Dee Simmons doesn’t really give a rip. Or a dog's rip. Or a flip. Or a rat’s ass. Dee Simmons is the larger-than-life, all-knowing and all-giving woman of Dallas society, and she isn’t concerned about what anyone thinks of her.
It’s a Friday afternoon when Simmons’ housekeeper opens the front door of Simmons’ gigantic Armstrong Avenue home. Simmons’ 4-year-old, small dog, Maddie, barks loudly and is eager to play. Lucy, the housekeeper, asks if I’m afraid of dogs. Before I can answer, Simmons appears from the back of the house. The 77-year-old is wearing a fur vest, black slacks and heels. She looks almost mannequin-like with her blonde hair, wrinkle-free skin and full face of makeup.
“What do you want to know?” Simmons asks as she sits down on her beige couch in one of the many sitting areas in her home. “I know everything. When you’re 77, you know everything in the world.”
That might be true. In 77 years, she's lived several lives. She’s the widow of Glenn Simmons, a wealthy Dallas executive who is the brother of the late Harold Simmons, a corporate raider who may have been richer than God. She’s the founder of Ultimate Living, a brand of natural health supplements she created after discovering she had breast cancer.
Most recently, Dee Simmons is known as “Mama Dee,” mother of Real Housewives of Dallas star D’Andra Simmons. Dee has been portrayed as D’Andra’s hovering mother and boss on seasons 2 and 3. On top of dealing with her own daughter’s dramatic story lines, she has also became involved in her daughter’s ongoing drama with the other women this season. With her unheard of catchphrases (“I don’t give a gnat’s ass wrapped around a rain barrel”) and Southern lady advice (“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”), she’s easily become the breakout star of this season. Housewives executive producer Andy Cohen seems to agree because tonight, she’ll appear on RHOD's reunion.
I tell her I want to go back to the beginning — when she learned she developed breast cancer in 1987. For one hour straight, Simmons does just that. She goes back to the very beginning.
“I grew up in Oak Cliff with no money, no nothing,” she says. “But I made up my mind that I wasn’t gonna be poor all my life.”
She married her first husband, an eligible Dallas bachelor (“You can get anyone you want. You just have to know how to work the system.”), gave birth to D’Andra and divorced shortly afterward. Not wasting much time, she made a list of 10 men she wanted to date, and Glenn Simmons was at the top of the list. They wed in 1975 when D’Andra was 6 years old. Glenn Simmons served as D'Andra's father figure her whole life, while D'Andra's birth father was more of a "friend," Dee says.
As we’re sitting in the living room, Maddie can’t sit still. She begins jumping on me, and Simmons instructs Lucy to put her away. I assure her that my $5 pantyhose will be fine, but she insists. Lucy puts Maddie in a custom embroidered stroller that might have once been meant for a baby, but now it’s used for this Highland Park dog.
Dee Simmons is a tried-and-true saleswoman. Throughout our two-hour conversation, she slips my name at the end of about every 10th sentence, a common sales tactic that ensures the customer feels noticed.
“I could sell ice to an Eskimo and give them a bathing suit, too," Simmons says.
She used her natural sales ability to turn a few sweaters from a Palm Springs boutique into a successful fashion business and then a green juice into a million-dollar nutrition business. By appearing on Christian networks, Simmons sold her signature green juice, Green Miracle, for people looking for a natural way to get healthy.
In her living room on a Friday afternoon, Simmons is the same as her on-air persona. She tells stories with great energy and attention to detail, down to how a person addressed her. A story about buying a luxury car turns into a full-blown account of people's perception of her.
“The funniest story is one morning I woke up on a Saturday morning and Glen, that was our casual day,” she says. “And he loved to be with me. That was his favorite thing in the world. We put our jeans on and we would go to the movies and just do casual things. I said, ‘Do you wanna go with me today?’ He said, ‘Where are you going, honey?’”
She stops telling her story to alert the housekeeper she dropped something.
“I said, ‘I’m going to buy a Rolls-Royce.' He said, 'What?' I said, ‘I’m going to buy a Rolls-Royce,’” she says again, but this time emphasizing how serious and agitated she was he would ask. “And he says, ‘Why are you going to do that?’ I said, ‘Because I want it.’ He said, ‘Well OK, let me get my checkbook.’ I said, ‘No, I'm going to write a check for it.’ ‘You're going to write a check for a Rolls-Royce?’ Mhm. He said, 'What?' I said, ‘You never look at my checkbook. It’s sitting right there. You never pay attention to it.’ He said, OK. So we went in.
