“Let’s start with jewelry!” exclaims Molly Sims when she calls from her West Hollywood home. Sims sounds like a teenager: bubbly, giggly and animated. In the past year or so, she’s been busy turning herself into a one-woman cottage industry, equal parts actress and businesswoman—talking rings and bracelets on the Home Shopping Network, launching her e-commerce site and retail presence and shooting a new comedy pilot for the Adult Swim network. “The jewelry is kind of taking over my life right now,” explains Sims, who adds rather crisply: “I’m so lucky I get to do new things and really challenge myself.”
Sims has the persona of a star, and she turns it on when she needs to, but these days she almost consciously chooses not to. Once a sexy bikini-clad siren gracing the covers of Sports Illustrated, today she looks like the poster girl for Southern California chic. However, for our photo shoot, she agrees to don hot leather shorts paired with a corset and tuxedo jacket. “I like to be sexy in a certain way,” the 38-year-old Sims says, and she credits celebrity stylist Mary Alice Haney with the cover look. “She is an incredible stylist. But she is so really pushing the element,” she says. “The [clothes] were hot and sexy, but also classy and elegant.”
Elegance is important to Sims, who was born in Murray, Kentucky, and considers herself a Southern belle. “My mom taught me to always be graceful and grateful,” she says of the influence her 72-year-old mother, Dorothy, had on her. “My mom was a self-made woman, she traveled, she had her own life and she showed me independence.” It was Dottie Sims who introduced young Molly to jewelry and taught her how to wear it. “My mom has been collecting for almost 30 years!” says Sims, who has been borrowing pieces from her mother for red-carpet events for almost two decades. “Her love for jewelry became my love for jewelry,” she declares.
Sims says her calling in jewelry design has been a lifetime in the making, and she’s on a mission to be taken seriously. She still relies on Dottie Sims’ estate sale and flea market finds: “My mom e-mails me all the time,” she says. Sims’ line reflects her mother’s penchant for elegance and restraint, and it’s remarkably well-constructed. “I’ve become meticulous,” says Sims about her pieces, and she judges each on whether or not she’d wear it out.
Rather than opening glitzy boutiques in cities like Chicago, she presents her Grayce collection through the Home Shopping Network, where she can talk to her audience about her pieces and how to wear them. “It gave my jewelry its personality,” says Sims. “And the jewelry is so me… and a lot of my jewelry is what you do with it.” She is also selling it through local retailers, like the SHE boutique in Highland Park, selecting pieces that would work with each city’s own distinct dress code. Clearly she is doing something right.
Sims originally had her sights set on a career in law and headed to Vanderbilt University after high school. Why law? “I love true crime, I’m addicted to anything that’s Keith Morrison or Chris Hansen, I love Dateline and 20/20… what’s wrong with me?” she giggles. But the summer between her freshman and sophomore years changed her life. Sims first took an internship in Washington, D.C., thinking that politics might be her calling. But after taking some photos and sending them to a modeling agency, she ended up on a runway by the end of the break, and a few months later, she was living in London. Dropping out of school was scary, but it paid off financially, emotionally and aesthetically. It was her trademark sex appeal that helped Sims go from the runway to the small screen, and then to the big screen.
Gracing the cover of French Vogue in 1999 catapulted her into superstardom. She springboarded to covers for Sports Illustrated, and then to a hosting gig at MTV’s now-defunct House of Style, which established Sims as more than just another pretty face; she’d become something of a force to be reckoned with. Campaigns for Victoria’s Secret, Cover Girl and Old Navy soon secured Sims’ position at the top.
Yet with each new venture, she demonstrated a plucky willingness to dissemble, to take on a new persona. So it was only fitting that after taking acting classes, she was cast alongside Josh Duhamel as his love interest in NBC’s Las Vegas. Co-star Vanessa Marcil, whom I interviewed in 2006, when the series was a top network show, called Sims “a supermodel who can actually act.” Hollywood agreed, casting Sims in roles for big-screen features like Yes Man with Jim Carrey and the film remake of Starsky & Hutch. Along the way, she appeared in the raunchy-hilarious Saturday Night Live music video short “Ji** in My Pants” with Andy Samberg.
“I’m always looking, I’m always curious, I’m always creative and passionate,” says Sims of her experiences. “I don’t think in terms of what I can’t do, I always think in terms of what I can do.” This attitude explains how this buoyant model turned actress turned businesswoman has been able to reinvent herself almost every time we get a good look at her beauty. She laughs easily and often, and appears to genuinely enjoy life’s twists and turns. “I like the challenge. When one door closes, another opens… My mother always said, ‘Sometimes you gotta nudge it a little bit, and then you gotta kick at it,’ and that’s true,” Sims reflects. She wants everyone to know her success hasn’t been accidental. “I always set goals, every year, on how to be a better person, on how I can do better and how I can give back,” she says.
Among her goals for this year is to continue acting. “I’m definitely going to be acting this year!” she says, adding, “I had an audition today.” But the role she wants the most, she says, is that of wife and mother. “The next phase is to get married and have children… I wouldn’t want just a career in my life, I definitely want another part as well.” She says dating her current beau, a Hollywood producer, has made her more fulfilled than ever. Is it serious? “I hope so,” she answers.
Whether it’s a new pair of earrings or another stroll down the red carpet, Sims is setting her own course. “I’ve never been happier in my life,” she says. Spoken like a woman who always knows what she wants.
Jewelry 101: Molly Sims’ tips on how to rock her statement pieces
· Make sure you have pieces that can take you from day to night.
· Invest in a long necklace so you can wear it different ways, preferably with a clasp.
· Don’t be afraid to mix your metals: gold and silver, or rose gold and gold, are very chic.
· Pearls never go out of style, and they are all about that Grace Kelly chic.
· If you have a big cocktail ring, you don’t need anything else.
· Build your outfit around the jewelry you love.
· Layer your jewelry.
· Mix your high-end with your low-end pieces.
Why do you think your line appeals to Chicago women?
I’m from middle America and my jewelry, because it is so day-to-night, works for every woman. It’s so versatile. It’s not about where you live but what’s your personality: Are you an All-American girl or are you a Bridget Bardot or a Grace Kelly? Are you classically chic or are you bohemian?
What are the jewelry trends for 2011?
Lots of mixed metals. You are going to see a lot of peony and salmon color, a lot of turquoise. I think you are going to see a lot of long, gorgeous necklaces and a lot of pendants. Crystals, layering and the influence of mixing metals is where I see a big trend happening. It’s so chic and elegant and vintage.
Where do you get your inspiration?
We definitely follow trends, but one thing you’ll always know about Grayce is that it will always be beautiful. I was in Italy last summer, I love vintage, I go on 1stdibs.com for ideas.
Which item from your collection is a must-have?
Definitely the Grayceful necklace. You can wear it as a bracelet, you can wear it as a purse strap, you can wear it as a belt… that’s where it really began, with that piece. I have it in a color I’m passionate about. It’s called Hematite, [and] it’s jet-black.