Life Is Good, Wild, and Sweet for the Richie Family

Lionel Richie is one of the biggest musical artists to come out of the 20th century. Not only did he find commercial success as a member of The Commodores, but he was also able to do pretty well for himself with a solo career. But Lionel isn’t the only famous Richie!

Richie Family / Miles Richie / Scott Disick, Sofia Richie / Nicole Richie, Brenda Harvey.

Source: Getty Images

Lionel is a proud father to Nicole, Miles, and Sofia. All three of his children have found their way in the industry, with all three of them doing something related to fashion. This family has had its fair share of tabloid coverage but was able to rise above it together.

The Makings of an Award-Winning Musician

Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t recognize the name, Lionel Richie. But even household names started somewhere. Lionel Richie was just a kid from Tuskegee, Alabama, before he was the award-winning singer with a decades-long successful career. Born in 1949, Lionel joined a highly educated and musically inclined family.

Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie pose, holding their award.

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His musicality was heavily influenced by his grandparents. From his grandmother, Lionel learned how to play piano by ear, and from his grandfather, he was first exposed to jazz music and loved it. Lionel’s grandfather was also the one who gave Lionel his first saxophone.

An Athlete With a Spiritual Side

Lionel also found musical inspiration from hearing gospel music in the church. He once was convinced that he wanted to become Priest Richie in the Episcopal Church, but Lionel joined a band instead. Despite his musical talents, Lionel was more known for his athletic abilities growing up.

Lionel Richie performs on stage.

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He and his parents briefly moved to Illinois, where he got heavily involved in high school athletics. He was recruited by the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, to play tennis. Lionel ended up returning to Alabama to attend the university on scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Finding Success in a Student Band

During his freshman year at Tuskegee, Lionel joined a student band called the Mystics as their saxophonist. He also helped arrange their songs and sang backup. His bandmates were actually the ones to convince him to put down the saxophone and take the lead singer position.

A band portrait of the Commodores.

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After this transition, the Mystics combined with another campus group called the Jays, and they rebranded themselves as the Commodores. The group’s goal was to introduce the band members to women during their free time between classes. During semester breaks, the Commodores would perform in New York City and then eventually play in Europe.

The Commodores Get a Record Deal

These performances caught the attention of American record companies, who helped them get hired as the Jackson 5’s opening act in 1971! After the tour, the band returned to university, and in 1974, Lionel graduated from Tuskegee. That same year, the Commodores got a record deal with Motown Record Corporation and started selling their music.

Lionel Richie and the Commodores are performing on stage.

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The group rose in fame with their balance of funky dance tracks and Lionel’s famous ballads. Lionel’s own grandmother preferred his ballads to his other songs, including the Commodores’ “Brick House.” She absolutely hated the funk song until she saw just how pivotal it was for the group’s popularity.

Signature Sensual Ballads

The Commodores became one of the premier groups of the ’70s, with millions of dollars in touring revenue and numerous gold records. Lionel’s claim to fame, above everything else, was his ballad writing skill. Some of the most successful Commodores’ songs were ballads written and performed by Lionel, including “Easy” and “Sail On.”

A band portrait of the Commodores.

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These slow and sensual tunes would become Lionel’s signature and defining sound as a songwriter. Critics were even more impressed with his songwriting skills because he didn’t have any formal music training and couldn’t write or read sheet music.

Striking Out on His Own

With the popularity of the Commodores growing, Lionel Richie’s personal popularity grew even faster. While in the group, Lionel worked with other artists, like Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross, to write and produce songs.

Lionel Richie and Diana Ross perform on stage.

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Lionel and Ross recorded the titular song for the 1981 movie Endless Love, which was nominated for a Golden Globe. These collaborative projects pushed Lionel to leave the Commodores and strike out on his own in 1982. If he was famous in the group, Lionel Richie’s celebrity status only shot up when he released his first solo album.

