With her long dark hair, big doe eyes, ample curves, and perma-pout, Sophie Tweed-Simmons can’t hide in the back banquet of a Soho cafe. People look. And they get to staring when they hear her last name. It’s the elephant she rides into the room, the reason for the circus around her, and the source of the questions she is inevitably asked. “With it comes, ‘What are you going to do with that?’” says the 22-year-old multi-hyphenate, every bit the beauty rock star daughters are supposed to be. The answer is complicated.
In between sips of coffee Sophie explains that she is currently working as a model, acting, designing, singing, and running a Vancouver charity that helps abused children. She’s not one of those showbiz kids who needs the spotlight, but she certainly doesn’t mind it, which is fairly amazing because her life in the public eye got off on a strange foot.
In 2006, Sophie made her TV debut on her family’s reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels. She began filming when she was 12-years-old. For six years cameramen followed her around, exposing the prolonged embarrassment that is adolescence. Even now, she cringes thinking of it because all that stuff (style choices, boys) is still on tape. Audiences loved it partly because the Simmons clan was train wreck interesting and partly because Sophie’s father occupies such an odd place in pop culture. He’s beloved when he has the makeup on and easily dismissed when he takes it off.
“It’s weird seeing [my dad] on stage and then in videos with women who aren’t my mom,” Sophie says of growing up KISS. “That’s not who he is. It’s part of a character and people think the character is real all of the time. The show gave insight to the other side.”
In Family Jewels' final season, cheating rumors swirled. Photos surfaced of the Gene arm-in-arm with two young blondes leaving a restaurant in LA. Couple therapy ensued, followed by separation. The public perception of the KISS front man didn’t change much, but it hurt for Sophie, who was suddenly put in the position of defending her father and her family.
“My parents love each other and although my dad is a knucklehead sometimes, he’s really grown-up over the past couple of years,” Simmons explains. “I don’t think he would be where he is today without my mom.”
As for whether Sophie would be where she is without her father, it’s unclear. She’s precocious, beautiful, and talented so it’s possible she could have gotten herself far fast, but having a reality show vehicle helped. Still, she’ll be standing on her own when her EP comes out later this year. She’ll be the Simmons on stage and the crowd will have to assess her as a solo act. She’s looking forward to it.
“Ultimately what do I want to do?” she asks, extremely rhetorically. “Build an empire.”