Aoki Lee Simmons sees nothing wrong with pursuing her interests in both modeling and higher education, and doesn’t understand why the public thinks she has to choose between the two.
The 17-year-old daughter of Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons defended her decision to embrace both her creative and academic sides on Monday, responding to a TikTok follower that commented under one of her videos, “You’re so articulate and obviously educated…how come u chose modeling?” Simmons took issue with the implication that someone can’t be both things, replying in a follow-up video, “Well, one, models aren’t uneducated and not articulate, but two, I think what you’re really getting at is, ‘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?’” She continued, “Well, one, because I love it, and I think we should normalize liking something. You don’t have to do what you’re immediately good at.”
The model, who made her runway debut last year walking for Pyer Moss’s Paris couture show, explained that growing up she always played volleyball because she was tall and naturally gifted at the sport, but that doesn’t mean she necessarily wants to grow up to become a pro athlete. “You can be good at something and not want to do it forever, and you can be bad at something and still pursue it,” she explained, encouraging her fans to pursue everything that they love. “I really want us to move towards a future where young women aren’t being asked this question. Like, not being asked, ‘Why did you follow your more creative passion even though you’re smart?’” She added, “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- [and] fashion-based career. You can be two kinds of people in one person.”
The model concluded, “Do whatever you want. Get a degree, don’t use it. Get a degree, use it later…Get a degree later. Don’t get one. Do whatever you want to do! And nothing is a waste of your talent.” Simmons, who was accepted into Harvard at just 16 years old, added in another response video that models have to be intelligent because they are independent contractors, building their own businesses based off their personal brand. And in a third retort, she noted that the real root of the problem is that, “Some people still struggle to see women as complex human beings. That’s the real issue behind this question I get all the time.”