Lee's 'Fabulosity'

Kimora Lee Simmons is livin' large. Big homes. Big cars. Big bling. There are people who say Simmons is over the top. To them, Simmons says proudly, "I am."

Simmons' Baby Phat fashion line has exploded ever since she took the reins from her husband, Russell Simmons, who turned hip-hop into a household name and made a fortune doing it.

She's a very flashy mogul -- whose first tip for having it all is to think big, really big. She's got an inventory of designer shoes that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. And Simmons is happy to celebrate her success with excess. "Is it too much hair? Is it too much lip gloss? Is it too much diamonds? It can never be too much," she said.

But behind the rich-girl trappings is a shrewd businesswoman who uses her over-the-top life to promote her Baby Phat brand. And its impact on hip-hop culture has been huge.

Mimi Valdes, editor of Vibe magazine, which covers the urban music scene, said of Baby Phat, "Hip-hop [has a] sort of over-the-top obsession with bling and money and all those sorts of things. She is one of the few females who are really, really living the ultimate hip-hop lifestyle."

But Simmons comes from humble beginnings in the Midwest. Her father is African-American and her mother Japanese.

"I was raised by my mother, a working mother, in St. Louis. And at the time there weren't a lot of people that really looked like me, in terms of being interracial, biracial, mixed," she told "20/20" correspondent Deborah Roberts. Simmons said kids mocked with nicknames like "chinky giraffe," because of her unusual looks and her height.

To boost her daughter's confidence, Simmons' mother put her in modeling classes where her exotic look turned heads. By 13, she was off to Paris with Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld, who called her "the face of the 21st century." At age 17, Russell Simmons, 20 years her senior, fell for her at a fashion show and they married five years later.

She could have taken it easy at that point and lived the comfortable life of the wife of a wealthy man. But Simmons had other ideas.

"I got a few little manicures in there, and pedicures, along the way. But I think eventually, um, it gets tiring," she said.

Just months after the wedding, her new husband made a shocking business move. He sold his Def Jam record label for a reported $100 million to focus on what he believed was the future of hip-hop -- retail. He called his men's clothing line Phat Farm.

"The market needed authentic inspiration from hip-hop, and we called it the new American flava," he said.

An 'Aspirational Lifestyle Brand'

Phat Farm was so successful, Simmons thought about expanding the line to women's clothing.

"One day I went ahead and I made a collection. The collection, I thought was good, and Kimora walked in the showroom and said, 'This is all a bunch of crap,'" he recalled.

So she took over and created affordable versions of everything she thought the Baby Phat lifestyle required: clothes, shoes, bags, lingerie, jewelry -- even a diamond-encrusted cell phone.

"The point is people are buying into over the top because people want to feel that way themselves," she said.

She became the face of the brand, and after the couple had two daughters, Ming Lee, 5, and Aoki Lee, 3, they were front and center too -- leading some to grumble that she had gone too far in flaunting her wealth.

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