The Grammy-Winning Trilogy

Throughout the mid-’80s, Lionel was one of the best-selling artists in the music business. He released one hit after another hit and seemed to be unstoppable on the music charts. Lionel’s first solo single, Truly, won him a Grammy award in 1982.

A portrait of Lionel Richie holding his Grammy award.

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But what really took Lionel from solo success story to superstar was his Grammy-winning follow-up solo album, Can’t Slow Down. To really cement himself, Lionel released Dancing on the Ceiling in 1986. But after this trilogy, he stepped back before releasing more music.

Stepping Back From the Spotlight

Lionel was called crazy for leaving right as he was peaking. But the singer was exhausted and needed to return to Alabama and help care for his sick father. Over the decade following his break from music, Lionel only returned to record and perform in 1992 because of his greatest hits compilation.

Lionel Richie performs on stage.

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When he started releasing new music in 1996, he experimented with different styles and was met with less interest than his earlier work. For about fifteen years afterward, Lionel continued to release new music that was met with neutral reactions.

Most of his fans know his backstory, so what else can we learn about Lionel Richie and his family?

We Are the World

In 1985, Lionel worked with pop legend Michael Jackson to pen “We Are the World,” a song for international hunger relief, that won Song of the Year at the Grammys. The profits of the song were donated to charity and totaled around $50 million.

A variety of music and movie stars are singing at an awards show.

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The song’s level of global success inspired the infamous Live Aid concerts that same year. The record was not only influential but special for its mix of genres. Over 45 musical artists from all genres came together to record the track in a single night.

A Year Filled With Honors

A man with so many well-received songs and Grammy awards is likely to earn himself some lifetime achievement awards. This situation is exactly what happened to Lionel Richie and what made 2017 such a big year for him. Lionel Richie was honored by the Berklee College of Music with an Honorary Doctorate in Music.

Honoree Lionel Richie attends an event.

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Later that same year, Lionel joined the judges’ table for the American Idol revival series. He was also awarded the coveted Kennedy Center Honors Award in celebration of all his musical achievements.

Lionel Married His College Sweetheart

Don’t we just love a wholesome love story? When Lionel was studying at the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, he met and started dating a woman named Brenda Harvey. The pair was together throughout college and got married in 1975.

Lionel Richie and Brenda Harvey attend an event.

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This was right as the Commodores were finding big, mainstream success as a group. During their 18 years of marriage, Lionel and Brenda adopted a daughter named Nicole in the hopes of growing their family. But rumors of infidelity swirled and resulted in their 1993 divorce.

Buy Lionel Richie Home Decor

Lionel Richie has proven time and time again that his skills transcend music. He may be one of the best songwriters from the last century, but did you know that he also has a flair for interior design? In 2016, Lionel shared with the world that he was launching his own home goods brand.

A portrait of Lionel Richie at home.

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Thus, Lionel Richie Home was born. Inspired by how he had fashioned his own home, Lionel’s line offers glassware, decorative china, and décor products. The line expanded in 2018 to include sheets, towels, duvets, decorative pillows, and quilts.

An Expensive Dance on the Ceiling

Everything surrounding Lionel’s song “Dancing on the Ceiling” from his third solo album was dramatic. The music video alone cost upwards of $400,000, which was absurdly expensive for that period. We’re trying to think what about it would ring up such a high cost since the whole video is Lionel and a group of people literally dancing on a ceiling with suspension cables.

Lionel Richie in a still from the music video.

Source: YouTube

Perhaps in 1986, when the video was made, suspension cables cost much more than they do today. And maybe had he enlisted his real-life friends to appear in it, he would’ve saved money instead of hiring dancers.

Stepping on His Wife’s Toes

Speaking of dancers, there was one, in particular, who was at the center of drama between Lionel and his then-wife. While making the music video for “Dancing on the Ceiling,” Lionel was introduced to a dancer named Diane Alexander.

Lionel Richie and Diane Alexander attend an event.

