landing, you are shooting a cover—what’s your secret to such a quick turnaround?

Staying calm and not doing anything stressful. I realize sleep factors into how I’ll look and perform on set, so I try to get as much of it as possible.

What’s your routine before a shoot? 

A lot of sleep. Matcha or tea—preferably Lipton hot tea if it’s available—just before the shoot, and a lymphatic massage. On a typical weekday, it’s Pilates and 12 hours of sleep if I don’t have work. My team (cough, cough) overworked me, and now I’m worried I’m going to get sick! 

What are your go-to products? 

A good cleansing balm, face wash and sunscreen. I absolutely need blush and concealer. I love a hair mask, hair oil and heat protectant to keep my hair long and healthy. For curly styles, I use Pattern Beauty, and for everything else my favorite is Oribe.

Khloé Kardashian was on the last cover of tmrw. Tell us about landing this cover. 

Khloé is such an angel, and looked so cute on her cover. I want to be her. Khloé is so genuine, and I respect her so much! While I was already super excited to get tmrw, I’m even more excited to be doing it right after Khloé. I have a younger sister, but Khloé makes me wish I had an older sister like her.

She was partial to this feathery white look. Courtesy Breanna Lynn

What’s your favorite look you wore on set today? 

A white blouse and white pants with feathers. I loved all the exclusive Maison Spoiled diamonds, too. 

What have you learned from your mom about the industry? 

Always be gracious. Period. 

Ming Lee Simmons with her sister, Aoki Lee Simmons, and mother, Kimora Lee Simmons. Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows

What are your favorite items to steal, or we can say, borrow, from your mom’s closet? 

Definitely all her vintage Fendi baguettes. I’ll already have left L.A. and be in another city posting on social media, and she’ll comment on my photos, “Ming, is that my bag?!” 

Speaking of bags…What’s always in yours? 

Lip oil, Advil, a hair clip and hand sanitizer! Y’all are gross. 

What’s the latest with Baby Phat and your role with the brand? 

I’m basically a creative director. Behind the scenes we have Blake Frank and Brandon Robins, who helps keep my mom, Aoki and I sane—we owe him a lot. What’s cool about Baby Phat is that girls my age, like Ice Spice, are so into it, and then my mom’s friends are also all about the comeback. We just remade the puffer. 

[Editor’s note: Baby Phat essentially shut down in 2010, following Kimora Lee Simmons’ departure. She subsequently repurchased the brand in 2019, and relaunched Baby Phat the very same year.]

Do you have an interest in design? Do you design pieces for Baby Phat?  

Yes to both, but I’m keeping it vague right now—I have something of my own that’s very different coming in the future, so keep your eyes on this space.

Do you and Aoki Lee work together outside of Baby Phat? 

Honestly, I love my sister so much and I love working with her on Baby Phat. However, outside that, we are both creating our own image separately from one another, and trying to not be paired together as much as when we were younger. We want separate careers, but we will always be together—she’s like my other half. 

Any NYFW plans? 

I literally just went to the Super Bowl, and now I need to sleep. I told you it was one or the other, so no time for shows! I’m planning to go to Milan [Fashion Week], though. 

What’s your favorite fashion website? 

I love Vestiaire Collective—you actually got my Fendi pony hair baguette bag from there for my birthday last month, and I love it so much. I get all my rare finds there.

She’s a consummate professional. Breanna Lynn

 What’s something people don’t know about you and your career path? 

I had a spinal fusion for scoliosis at the age of 15, which held me back in general, but especially career-wise. I was born with it, but it affects major aspects of my life. The pain still comes in waves, and it is something I have learned to live with. 

What are your favorite brands right now? 

YSL and The Row. I have huge respect for what was done with The Row, and I don’t know if people close to me know how much I admire the brand. I think what [Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen] created with The Row is a dream career, in my eyes. If I could sit down with any founders, it would be them. 

If you could model for any brand, who would it be? 

YSL and Chanel. Karl [Lagerfeld, the late longtime creative director] helped start my mom’s career, and I feel like If I could honor my mom in some way with modeling, it would be with Chanel. 

Behind the Scenes With Ming Lee Simmons