Russell Wendell Simmons (born October 4, 1957) is an American entrepreneur, record executive, writer, and film producer. He is chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, co-founded the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings, and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons' net worth was estimated at $340 million in 2011.
Russell Wendell Simmons
October 4, 1957
|Alma mater||City College of New York|
|Occupation||Entrepreneur, writer, record executive, film producer|
|Title||Co-founder of Def Jam and founder of Phat Farm, All Def Digital, Global Grind, Def Pictures, Argyleculture, Tantris, American Classics|
(m. 1998; div. 2009)
|Relatives||Joseph Simmons (brother)|
Daniel Simmons, Jr. (brother)
Early life and education
Simmons was born and raised in Maryland. His father was a public school administrator and his mother a New York City park administrator. His brothers are painter Daniel Simmons, Jr., and Joseph Simmons (Rev Run) of Run-DMC. In 1975, after graduating from August Martin High School, Simmons briefly attended the City College of New York in Harlem where he met a young DJ/Bboy, Kurt Walker, who influenced him to participate in the hip hop phenomenon.
Upon hearing Eddie Cheeba perform in Harlem in 1977, Simmons knew that hip hop would be his career. Simmons stated, "Hearing Cheeba in '77 made me feel like I had just witnessed the invention of the wheel."
In 2014, Claremont Lincoln University awarded Russell Simmons an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters for his work as chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and for promoting mindfulness, compassion and interreligious collaboration in the public sphere.
Simmons co-founded Def Jam in 1983 with Rick Rubin, who sold his share of the company for $120 million to Universal Music Group in 1996. In 1985, Simmons co-produced and appeared in the film Krush Groove. Simmons' company, Rush Communications Inc., includes over ten businesses and three non-profits. Simmons, with his partner Stan Lathan, has also produced television hits HBO's Def Comedy Jam and Def Poetry Jam, and currently has a development deal with HBO. In 1996, Simmons co-produced the hit film The Nutty Professor, starring Eddie Murphy. In 1997, Simmons co-produced the film Def Jam's How to Be a Player, starring Bill Bellamy. In 2003, Simmons co-founded RushCard, a prepaid debit card provider.
In 1992, Simmons launched the clothing line Phat Fashions LLC using the Phat Farm and Phat Baby labels. When Simmons first created Phat Fashions LLC, the clothing line was sold in a shop in the SoHo district of Manhattan. Simmons's connections with well known rap artists helped to promote the clothing line to a wide audience. The influence of designers such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger gave the clothing line a classic look and feel. Phat Fashions encompassed hip hop clothing for women and children, as well as men, and grew into a lifestyle brand with the addition of jewelry, perfume, and other merchandise. Phat Fashions LLC sold merchandise in two stores in New York and Montreal, as well as online at www.phatfarm.com. In addition, the clothing line was carried by some 3,000 retailers in the United States.
Simmons and his brothers founded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation in 1995. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide art education and support to under-serviced youth by helping people of color access the arts and by providing exhibition opportunities. The Foundation serves about 3,000 students annually and maintains two galleries. The Rush Arts Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan and the Corridor Gallery in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn exhibit the work of more than 100 community and emerging artists.
Simmons and model Kimora Lee met in November 1992. They married on December 20, 1998, on the island of Saint Barthélemy. They have two children, Ming Lee (born 2000) and Aoki Lee (born 2003). In March 2006, Simmons announced that he and Lee had ended their relationship; they officially divorced two years later.
Simmons describes himself as a Christian yogi, with a love and respect for all religions. Simmons practices a method of yoga known as Jivamukti Yoga, which encourages vegetarianism and social and environmental activism.
Simmons is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and a supporter of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, which was established to ensure that any child in America who wants to learn and practice TM can do so.
Simmons has been vegan since 1999, and advocates Ahimsa and veganism, citing animal rights along with the environmental and health benefits. Simmons is a supporter of Farm Sanctuary, an organization working to end cruelty to farm animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals awarded him the 2001 PETA Humanitarian Award and the 2011 Person of the Year Award.
In 2009, Simmons organized thousands of protestors and hip hop celebrities in front of City Hall demanding change of the harsh sentencing of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
Simmons became chairman of the board of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in 2002. In May 2009, he was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Slavery Memorial at the United Nations to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In a similar vein, Simmons is a supporter of the Somaly Mam Foundation, and was honored at their 2011 gala dinner. Simmons officially endorses the second Muslim Jewish Conference 2011. Together with Rabbi Marc Schneier he served as the official patron of the conference held July 2011 in Kiev, Ukraine. In 2011, he took part in the Occupy Wall Street protests, visiting the protesters at Zuccotti Park often and for many consecutive days.