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Lionel and Diane were thought to have begun a secret affair after that video shoot while he was still married to Brenda. When Brenda was arrested in 1988, it was rumored that she found Lionel and Diane together at Diane’s apartment. The tension between all three parties was a large reason for Lionel and Brenda’s divorce.

Going Public With His New Woman

Lionel and Brenda’s divorce was finalized in 1993. This was around the time that Lionel started publicly dating Diane Alexander, the woman rumored to have split up his first marriage. Lionel and Diane got married in 1995, two years after their relationship went public.

Diane Alexander and Lionel Richie pose for the press.

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During their marriage, they had two children, Miles and Sofia, who became half-siblings with Nicole, Lionel’s daughter from his first marriage. However, Lionel and Diane weren’t destined for each other, and their divorce was finalized in 2004 after nine years of marriage.

Competition and Friendship With Michael Jackson

Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson were two of the most iconic musical acts to come out of the ’70s and ’80s. When they co-wrote “We Are the World,” it was the first time that the two were put with each other rather than pitted against each other.

A backstage photo of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

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A friendly rivalry emerged between Lionel and Michael as they were both becoming successful solo artists. The emphasis was on friendly, as Lionel made Michael the godfather of his children, and Lionel performed a song at Michael’s memorial service when the pop star passed away.

Popularity in the Arab World

Lionel Richie is beloved in the United States; he might be even more loved in the Arab world. He has performed his music in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and the UAE. Lionel was humbled and touched when he had learned that his music had become so popular in the Middle East.

Lionel Richie speaks to the media.

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Apparently, Iraqi civilians played Lionel’s song “All Night Long” on speakers when United States tanks invaded Baghdad in 2003. He also got criticism for appearing in a concert with the late dictatorial Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Lionel one day hopes to perform a type of peace concert there.

The Lionel Richie Museum

Following in the footsteps of music icons Prince and Elvis, there soon will be a museum all about Lionel Richie in the very home that he grew up in. The singer bought the house in Tuskegee that his family used to own and some of the land that surrounded it.

Lionel Richie performs on stage.

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Lionel’s vision for the property is to turn it into a museum. The Lionel Richie Museum would house all of his clothes, awards, and anything else that he has accumulated over the years of his musical career.

Facts About His Songs

Lionel’s 1984 hit “Hello” is one of his most quotable songs and has the funniest origin story. The famous lyric “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” is not as profound as many thought it to be. The line actually started as a joke between Lionel and his producer as a way to greet each other.

Lionel Richie attends an event.

Photo by Arnold Turner/Getty Images for HELLO by Lionel Richie

Another fun fact is that the African chanting in “All Night Long” was made up. Lionel intended on using a Swahili translator, but due to trouble finding one and their tight schedules, he just had to make up his own words.

Nicole Richie: The Chosen Daughter

Lionel Richie’s oldest daughter joined his family in a heartwarming way. When Lionel and his first wife Brenda went to a Prince concert, they were entranced by a two-year-old girl who was playing tambourine on stage.

Nicole Richie attends an event.

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After asking around, Lionel found out that the girl was named Nicole Escovedo and that she was Sheila E’s niece. Her parents were an assistant and musician touring with Prince, and her father was Sheila E’s brother. Nicole’s birth parents were having relationship issues while touring with their infant daughter.

Officially Part of the Richie Family

Lionel and Brenda were concerned for Nicole’s wellbeing and offered to step in as her legal guardians and offer some stability that touring couldn’t provide a young child. The birth parents agreed, and Nicole moved in with the Richies. Before long, two years had passed with Lionel and Brenda as legal guardians.

A portrait of a younger Nicole Richie and Brenda.

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Nicole’s birth parents had fallen into greater turmoil. Lionel and Brenda officially adopted Nicole when she was about nine years old and changed her name to Nicole Richie. As with many adoptions, the seemingly abrupt introduction of stability was tough for Nicole.

