Sophie’s Rocket Ride
Posted On Sep 01, 2016
With her hot first single streaming, Sophie Simmons is ready to sizzle—pyrotechnics and face paint definitely not required.
By Shirley Venice
She may be the daughter of Gene Simmons, the tongue-wagging, fire-breathing, blood-spitting rock god of KISS fame, but Sophie Simmons is having no problem busting out from beyond the shadow cast by her dad’s formidable frame. Surprisingly unpretentious and down to earth (for a kid with a rock-star pedigree and a supermodel mom in Shannon Tweed), Simmons first caught our eye as one of Gene’s gems in this reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels. With her debut singing release, “Kiss Me” seemingly on speed-download (a collaboration with the DJ REBEL of the Sixpence None the Richer hit song of the Nineties)— and on Casablanca Records, the label that launched KISS, to boot—Simmons isn’t content to bask in sweet pop-star purgatory. Her imprint is already being felt in the child development center for sexually abused children called Sophie’s Place that she opened with mom, Shannon, in Canada, and her get-real clothing line for curvy, plussized women. Add to that an upcoming TV movie, Country Crush (she plays the villain!), a successful modeling career, and a jewelry line with Diamondere— all by age 23—and what else is there to do about this young star’s multitude of talent than shout it out loud?
How’s your single “Kiss Me” doing?
It’s got about 2 million hits on Spotify, and that is not including YouTube and Apple Music, so it’s doing really well. My EP is going to come out as soon as I stop fussing with it—someone has to literally pry it out of my hands for me to release it.
There’s a lot of pressure entering into the same field as a famous parent. What are your expectations for this EP?
I’m making music because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do yet strayed away from because I really didn’t want the comparison to my family. I’ve been writing songs since I was 11; I just never released them and never felt comfortable in front of people because I felt this shadow.
How would you describe your style of music?
I am an alternative pop singer and songwriter. I write all my music, [except] the single, “Kiss Me,” which was also a collaboration with a DJ called REBEL who is on Casablanca.
What is your vision with your clothing line?
What I’ve tried to do is pick brands that I like and do little capsule collections with them. A lot of times when I am shopping, I’m not really finding things to fit my body, so I thought I’ll just make things to fit my body. The first collaboration was with the Style Club. I liked their business model and designs and we had a three-part capsule collection of fall holiday dresses. My next collection is going to be with Toby Heart Ginger, an Australian company I found after looking at the tag of the dress I picked to wear at a premiere. I never get things off the rack and have the dress fit perfectly, so obviously they were designing for my type of body, which was perfect.
You have been very vocal about not having your photos in magazines touched up. Why?
With social media now, it’s very hard to hide what you look like—who are you fooling? I don’t get it. If I can help it, I don’t Photoshop my shoots. I am all for fixing the lighting or colors but when it comes to shaving down someone’s size, I think that’s unnecessary.
You are playing the juicy role of a villain in the upcoming TV musical Country Crush, which seems like the opposite of who you are in real life. What was that like?
I am playing the mean girl, which is interesting because when I got the script I really thought they meant for me to play the nice girl. It was a transformation. They curled my hair really tight and always had me wear slightly inappropriate clothing because she’s an attention-grabbing character.
Where does your passion lie: music or acting?
I love acting, I really do. It also plays a part in music, too, because you are kind of playing a character, which I love. Anytime I’m with my friends and we are out at a restaurant we’ll pretend to be weird people or put on an accent just for fun. I think as adults we forget to play and use our imaginations. I think music allows you to do that as well.
You have been in the spotlight since age 11. Some were critical of you on your father’s show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Was that very hard to accept at that age?
Luckily for me, social media wasn’t huge when I was young and that helped tremendously. But with social media today, things linger. There’s hashtags you can search. That’s hard for young girls. I wouldn’t want to have the attention that some of these “It” girls are getting because it’s too much. You lose your passion.
Why did you start the child advocacy center, Sophie’s Place?
Growing up, I would spend about a month or two in my middle and high school years living in different countries with different families and working in orphanages. Every morning you would take the bus to the orphanage and work. Then you’d go back to your host family. A lot of the kids we were working with were victims of abuse. It made me see that you can’t just have all these chances then say, ‘Thanks!” and just live your life. You’ve got to pass it on. I linked up with the Center for Child Development, which works primarily with physically and mentally challenged children who are the number-one targets for physical abuse. Everyone should have that chance to be a kid, go to school, and not be afraid or worried.
What did you learn from these families?
In Uruguay, I lived with a single woman. In Vietnam, I lived with a heart surgeon, which was really interesting. In Bulgaria, I lived with a regular Bulgarian family that had a son, a daughter, a mom, and a dad. The one thing they all had in common was that they were so welcoming to me, even if we weren’t able to communicate that well. These people are so generous even if they don’t have much to give. In other countries, they want to know about where you live, your life, and what you do. They are about connecting. I was speaking to a friend yesterday who is 20 years old who’s never read a newspaper and doesn’t watch the news. He says he reads Twitter. That is such a small scope of what is going on in the world.
With that perspective, is it a challenge to find a guy who can rise to the intellectual occasion?
The problem I have is that men have an issue when they aren’t the breadwinner or if they aren’t the head of the household. Being 23 and owning a home with my brother and being self-sufficient, there’s really nothing I need to depend on a guy for. And I think that bugs a lot of people.
I read that you look out for your brother, Nick, by keeping certain types of girls at bay. What’s your tactic?
We joke that there are certain types of girls we call “pro-hos,” which does not mean they are bad, just that they like professional athletes, professional musicians, professional anything. My brother and I have learned how to spot that type of person a mile way.
You seem like a very intuitive woman, both with people and business. Did you learn your business sense from your dad?
And my mom. My mom is very business savvy. She left home at 15 and became a movie star against all odds. She’s learned a thing or two.
How important is family?
I was brought up with the notion that my whole family is a team. It was never going to be me against my brother or my dad against my mom, or our parents against us. It’s us vs. everyone else. We never had to compete for affection or money. That was so important. I think that’s a matter of not only spending more time with your family but getting to know your family. Your parents are people—they aren’t just your parents.
Tell us something that’s touched your heart.
I remember being abroad and working in the orphanage in Vietnam. We had brought flip-flops for the kids, as well as backpacks with toys and a towel. To hear from some of those kids a year later that they were still using them, it just got to me. I think it really made me look at my life and say, “These are the things I need, and these are the things that are luxuries.” You don’t need a luxury car or a smartphone. These are things that we are privileged enough to have—and they aren’t rights either. People think they have the right to have all things.
Cover photo credit: @sophietsimmons Instagram