Simmons is a longtime supporter of gay rights, and he encourages marriage equality. In 2011, when the retail corporation Lowe's withdrew funding from the show All-American Muslim, Simmons promised to pay the Learning Channel for any revenue lost.
In 2012, Simmons supported Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich's re-election campaign, appearing with the politician at various speaking events. In November 2013, he pledged support for New York's mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio in recognition of his support for animal rights.
In 2015, Simmons criticized his friend, real estate developer and future United States president Donald Trump, in an open letter after Trump called for Muslim immigrants to be barred from entering the United States.
Harriet Tubman sex tape controversy
In August 2013, Simmons launched the controversial "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape" parody video on his YouTube channel, All Def Digital, which led to public outrage and many critics demanding an apology. The video featured an actress portraying the great abolitionist Harriet Tubman (1820–1913) having sex with her slave owner with the intent of filming the act and blackmailing him to convince him to work on the Underground Railroad. Women from his own community, as well as filmmaker Spike Lee, were offended by the controversial comedy sketch.
Rolling Stone published Simmons' apology for the parody in which he said:
I'm a very liberal person with thick skin. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there's still tremendous injustice," Simmons wrote. "And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset.
Sexual misconduct and assault allegations
In November 2017, model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons of sexually assaulting her in 1991, when she was 17. Simmons and Brett Ratner, who Khalighi accused of watching them without intervening when she asked for his help, both deny that the encounter was non-consensual.
As the allegation was covered in the press, Terry Crews accused Simmons of attempting to influence him to take back sexual assault allegations that Crews had recently brought up against film executive Adam Venit, asking that Crews "give him a pass ... ask that he be reinstated." Crews posted on his Twitter account a screenshot of the alleged e-mail he had received from Simmons.
On November 30, 2017, writer Jenny Lumet claimed that Simmons had assaulted her in 1991. In response, Simmons said he would step down from his positions with his businesses. On the same day, HBO announced that they would be removing Simmons' name and likeness from his stand-up comedy specials starting with the December 1 episode.
On December 13, 2017, The Los Angeles Times published an investigative report in which five women accused Simmons of sexual misconduct, including an alleged rape. On the same day, The New York Times published the accounts of four other women who accused Simmons of inappropriate conduct, including three alleged rapes. In response to the allegations, Simmons stated he "never had a sexual encounter that was not consensual or lawful. Ever."
On February 9, 2018, Simmons denied the allegations to Rolling Stone, saying (in part), "I vehemently deny all the allegations made against me. They have shocked me to my core as I have never been abusive or violent in any way in my relations with women. I am blessed to have shared extraordinary relationships, whether through work or love, with many great women and I have enormous respect for the women's movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power. I am devastated by any reason I may have given to anyone to say or think of me in the ways that are currently being described. I have separated myself from my businesses and charities to not become a distraction."
A number of women, some of whom were aged 17 at the time of the alleged incidents, have accused Simmons of sexual harassment, assault or rape:
Sexual harassment or assault
Women who said they had been sexually harassed or assaulted (including attempted rape) by Simmons include:
Women who said they had been raped by Simmons include:
After the third assault allegation was published in a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter on November 2017, by Jenny Lumet, Simmons stepped down from his roles in the label Def Jam Records, his yoga lifestyle brand, CNNMoney, and other media properties. Lumet, who is the daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet and the granddaughter of singer and civil rights activist Lena Horne, wrote: "As a woman of color, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of color. ... I feel a pang to protect your daughters. I don't think you are inclined to protect mine."
HBO decided to remove Russell Simmons' name from All Def Comedy, a series he created to launch and showcase emerging comedians.
Relocation and Exile
In 2018 it was widely reported that Simmons had sold off his assets, and transferred his accounts and moved to Bali, Indonesia, a country without an extradition treaty to the US. At least one of his rape accusers has publicly claimed that he has fled to avoid prosecution in her case.
Simmons has written several books that reflect his experiences in the entertainment business and his personal beliefs.
- Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, + God (September 24, 2001)
- Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway ... and More (March 29, 2005)
- Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success (April 10, 2008)
- Super Rich: Inside and Out (November 1, 2011)
- Success Through Stillness (March 11, 2014)
- The Happy Vegan (November 4, 2015)
- Padgett, Tania (April 26, 2011). "Russell Simmons: Getting rich is so simple". CNN.
- Huey, Steve. "Russell Simmons Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
- Aquino, Joann Natalia (February 20, 2011). "Russell Simmons, 'godfather of hip hop,' comes to Seattle: Part of 20-city author tour". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved February 3, 2012.
- Victor, Daniel (November 30, 2017). "Russell Simmons Steps Down From Businesses After Sexual Misconduct Report". The New York Times. New York City. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Kugel, Allison (January 3, 2011). "Russell Simmons Talks to PR.com – "My Religion is Compassion"". PR.com. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
- Rose, Naeisha (December 8, 2017). "Hollis icon Russell Simmons resigns from business after sexual misconduct accusations". QNS.com. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
- "Russell Simmons: Athletes leading our cultural awakening". Washington Blade. Washington DC: Window Media LLC. August 29, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Golus, Carrie (2012). Russell Simmons: From Def Jam to Super Rich. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Twenty-first Century Books. ISBN 978-0761381570.
- Fetterman, Mindy (May 23, 2007). "Today's Entrepreneur: Russell Simmons can't slow down". USA Today. Mclean, Virginia. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- "Executive Profile: Russell Simmons", Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
- Rachel Kranz, "Simmons, Russell", in African-American Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, Facts On File, 2004, p. 252.
- Carrie Golus (January 1, 2012). Russell Simmons: From Def Jam to Super Rich. Twenty-First Century Books. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7613-8157-0.
- Wes Woods, "Russell Simmons keynote speaker for Claremont Lincoln University", Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, May 18, 2014.
- "Krush Groove (1985) : Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- Neate, Patrick (July 12, 2011). "Def Jam Records launched by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin". The Guardian. London, England. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- Simmons, Russell; George, Nelson (2001). Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God. New York City: Random House. ISBN 0609606077.
- Introduction: About Us. "RushCard Prepaid Visa Card". Retrieved March 4, 2017.
- Toh, Michelle (August 29, 2016). "Russell Simmons' Prepaid Debit Card Is Adding New Security Features". Fortune Magazine. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
- "History of Phat Fashions LLC – FundingUniverse". fundinguniverse.com.
- Porter, Nia (January 11, 2016). "Where Did These Hip-Hop Clothing Labels Go?". Racked.
- "About Us". Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.
- Silverman, Stephen M. (March 31, 2006). "Russell, Kimora Lee Simmons Split". People. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- "Kimora Lee Files for Divorce from Russell Simmons". People. New York City: Meredith Corporation. March 26, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Marikar, Sheila (November 16, 2016). "Russell Simmons, the Yoga King of Los Angeles". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Valiente, Alexa (April 26, 2017). "Russell Simmons on how meditation changed his life, his relationship with Donald Trump". ABC News. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Simmons, Russell (February 24, 2010). "Why I meditate". HuffPost. New York City: Huffington Post Media Group. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- "Russell Simmons on his vegan diet, Obama and yoga" at Youtube.
- "Thanksgiving getting a remake courtesy of Russell Simmons". USA Today. November 13, 2009.
- Cookie Lommell, Russell Simmons Infobase Publishing 2007.
- Calvin Stovall, "Russell Simmons Honored by PETA", BET, December 19, 2011.
- AbduSalaam, Ismael. "Russell Simmons Leads NY Protest Against Rockefeller Drug Laws". allhiphop.com. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Ramirez, Anthony (April 13, 2008). "Backstage With Six Rabbis, Six Imams and No 'Kumbaya'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- "Secretary-General pledges to fill gap in knowledge about causes, effects of transatlantic slave trade". United Nations.
- "Russell Simmons Got A Joyful Hamptons' Social Life, Hosts Somaly Mam Foundation Benefit". Global Grind. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- "2011 East Coast Gala". Somaly Mam Foundation. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
- "Russell Simmons, gay marriage and Maryland". The Washington Post.
- Samuel G. Freedman (December 16, 2011). "Waging a One-Man War on American Muslims". The New York Times.
- "Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons to appear with Kucinich". Toledo Blade.
- "proud to support @deBlasioNYC to be NYC's next mayor as I know he supports animal rights and will stop abuse of the horses in Central Park", Monday, November 1, 2013.
