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Simone I. Smith is The Original Around the Way Girl

By Alec Banks

Simone I. Smith's namesake brand was born out of the desire to help millions of people around the world who have been either diagnosed — or been impacted by — someone who had cancer. She herself beat back a rare form of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma in 2004, and has since made it a mission to not only provide a philanthropic arm to her jewelry, but of course, also committed to crafting bespoke pieces that honor Hip-Hop culture fully.

While some designers look to the past for inspiration, Smith has Hip-Hop culture embedded in her DNA.

"I'm the original 'Around the Way Girl,'" Smith says.

The reference to LL COOL J's iconic song isn't made in jest: Smith and the Queens legend first met on Easter Sunday in 1987 and were later married in 1995. He initially showed his admiration for her with a jewelry-aided gesture.

"Todd (LL COOL J) actually gave me my first pair of door knocker earrings that I actually have now," she says. "That was the first gift that he gave me. [The door knockers] were definitely a New York thing that played in all the boroughs. Prior to COVID, the Colosseum in Queens was still open. You could still go downstairs in the Colosseum and buy every earring that they were selling in the '80s."

Like many entrepreneurs, her decision to create a product line focused on a lack of designs that fit her own tastes — despite the presence of many nostalgia-fueled products in the marketplace.

"There was a void in the marketplace for them," she explains. "You could go to Claire's and get a bunch of big hoop earrings, but they really didn't have so much flavor to them. They were just simple hoops, and you would have to get a few pair of them because you know that they're going to turn color in a couple of days. I wanted to be the lady —  that designer — that brought women fly hoops."

"That was my first goal."

Smith admits that a woman has to be willing to put herself out there in order exude the confidence necessary to rock her earrings. She points at luminaries like Mary J. Blige and Misa Hylton as perfect examples of women who have the both the boldness and the ability to check many different boxes.

"I'm holy, but I still got a little hood," she says. "I'm well rounded."

Smith and her husband are cut from a similar cloth. Collectively, they refuse to be boxed into a singular descriptor. However, they both proudly wave the flag for Hip-Hop at all times. As a result, Simone I. Smith and Rock The Bells were perfect collaborative partners.

"Rock The Bells is such a great Hip-Hop platform that Todd has built," she says. "When I told Todd that I wanted to do a pair of earrings, it was always going to be a bamboo hoop."