Being picture-perfect is something model Sophie Simmons knows all about. She also knows that most of the time, the images we see are not always what they’re cracked up to be. That’s why the daughter of Gene Simmons is making it her mission to expose teens to the ugly truth about the beauty they see in the media and especially online.
By Rachel Naud
Photography by Diana King
AT 24, SOPHIE SIMMONS seems to have it all together. She is the host of a digital series, has a blossoming singing career and even started her own centre to help the abused. But her road to success hasn’t always been smooth. Here, the daughter of rock legend, Gene Simmons, talks about how being in the spotlight made her a target for bullying and body image issues, how her parents helped her get through it and how other parents of teens can do the same.
Can you tell us about your digital series “Body Image School” on Refinery 29?
Refinery 29, in general, is geared toward women who are interested in more than just celebrity gossip. It’s for the modern woman who works hard, plays hard and also likes a makeup tutorial. We tried to condense the key to body positivity into six mini lessons.
In an episode of “Body Image School,” you talk about the truth behind selfie filters. Why do you think it’s important for teens to know about this?
I think using filters on social media are all in good fun, but when the influencer is not truthful about the Photoshop or filter they are using, they are spreading this unattainable, perfect image. This is the reason so many of us are insecure in the first place. I think it’s important for teens to realize that a lot of what they see in magazines, television and social media are curated by influencers who have teams of makeup artists, stylists and managers who really make it their job to portray this perfect image, and it’s just not attainable for the everyday person.
You’re a big advocate for having a healthy body image. Why is it so important for you to spread the message to teens?
I was a part of the first generation to ever have social media. I was bullied relentlessly all of high school for my weight and then later bullied for being too confident, or “conceited.” On top of that, I was on a successful reality television show, so the press also had a lot of fun picking on me about my weight as well. I’ve been called everything under the sun…curvy, sexual, fat…I was even called a “beached whale” by an international tabloid at 16. But because I had such a strong support system (my mom), I learned to rise above it and not let it deteriorate my mental health. I feel that a lot of teens stop talking to their parents about being bullied or what they’re going through. They also don’t want to talk to their friends about it because they feel they’re the only ones going through it. Teens look to people on social media to be that support system for them. If I can be that for some teens out there, I think I’m doing my job right.
How did your parents help you deal with your body image issues?
My parents told me, “We are a team, always.” I knew they would be in my corner, and it felt like I had an army behind me. They taught me to be better than those who criticize and bully. What is your advice for parents of teens who suffer from a poor body image? Having a dialogue is the most important thing. Feeling like someone is on your side is what saved me.
Can you tell us a bit about your child advocacy centre, Sophie’s Place?
Sophie’s place is a centre for abused children. It is a child advocacy centre that deals with mental, physical and sexual abuse. We provide the services families and children need after they have gone through their trauma. I wanted to create a place where children who have gone through trauma could have a fresh start.
Your father is Gene Simmons from the iconic band, Kiss, and you’re also starting your own singing career. How does it feel to follow in your dad’s footsteps?
I avoided it for a long time. I’ve been quietly singing and songwriting since I was a kid and felt like I couldn’t do it because of my family. It was an insecurity of mine I’m proudly over.
What advice do you have for parents whose teens are trying to break into the music industry?
Tell your teens to think seriously about it! It’s hard, it’s mean and it doesn’t care if you’re a nice person. You think bullying or body image in high school is bad? Wait until you have a record exec tell you they don’t think you have talent. It’s not for the faint of heart. ■