Living the Simple Life

It took many months for Brenda and Lionel to earn their adopted daughter’s trust. But once the walls came down, Lionel and his first child built an incredibly close relationship. That relationship would help Nicole get through many ups and downs, especially during the early to mid-2000s.

Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton pose for the media.

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During that time, Nicole was starring in The Simple Life with Paris Hilton. The series ran for five seasons and featured the two socialites in rural America. The show branded both girls as spoiled brats, and many disregarded them as unintelligent when they were actually just playing characters.

Run-Ins With the Law

Lionel Richie was known as a gentle man, so it came as a shock when his eldest daughter was arrested in 2002 for getting into a fight. Nicole was out at a nightclub when she got wrapped up in an altercation. Charges were dropped, but things didn’t get easier.

Nicole Richie attends an event.

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In 2003, Nicole went to rehab for driving with a suspended license and drug possession. Lionel and Brenda, who were not on good terms at the time, even joined their daughter at the rehabilitation center to further support her process.

Probation and Media Scrutiny

For her 2003 arrest, Nicole received three years of probation and continued filming the show. Nicole couldn’t catch a break when she fell under a lot of media scrutiny about her appearance in 2006. Lionel checked in with her.

A photo of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton during a party.

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He advised her to reevaluate how she was dealing with the stress of the spotlight and find different solutions. Also, in 2006, she was arrested for driving under the influence of hydrocodone and marijuana. Along with her probation, Nicole enrolled in an education program for people who had driven under the influence.

Finding Happiness and Love

After her run-ins with law enforcement plastered all over the tabloids, Nicole seemed to find her footing. In 2006 she started dating Joel Madden from Good Charlotte. Her dad found it hilariously ironic that she ended up with a musician since Nicole grew up with Lionel away on tour so often.

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden attend an event.

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Nicole viewed it differently and thought that being with someone who lives a lifestyle that she’s already familiar with was an attractive thought. Nicole and Madden officially tied the knot in 2010 after welcoming two children together: a daughter Harlow and a son Sparrow.

A Passion for Fashion

A fashionista herself, Nicole began her time in the fashion industry as a model. She appeared in Australian Vogue and was the face of campaigns for Jimmy Choo and Bongo Jeans. Though she found moderate success with modeling, Nicole yearned to have her own accessories and jewelry line.

A photo of Nicole Richie during a fashion show.

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This line, named House of Harlow after her daughter, was released in 2008. Ever the ambitious designer, Nicole extended her brand to include shoes and clothes in 2010. As time has gone on, it’s continued to shift and grow into a lifestyle brand.

Expansion and Boss Moves

Becoming a mother has been a transformative experience for Nicole. With the success of her brand House of Harlow, she jumped at the opportunity to combine the two in 2009. Nicole created her own line of maternity apparel in collaboration with A Pea in the Pod.

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden attend an event.

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After that creative collaboration, Nicole felt inspired to expand her apparel business. In 2010, the same year she got married, she debuted her Winter Kate line. Named for her daughter’s middle names, it included lots of shapes, prints, and florals.

Another Richie Winning Awards

Lionel Richie isn’t the only Richie out here bringing awards home! For her contribution to fashion and her lifestyle brand House of Harlow, Nicole Richie brought home the Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010 from the Glamour Women of the Year Awards.

Nicole Richie poses for the media.

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The brand also received nominations at the Teen Choice Awards that year, though it didn’t come home with any hardware. Nicole launched several collections that were all sold at department stores like Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman. We’re excited to see what else she has envisioned for her brand.

Miles Richie: The Model Son

Miles Richie is Lionel Richie’s only son and his second child. Miles’ mother is Diane Alexander, who was married to Lionel from 1995 until 2004. As is true for many sons, Miles has described himself as a “mama’s boy” and said that the two have a very close relationship.

Miles Richie attends an event.

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Their respect and friendship transcend the typical model of a mother and son. This isn’t to say that Miles and his father aren’t also close. The father and son duo have a close bond, though his famous last name doesn’t always sit well with Miles.