"This is so funny. We went into this place. I mean we were dressed in jeans. I never — you’re going to see me in full makeup if I went out to the trashcan. I don’t go anywhere unless I’m in full makeup, because everyone knows me. We have an image. D’Andra and I both have an image to live up to, we feel like. So I’m dressed; you won’t see me in a jogging suit unless I’m jogging and even then I will have makeup on.
"We walk in, and of course not one soul will come near us. I walked over to this car, and it was black and brown. It was one-of-a-kind. It was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful bronzy dark brown and black. It was a showstopper. And they said, ‘It’s the only one we have.’ Well I walked over and touched it. They all said, ‘Don’t touch that car.’ They get rags and start brushing it and everything. They just walked around. (Simmons begins to imitate a person with a snooty attitude and turned-up nose.)
"Finally, I said, ‘I’ll take that one,’ which was that car. He said, ‘Well, how are you going to pay for it?’ I said, ‘Well will a check work?’ I’m the only girl. They almost passed out and of course couldn’t believe I had the money to buy it.”
In 2004, Simmons asked D’Andra to leave her new position at the Department of Energy to come home to Dallas to help Dee run the booming Ultimate Living. D’Andra did and created an offshoot skincare line, Hard Night, Good Morning. Simmons promised to hand over the entire business to D’Andra but was reluctant. The push-and-pull was documented during season 2 and 3 of RHOD, but Dee finally handed over the company about five months ago. Simmons recalls handing it over was “easy” and a “relief.” Now she only visits the office about once a month, when she just wants to visit.
Instead of running a nutrition business, Simmons has turned her attention to being a patient advocate for 400 people, meaning she helps people find appropriate doctors and hospitals for their medical needs. Her stint with breast cancer and her nutrition company have helped her understand medicine and lab reports. Her money and place in Dallas society ensure she can get patients an appointment with the best doctors in the best hospitals in the world. She does it all for free.
“It’s my heart’s desire,” she says. “I love to help people. I love people. To put it in a nutshell, I have a vision, a mission and a passion to help those with health-related issues. I’m just as good at this as I was with the clothing lines, as I have been with my nutrition company and now in this role.”
Simmons is a God-fearing woman. She says she believes her husband knew when he was going to die. (“He was real close to God like that.”) A member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, she says she “loves [pastor Robert Jeffress] to pieces.”
Because of Simmons' unapologetic nature, it is no surprise that she admits she “loves Trump” and voted for him in 2016.
“And the thing about the gays — the people I’m having dinner with tonight, two guys, are gays,” Simmons says. “They’re doctors at UT Southwestern. I love everybody, and I know the real Robert Jeffress because I’ve known him from day one. And I love him. I love him, I love him, I love him. I love his family. I know the whole staff backwards and frontwards. That’s where I tithe. That’s where I go to church every Sunday. That’s where D’Andra goes. That’s where she tithes.
“[Jeffress is] always telling me, ‘You’ll love Melania, Dee, if you ever meet her. She’s a lot like you.’”
Dee and D'Andra are no strangers to TV. They have been on the Christian network circuit, promoting their brands for years. In 2014, D'Andra and Dee appeared on a short-lived TLC show, Sheer Dallas. Dee is hell-bent that she won’t ever sign a contract with Bravo and that she’ll only appear on RHOD as a guest. She says she doesn’t need the money or anyone telling her what to do, what to wear, where to be or how to act.
“I don’t need it. I don’t need the money. I don’t need the hassle. I don’t need any of that," Simmons says. "And it’s a hassle. What D’Andra goes through, there is no way. The meanness, the hatefulness, the stuff that is written about her.”
When D’Andra told her mother that she was interested in becoming a cast member on The Real Housewives of Dallas, Dee says she was apprehensive.
“I said, ‘D’Andra.’ We were in the kitchen,” Simmons says. “I remember where we were. I said, ‘I don’t think your daddy would like that.’ I said, ‘Because you know, the Simmons name is known all over the country, and it’s a very controversial thing.’ She said, ‘Mother, I don’t want to do it either, not really, but I’m so tired, I’ve done every charity in Dallas. I’ve chaired every charity and I’m so grateful I’ve had that opportunity. I’ve helped raise a lot of money …’
“I did not want her to do it, because I knew the toll it was going to take on her. I understand reality shows and what TV is really like, but one of her friends who was on there said, ‘Mama Dee, I really, really want this to happen. If you could talk D’Andra into it.’
“D’Andra, I’m 75 years old. This is your life. This is your decision. I know what kind of person you are. I know what kind of person I am. I really don’t give a rip what people say about me. When I go to bed at night, I just have to have one thing. I have to know I have done the very best thing I could have ever done to help someone. Because I’m a caretaker.”
A previous version of this article said Dee Simmons was the first mother to appear on a reunion. We have updated.