- Haberman, Maggie; Eder, Steve (December 21, 2015). "Rise of Donald Trump Divides Black Celebrities He Calls His Friends". The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
- "Philanthropists & Social Entrepreneurs Top 200: From Elon Musk to Melinda Gates, These Are the Most Influential Do-Gooders in the World". Richtopia. Archived from the original on March 30, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
- "200 most influential philanthropists in the world". Naij. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
- "Russell Simmons and the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape". The Young Turks. San Bruno, California. August 15, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2017 – via YouTube.
- Robinson, Melia (August 15, 2013). "Spike Lee Slams Russell Simmons For Producing Mock Harriet Tubman Sex Tape". Business Insider. New York City: Axel Springer SE. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Foster, Kimberly (August 16, 2013). "Russell Simmons, you defamed not just Harriet Tubman but all black women". The Guardian.
- Cubarrubia, RJ (August 15, 2013). "Russell Simmons Apologizes for Harriet Tubman 'Sex Tape'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- StraightFromTheA1 (YouTube) (August 15, 2013). "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape Controversy (Funny? Or Disrespectful?)". Retrieved December 8, 2017 – via YouTube.
- Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (November 20, 2017). "Russell Simmons accused of sexual assault alongside Brett Ratner". The Guardian. London, England. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Kelley, Soniya (November 19, 2017). "Terry Crews says Russell Simmons asked him to give target of sexual-assault allegations 'a pass'". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Mumford, Gwilym (October 11, 2017). "Actor Terry Crews: I was sexually assaulted by Hollywood executive". The Guardian. London, England. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
- "Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor claims groping". London, England: BBC News. October 11, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Perez, Lexy (November 15, 2017). "Terry Crews Details Alleged Sexual Assault by WME's Adam Venit". The Hollywood Reporter. London, England: Eldridge Industries. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
- Lumet, Jenny (November 30, 2017). "Writer Jenny Lumet: Russell Simmons Sexually Violated Me (Guest Column)". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California: Eldridge Industries. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Miller, Daniel; Kaufman, Amy (December 14, 2017). "NYPD opens investigation into Russell Simmons as more sexual assault allegations surface". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Leight, Elias (February 9, 2018). "Russell Simmons Sexual Assault Allegations: A Timeline". Rolling Stone. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- "Russell Simmons scores a win, accuser Jennifer Jarosik drops lawsuit". USA Today. April 25, 2018. Associated Press. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Miller, Daniel; Kaufman, Amy; Kim, Victoria (November 19, 2017). "Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner face new allegations of sexual misconduct". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Lewis, Rebecca (October 16, 2017). "Strike actor says Harvey Weinstein 'offered sex in return for furthering career'". Metro. London, England. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Pasquini, Maria (April 8, 2018). "Luann de Lesseps Accuses Russell Simmons of Groping Her in an Elevator: 'He Was Just a Pig'". People. London, England: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
- Wright, Tolly (December 14, 2017). "5 Additional Women Accuse Russell Simmons of Sexual Misconduct and Assault". Vulture.com. New York City: New York Media. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
- Chiu, Melody (March 26, 2018). "13 Women Total Accuse Music Producer Russell Simmons of Sexual Misconduct – Everything They've Said". People. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Tsioulcas, Anastasia (January 25, 2018). "Russell Simmons Publicly Accused Of Rape by a 6th Woman". Washington DC: NPR. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Lumet, Jenny (November 30, 2017). "Writer Jenny Lumet: Russell Simmons Sexually Violated Me (Guest Column)". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California: Eldridge Industries.
- Melas, Chloe (November 30, 2017). "Russell Simmons steps down after sexual assault allegation". CNNMoney. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Ross, Martha (November 30, 2017). "HBO cuts ties with Russell Simmons after third assault allegation". The Mercury News. San Jose, California: Bay Area News Group. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Sanchez, Daniel (May 31, 2019). "Fleeing to Indonesia, Russell Simmons Denies Ever Raping a Woman Following a Rap Concert". Digital Music News. Digital Music News. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
- young, Alex (July 27, 2018). "Russell Simmons, accused of sexual assault, jets off to extradition-free Bali". Consequence of Sound. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
- Staff. "Russell Simmons' Rape Accuser Claims He Fled to Indonesia to Avoid Prosecution". The Blast. The Blast.com. Retrieved October 22, 2019.