Angela Simmons on 'Growing Up Hip Hop,' Feelings Toward Dame Dash, Business & More [Q&A]
WE tv's brand new reality show Growing Up Hip Hop made its debut on Thursday (Jan. 7), showcasing the lives of children born into famous music industry families. Before the series premiere, we spoke with executive producer and cast member, Angela Simmons, for an exclusive interview about the show. She revealed her true feelings toward Dame Dash's comments about stress, the troubles of having a famous last name, the many business that keep her occupied, and so much more.
Growing Up Hip Hop follows Simmons (Rev. Run's daughter), Romeo Miller (Master P's son), Damon "Boogie" Dash (Dame Dash's son), Kristinia DeBarge (James DeBarge's daughter), TJ Mizell (Jam Master Jay's son), and Egypt Criss (Pepa and Treach's daughter). Miller and Master P also act as executive producers on the show.
Placing a spotlight on their unique family dynamics and the steps they're taking to achieve independent success, viewers will learn how the celebrity offspring balance romance and surprising life challenges, all while working their way to the top.
So who is Angela Simmons? You might remember her from MTV's Run's House, but a lot has changed since then. Read the full interview below to discover how the hardworking 28-year-old came up with the idea for the show, what it's like to have her life documented on camera, and the best advice she received from her dad.
Morgan Murrell: What made you want to create a show surrounding the children of hip hop icons?
Angela Simmons: You know, I had been working on a show for a couple of years and my partners, Datari Turner, Tara Long, and I just started brainstorming and came up with this wonderful idea. We thought about the people that I kind of already had around me and so I sat down with Romeo, because he's one of the first people I thought about for the show. He thought it was a wonderful idea. So then we just figured out the rest of the cast and from there it was history. I just think there's something amazing behind all these incredible iconic families, because we all have stories to share. A lot of the times, children get lost in the shadows and I feel like we have a story to tell.
How would you describe the show in three words?
There's comedy, love, and a lot of ambition.
Was there anyone you had in mind for the initial cast, who wasn't able to participate in the show?
No, I mean not really. I'm really great friends with a lot of different people, like Aaron Reid (son of L.A. Reid & Pebbles) and so forth. He's a really busy individual, so he had stuff going on. I did have conversations with other individuals that may be on future seasons hopefully, if all goes well. There are other amazing friends that I have in the industry that I think would be incredible for the show as well.
What are you hoping viewers learn about you from the series?
You know, I think there's so much to learn. I grew up on television as a young woman and now I've grown into a woman and a lot of people don't know exactly what I have going on. So I just want them to know me better as a person, learn about my business, and all of the things that I'm taking on. My philanthropy side is not really shown this season, but I am very big on that, and working on building an orphanage in Haiti. I just want people to get to know me better.
Will we see you engaging in your various business ventures?
You will! On the show you'll definitely see a lot of my Foofi & Bella faux-fur line and so much more has developed since I began filming. I'm partners with Sanya Richards-Ross and she's on board with that. She and I work together and she's really an incredible individual. So you will definitely see a lot on the show surrounding that.
I also have a few other things I'm working on at the moment. This year I'm kicking off the VIPE activewear line with founder Marlies Korijn. It's based out of Europe. I'm really into fitness, so it made sense for me to step into that. I keep myself pretty busy. I have an extension line with Dhair Boutique called the SEA collection and we'll be dropping some new stuff in February. I have an online boutique as well and we're supposed to be putting a store up soon, so there's tons of things in the fashion industry that I'm currently working on.
There's no resting for you is there?
No [laughs], there's definitely no rest. Why not do it all while you're young right? I love what I do, so it doesn't really seem like work.
A photo posted by Angela Simmons (@angelasimmons) on Jan 5, 2016 at 9:39pm PST
There was a lot of drama included in the official trailer for the show, including a scene where Dame Dash accusing you of not knowing what real stress is. Can viewers expect to see any drama or romance pop off between the actual cast members? I feel like the show is pretty honest.
It's a positive show, but there is drama here and there. I'm dealing with stalker issues and there's possible romances, but I think you guys definitely need to tune in to see what happens with that. Dame Dash and I did have a little moment, but I wouldn't call it an argument. I just let him talk, while I listened to what he had to say. Did I agree? No. I don't think he heard me out and fully understood what I was saying, but I don't like to get into confrontation with my elders. I listen. I was never raised to do such a thing, so I just listened to him, heard what he had to say, and called it a day.
Is filming a reality show harder now that you're an adult or are you comfortable with the cameras due to your history of being on TV?
I would say it's completely different. As far as me being in front of a camera, that's pretty simple because I'm used to it. Doing it without your family is a different ball game, you know? Your family is someone that you're used to, someone you wake up to, and someone in the same household. These are individuals who are friends, who become like family, but at the same time it's completely different than working with your real family.
Being an executive producer on the show really helps, because you're a part of the creative process and you know what's going on after it's all been shot. I'm overall excited about it. It was a different experience, but at the same time, it was a wonderful experience. WE tv's been incredible and I'm so happy we're on that network. I'm excited about the show. I haven't seen anything like it. We really have something to offer here that isn't available anywhere else.
Did you get any say in the editing process?
Yes! I mean we have a great team at eOne. When they're done chipping away at it and editing, I get to see it. If I don't like something, of course I have a say on whether I think it's a go or not. It's definitely a team effort.
Growing up in the spotlight can have its perks, but there can be downsides as well. Have you ever experienced bullying solely based on your last name?
You can say in the industry, sometimes your name gets you in certain doors. People aren't really sure about your talent. They think, perhaps just because you come from something that everything you have was handed to you. Sometimes they think you don't have talent at all in their eyes. It is a little more challenging with and without the name. It's blessings overall, but you still have to realize that people aren't so sure. They think, "oh you're your father's child or Russell Simmons is your uncle, so what do you really have to offer?" It's kind of like I have to prove myself over and over again.
My sister and I did the Pastry line together and it did well over $56 million, but at the same time people were like, "well that was given to you." Yeah, in a way we were walking through the door, but my sister and I designed them and thought of names for the various shoes. We're the reason the company went where it went. I would definitely say It stems back to having true talent and having true passion about what you do.
A photo posted by Angela Simmons (@angelasimmons) on Nov 15, 2015 at 1:59am PST
What's the best advice you received from your dad?
My dad gives me tons of advice, because we talk on the regular. He's so full of knowledge. Since I was younger he's always told me to "do your best and forget the rest" and I've applied to everything in my life. When I know I've given my all, then there's nothing I can do. I just let it go, leave it in God's hands, and let whatever happens happen. I know that if I study hard, I get the good grades and if I don't put in the work, then I won't get what I want out of it. I apply that to relationships, to work...to everything.