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Vanessa Simmons Talks 'Project Runway,' Fashion Faux Pas And Prioritizing Motherhood


Vanessa Simmons is making her return to the spotlight in the most fashionable way possible. The Run's House sister will be gracing our television screens as the host of Project Runway: Threads. With judges Gina Kelly and Jasmine Snow of Seventeen magazine, past Project Runway winner Christian Siriano and YouTube style guru Ingrid Nilsen in tow, Vanessa will watch tween contestants design, create and compete for $10,000 towards and Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts Store.

Between the new show, curating a new web boutique-slash-mommy-blog and taking care of her 8-month-old daughter, Ava Marie, the fab multi-hyphenate has her hands full. The thing is, she couldn't be happier. We chopped it up with Vanessa about how inspired she is to be working with both youth and fashion, what she wants for her daughter and how people put too much pressure on moms to "snap back" after giving birth instead of being a caretaker. —Stacy-Ann Ellis (@stassi_x)

Catch Project Runway: Threads on Lifetime on Thursday nights at 10/9c.

Photo Credit: Instagram

VIBE: How did your new gig as host of Project Runway come about and how'd you prepare for audition nerves?

Vanessa Simmons: I actually didn’t have a chance to prepare for my nerves. My manager called me earlier in the day saying, can you make it downtown in an hour in a half to audition for this show? I said the show sounds amazing and definitely something I want to be involved with, I’m in. I only have time to take a shower, get down there, fall (laughs) and then deliver my audition in flip-flops and I got the job. I didn't think I was going to get it. It was my first time wearing heels after having a baby and I fell right outside of the audition with the executives from The Weinstein Company and Lifetime. Planted face first in front of film. I went all the way there in six inch heels, of course.

I was like well, I didn't get that job. So I call my manager like, I just fell right before the audition and I had to wear my flip flops in front of the camera. I totally didn't get it. He called me back two minutes later, saying they loved me. Maybe I should fall more often before going into an audition. They had me come in just because my fashion background and television background and it was something that was really natural for me to do being that I just had a new baby and working with kids and fashion. It was the perfect job for me back from having a baby.

How were the kids on the show? Did they seem like nervous or where they ready to go? Were the personalities there?

They're ages 11-16 and they had one day to create full on designs and present in front of a really prestigious panel of judges. I was kind of their mentor and the host along the way. So these kids were super advanced and I absolutely believe that we will be seeing their collections in stores and magazines in the next few years because of how dedicated and how passionate they were. Sometimes we had a lot of special people and judges on the show during the season and I think those people ramp up their nerves, but these kids were so into what they were doing that they have that “laser like” focus. It was impressive. Can you imagine being an 11-year-old, just sewing?

I can’t even sew now.

Hello! Me either! I’m into fashion, I love designing but I’m more conceptual. I conceptualized designs and then I work with people who do what they do. These kids are full package. They’re conceptualizing the ideas, delivering designs, more than one! At the end, they are essentially presenting two designs to the judges. We give them their main challenge and then they get a surprise challenge in between that kind of throws a wrench into the whole system. Shakes them up a little bit. But they handle that like really well. They’re not treated like their age. They’re treated like professionals in the industry because that’s how talented and advanced they are in fashion. I believe that I saw a glimpse of the future of fashion. Some of these things were so impressive coming down the runway. I’m like first of all you’re 11-16, you’re creating these things and you’re creating them in 24 hours.

They were allowed to bring along an assistant and usually it was like one of their parents or grandparents or something like that. Sometimes they would bring along people who didn’t know how to sew. Like Lauren's dad was more into football and stuff, so he was there for moral support. They were their bosses, so she was just like “Dad! Glue this onto this!” or “Sew this onto this!” They're teaching their parents right there how to sew because now they have to manage making two different outfits at a time and behind the scenes. They’re not getting help behind the scenes. I want to make that clear that all the work they're doing is strictly on-camera, no help and they made some really good stuff. It’s impressive. Crazy to watch, honestly.

Did you see any pieces that you wanted to snag for yourself?

Yeah, you'll hear me throughout the season. I'll be like, "Thatss something I would totally wear." What was so cool is that they were capturing the essence of things that are trending now but then also adding their own spin as designers. They were creating new trends, so to speak, and it was great to watch and inspiring. And being a mom, that's the message I want to translate to my daughter. It's never too early to start believing in a dream and going after what you believe in. Me and my sister started a sneaker line relatively early, so I do want that value instilled in her. I want her to believe that anything's possible.

