Vanessa Simmons has steadily built a growing platform outside her famous family’s name. Since our 2005 introduction to the oldest daughter of hip-hop pioneer Rev. Run on MTV’s hit show Run’s House, Simmons has transitioned from reality starlet to mom, actress, entrepreneur, and creative director. The ever-changing landscape following the 2020 pandemic redefined the notion of self-care for the former Project Runway judge, prompting her to take a deep dive into the wellness space. Her findings inspired the birth of U4IA, a health hub dedicated to helping others establish an inside-out revolutionary approach to their mind-body- soul interconnectedness.
Ahead of International Self-Care Day, BLACK ENTERPRISE sat down with Simmons to talk about the inspiration behind her latest business endeavor, the importance of showing up for one’s community, and how growing up in an affluent family has never stopped her grind, hustle, and motivation to succeed on her terms.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What was the driving force behind starting your health and wellness brand, U4IA?
Vanessa Simmons: U4IA started from my love of self-care. People have one image of self-care, and it’s more than massages, facials and getting your nails done. That plays a part in it. But the biggest part of self-care is how you’re taking care of yourself, talking to yourself, and caring for your body. I wanted to educate people and play off the notion that you don’t have to break the bank to live your best life. We wanted to start a health and wellness brand that gives everyone, especially people of color, the necessary access to optimize their health from the inside out. U4IA is a hub spot of information and interviews with a council of healthcare professionals, skincare enthusiasts, and all things health on how you can go on a euphoric health journey. In 2020 we saw that more than ever, health is the highest currency of wealth, and I wanted to expand on that.
Did 2020 redefine your notion of self-care?
Absolutely, because we couldn’t go into the spas, and we were at home, seeing all of the health scares. That’s when I went into a deep dive into the wellness world. There are a lot of platforms out there, but sometimes people of color get left out of that narrative. I wanted to create a space that felt accessible for everybody and to show people realistic things they can do, whether it’s showing people how to utilize deep breathing to help your nervous system, deep breathing to revitalize your body, the benefits of having fruit on your stomach first thing in the morning, or putting eucalyptus in your bathroom. It’s about so much more than an aesthetic. I want our people to have the knowledge to thrive. I hope that people find the information we share helpful and know that we will continue sharing it until I see it impacting my community.
You’ve come from a reality television world but have also stepped into modeling, acting, and being a businesswoman. What advice can you share for other women who want to make a pivot in their careers?
It’s never too late. Everyone always feels there’s a certain deadline for goals and dreams, and there’s not. It’s putting one foot before the other, stepping out, and overcoming your fear.
Journaling plays a huge part in keeping me organized: putting the vision on paper, and making it plain. Once you see it there, you can actualize and manifest it. If it’s something that will bring you joy and happiness, go for it, and don’t worry about any other factors. Showing up for yourself is half of the battle.
We were introduced to you in 2005 with MTV’s Run’s House. It seems there was a lot of pressure on your shoulders to create a name for yourself outside your family. What would you tell your younger self then?
To not overthink it and to take it one day at a time. Back then, I lived in the future a lot. If you live in the past it will give you anxiety. You live in the future and then you’re not truly in the present, and you can’t give yourself to it. That’s something I learned as a mother: to be patient and to be in the present, because this is the time we have. We’re not in the future yet, so make the best of your time right now and enjoy it.
I missed out on celebrating little things and small wins because I was worried about the bigger picture when those are all a part of your story. To other young people looking to make an impact in their various fields, stay present, stay thankful, stay grounded, and keep on moving.
I read that you went back to Pastry, the footwear line you started with your sister [Angela Simmons], in 2020, and you experienced racism and sexism and ultimately decided to leave.
I am going to leave that alone. We are all about looking toward the future. I’m very excited to be building U4IA and offering people something fresh and new in the wellness space. Maybe we’ll get back to doing sneakers and fitness wear, but I want to look forward in a positive direction. Pastry was an amazing starting point as an entrepreneur for me and my sister. I learned so much, and it was a huge blessing. It was an incredible journey that me and my sister shared, and we did some impactful stuff, and I’m very proud of it.
Lastly, how is legacy defined for you, and what would you like yours to be?
When it’s all said and done, I would like my legacy to be someone who inspired people to be the best possible version of themself. It doesn’t go over my head that I’ve come from a very privileged background. I’m very lucky and have been very blessed. I always want to be a source of inspiration, inspiring and encouraging people to be the best possible version of themself in any field they’re in, and with every project I take, I’m hoping that it reads that message.
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