Claims of Bombs and Blows at the Airport

In multiple interviews and conversations, Miles has said that he wants to have his own identity rather than be overshadowed by what comes with the famous family surname, which comes with consequences, especially if you behave inappropriately.

A picture of Miles Richie during an event.

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In 2019, eyewitnesses allegedly observed Miles getting more and more irritable after being refused to board an outgoing flight. As a show of anger, Miles verbally claimed that he was carrying a bomb in his carry-on and that he would set it off if he wasn’t allowed onto the aircraft.

Released With a Warning

When airport security was called in to help calm the situation, apparently, tempers flared between Miles and a security guard. This resulted in Miles punching the security personnel in the face and police coming to detain him. Miles was given a caution by the police, which in the U.K. simply means a warning for minor crimes rather than a criminal conviction.

Miles Richie poses for the press.

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After Miles was released from police custody with the caution, he boarded another flight and returned to the United States. News outlets still don’t know the initial reason that Miles wasn’t allowed on his scheduled flight.

Officially Signed and Working Model

He’d rather not be compared to his father or his two sisters. All he wants to do is be his own person who earns what he receives. Miles has carved his own path in the fashion world as a male model. In 2018, he signed with Wilhelmina Models.

A photo of Miles Richie during a fashion show.

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That same year he walked in his first runway show during New York Fashion Week. Miles wasn’t the only model with famous connections to walk in that first show. He was joined in the show by Diddy’s son Christian and Snoop Dogg’s son Cordell.

Tattoos and Their Importance to His Identity

Something that Miles has commented about in a select number of interviews is the importance of tattoos in his life, but also for his modeling success. Miles says that he’s had more or less 165 hours of worth of tattoos on his body.

Sofia Richie, Lisa Parigi, Lionel Richie, and Miles Richie attend an event.

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He counts by the hours it took to sit through the tattoo rather than by each individual one because he has such big pieces. Miles has said that his tattoos are actually an asset to his modeling career because it sets him apart from the other male models in the industry.

The Gift of a God-Sibling

Another child of a celebrity that Miles Richie is especially close with is Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris. Particularly on social media, Miles always refers to Paris as his god-sister. It’s apparent that their close relationship is not only built on the god-sibling label and didn’t solely rely on it.

Miles and Paris take a picture together.

Source: Instagram /@milesrichie

Miles and Paris have been photographed together, hanging out at fashion shows. In his Instagram posts, Miles even referenced the fact that Jeremy Scott fashion shows seem to be the events that bring him and his god-sister together.

Sofia Richie: The Youngest Child

The youngest child of Lionel Richie and Diane Alexander is no stranger to the spotlight. On the business side of things, Sofia Richie has found herself teaming up with big-name brands to design fashion collections and endorse products on her social media accounts.

A picture of Sofia Richie in Malibu.

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Some of the brands she has partnered with have included her older sister Nicole’s brand, Lulus, and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. On the working side of things, Sofia has been modeling since she was a preteen and has even walked for the same designer that her brother walked for.

Making Headlines for Her Relationship

In 2017, she made her biggest headlines when she began publicly dating fellow media personality Scott Disick. Scott is famously known for being Kourtney Kardashian’s ex-partner and the father of her three children. Scott and Kourtney were fully broken up by the time that Sofia entered the picture.

Sofia Richie and Scott Disick attend an event.

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However, their co-parenting style included spending most of their time together. The relationship between Sofia and Scott made headlines due to their large age difference and how vocal Lionel was about the relationship. When they started seeing each other, Scott was 34, and Sofia was only 19.

Dating Someone Fifteen Years Her Senior

It wasn’t clear if critics of the relationship were more thrown by the age difference itself or how young Sofia was to be dating someone fifteen years older than her. Sofia made a number of appearances on Keeping Up With the Kardashians as she dated Scott on-and-off for three years.