Speaking of your sister and your family, how have they supported this new venture? How'd they react to the news that you got the part? 

My dad was like, really? Because it was two months after I had the baby. I was home really concentrating on her. My focus after having her was being at home, being with her, bonding with her and learning how to be a mom, because it's a lot thrown at you all at once. But then this opportunity came. I love fashion, so to be involved in that level, I want to take this opportunity. They were excited and definitely really supportive of my decision to jump back into work so soon.

Do you think your daughter is going to be a little fashionista like her mom and aunt?

I want her to discover herself. I'm not going to push her in any one direction. I want her to discover herself and do whatever it is that makes her happy and pursue her interests. But at the same time, my sister [Angela], her aunt, is crazy fashionista and every time she comes to L.A. she's bringing her a bag of clothing from some store. She has to stop by Nordstrom. And I'm no different because every time I go out, I can just be going to CVS and I will find an outfit from Burts Bee's Baby. I come back home and I'm supposed to go out to get dish detergent and Mike [Wayans] is like, you went shopping for the baby again? I can't help it! It's a girl! She's like a little baby doll. I do think she'll have that fashion side to her.

Angela's super into being a fashionista, and so are you, but what makes you guys different in that sense? What will Ava Marie pick up from the two of you?
See, me and Angela are different, but we're the same in a lot of ways. We're sisters and we grew up in the same house. I think she'll take some things from Angela like the toughness and how strong she is. How she approaches situations. I hope she takes that with her and is a tough cookie and doesn't let anybody affect her and what she believes and stays strong in her beliefs. As far as fashion, I hope she takes a little from me. She has a lot of fashionable aunties and uncles. She's got a whole lot of inspiration to take from.

Finish reading her interview on VIBE.

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Andrea Kelly Says She's Been Attacked For Calling Out R. Kelly's Behavior

Andrea Kelly has found it hard to march for women as they continue to support her polarizing ex-husband, R. Kelly.

The former choreographer shared her sentiments on an upcoming episode of Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta shared on Entertainment Tonight. Speaking with close friend Debra Antney, Kelly tearfully expressed her frustrations with her ex-husband and praised Antey for sticking by her side.

The former couple was previously in a child support battle for their children Joann, 21, Jay, 19, and Robert, 17. During the time of filming, Kelly owed $161,000 in back child support to his ex. In May, it was reportedly paid off by a mysterious donor.

"When I think about the ways that I have been abused by Robert, from being hogtied, having both of my shoulders dislocated, to being slapped, pushed, having things thrown as me, the sexual abuse, the mental abuse, words can't even describe," she said.

In addition to the child support case, Kelly was charged with 11 felony counts of sexual assault. He's pleaded not guilty despite reported evidence of videotapes that reportedly show the entertainer engaging in sexual acts with minors. Andrea tells Antey how difficult the process has been for her since speaking out about Kelly's behavior in the Lifetime docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly. 

"Here I am, putting myself in a position because I want to help women, and they are attacking me," she said. "There's some things that I don't even speak anymore, that I feel like, once you give it to God, you better leave with God, because if I don't leave it with God, I'm definitely going to be somewhere with my hands on the glass, visiting my children every other Sunday."

Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on WEtv.

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Baby Tress' Edge Styler Ensures Women Of Color Will Always Shake The Beauty Table

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Many have attributed the actual rise of baby hairs to the '70s with pioneers like LaToya Jackson and Sylvia Robinson of CEO Sugar Hill Records sporting their luxurious edges with Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas being the all-time queen. Recent entertainers like Ella Mai and FKA twigs have made them fun and creative. There are also the many Latinx and black around the way queens who have kept the culture alive.


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“Our tool is more than a beauty product, it’s a conversation starter," Choi, who is of Korean descent, previously told fashion site Beauty Independent. "There are nuances of someone’s world that you won’t see if you’re not part of that community. And we felt that the conversation around why this market is so underserved should be brought to light and talked about. We are seeing such a big change now in fashion and beauty in terms of representation, and we want to be able to have that conversation without it being heavy. We want it to be approachable. Our brand is very approachable.”

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Baby Tress' next steps are to make the styler accessible to consumers and create even more products dedicated to black women.

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Sillah is more than ready for women of color to elevate their beauty regimen, one creation at a time. The future of Baby Tress includes an array of more products designed with women of color in mind.

"Anything that has to do with baby hair, we can bring to Baby Tress and make it beautifully designed and effective," she said.  "That's what this is about. It's about that step up. Again, we should not be using a toothbrush anymore."

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