A portrait of Sofia Richie.

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The people who edited the show capitalized on the tension between Sofia and Kourtney. When Sofia and Scott officially ended things in 2020, many media outlets speculated that Scott’s incredibly close relationship with Kourtney was a major deciding factor.

Blessing and Burdens of Being a Richie

But Sofia Richie is more than her dating history! Like her siblings, Sofia had to grow up with the blessings and burdens that came with Richie’s surname. She had to live in a world where her actions reflected on her dad Lionel and vice versa.

A dated picture of Miles, Sofia, and Nicole Richie.

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But Sofia was also lassoed in with whatever her older sister Nicole did. The only constant was that Sofia grew up alongside other wealthy and famous families. These celebs and their children were all a part of Sofia’s upbringing.

Sofia’s Bond With the Jacksons

Her father’s friends included Pharrell Williams, Diana Ross, and Sofia’s godfather, Michael Jackson. They would come by the house and spend time with the Richies. Jackson had an impact on Sofia’s childhood years as she would spend time visiting his Neverland Ranch.

Sofia Richie and Paris Jackson attend an event together.

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She has said in interviews how close she was to Michael and his children, particularly his daughter Paris since both girls were around the same age. Some of Sofia’s favorite childhood memories are having been at Neverland Ranch with her godfather and god-siblings.

Growing Up With Strict Rules

Some celebrity children have a loose set of rules and go wild in their teen years. Sofia’s upbringing was a little stricter than that. Being seventeen years younger than her sister Nicole meant that Sofia was going to have a very different experience being raised by Lionel.

A portrait of Sofia and Nicole Richie.

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Due to Nicole pushing the boundaries during her teenage years, Lionel changed his parenting approach from reactive to proactive. He was much stricter with Sofia to help ensure that she had a good head on her shoulders and wouldn’t go off the rails.

Getting Started in the Fashion Industry

Many now know Sofia for her presence in the fashion world. Ever since she attended her first fashion week, she was hooked on the industry. Sofia was intrigued both by the modeling of someone’s designs and the people behind the designs.

Sofia Richie attends a fashion show.

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Soon after this revelation, she booked her first modeling gig at fourteen years old. The fashion bug runs in Sofia’s family, with both her mom Diane and her sister Nicole being fashion designers. Sofia has said that her sister Nicole is one of her biggest fashion inspirations.

Officially Launching Sofia Stone

Not only does Sofia love the clothes that Nicole has designed, but she really respects her sister’s opinions when it comes to personal style. Nicole once advised Sofia to have fun with fashion and not take herself so seriously. This is something that the youngest Richie internalized, especially when she finally launched her own fashion label in 2019, Sofia Stone.

A portrait of Sofia Richie.

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Sofia modeled the debut line after her own personal style, which meant that there was a ride range in those first twelve pieces. Feminine and masculine options that were comfortable was Sofia’s vision.

Confronting the Dark Side of Fame

Being born into a famous family comes with a dark side as well. As she got older, especially as a teenager, Sofia became a target for stalkers and numerous media outlets. Throughout her packed schedule, Sofia has noticed on countless occasions people following her trying to get a picture of her.

Sofia Richie walks the street.

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Once, they even went so far as to place a tracker on her car so that they knew exactly where to go to find her. But the youngest, Richie, has grown up surrounded by hounding paparazzi and has sworn to rise above it all.

Keeping the Chaos to a Minimum

Sofia’s strategy to retain some degree of privacy in her life has been to try and allow as little chaos as possible into her life. This means not sharing every small detail of her life with fans and followers on social media.

Nicole Richie, Lionel Richie, Sofia Richie, and Miles Richie attend an event.

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Whenever she has been in a public relationship, she has done a pretty consistent job of keeping personal relationship photos off her pages. Sofia’s told magazines that she thinks most people today feel a compulsion to prove how good their love life is with social media posts, and she’s not into that at all.

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