Russell Simmons

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Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Simmons at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Mansome
Russell Wendell Simmons

(1957-10-04) October 4, 1957 (age 61)
Alma mater City College of New York
OccupationEntrepreneur, writer, record executive, film producer
Net worthIncrease2.svg $340 million (2011) [1]
TitleCo-founder of Def Jam and founder of Phat Farm, All Def Digital, Global Grind, Def Pictures, Argyleculture, Tantris, American Classics
Kimora Lee
(m. 1998;div. 2009)
Relatives Joseph Simmons (brother)
Daniel Simmons, Jr. (brother)
Website Rush Communications

Russell Wendell Simmons (born October 4, 1957) [2] 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, [3] and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons' net worth was estimated at $340 million in 2011. [1]

Writer person who uses written words to communicate ideas and to produce works of literature

A writer is a person who uses written words in various styles and techniques to communicate their ideas. Writers produce various forms of literary art and creative writing such as novels, short stories, poetry, plays, screenplays, and essays as well as various reports and news articles that may be of interest to the public. Writers' texts are published across a range of media. Skilled writers who are able to use language to express ideas well, often contribute significantly to the cultural content of a society.

A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinating writing, directing, and editing; and arranging financing.

Def Jam Recordings American record label

Def Jam Recordings is an American record label focused predominantly on hip hop and urban music, owned by Universal Music Group. In the UK, the label takes on the name Def Jam UK and is operated through Virgin EMI Records, while in Japan, it is known as Def Jam Japan, operating through Universal Music Japan. The label distributes releases of various record labels, including Kanye West's GOOD Music, and Listen Up Forever Records, headed by producer, Ronny J. Current artists include Justin Bieber, Logic, Big Sean, Kanye West, Nas, 2 Chainz, Teyana Taylor, YG, Dave East, Jeezy, Jeremih, Q-Tip, Valee, Pusha T, Vince Staples, Fabolous, Desiigner and Jhené Aiko.


Early life and education

Simmons was born and raised in Hollis, Queens. [4] [5] 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. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

Hollis, Queens Neighborhoods of Queens in New York City

Hollis is a residential middle-class neighborhood within the southeastern section of the New York City borough of Queens. While a predominantly African-American community, there are small minorities of Hispanics and Indians residing in the area. Boundaries are considered to be 181st Street to the west, Hillside Avenue to the north, Francis Lewis Boulevard to the east, and Murdock Avenue to the south. Hollis is considered to be within the St. Albans postal district and is mainly within zip codes 11423 and 11412.. Hollis is close to Jamaica and Queens Village.

Danny Simmons American painter

Daniel "Danny" Simmons Jr. is a neo-African abstract expressionist painter, father of Jamel Simmons, and the older brother of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons. He is the co-founder and Chairman of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which provides disadvantaged urban youth with arts access and education. As part of Rush Philanthropic, Simmons also founded Rush Arts Gallery and soon thereafter converted part of his loft in Brooklyn into the Corridor Gallery. Both galleries provide exhibition opportunities to early and mid-career artists who do not have commercial representation through galleries or private dealers. Along with his brother Russell, Simmons established Def Poetry Jam, which has enjoyed long-running success on HBO. In 2004, Simmons published Three Days As the Crow Flies, a fictional account of the 1980s New York art scene. He has also written a book of artwork and poetry called I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn't Find My Way Home. He has also published " Deep in your best reflection" and "the Brown beatnik tomes", two additional volumes of poetry. In 2015 Simmons moved to Philadelphia and opened Rush Arts Philadelphia gallery to further the Rush Arts mission and to begin to create a national presence for the service organization.

Joseph Simmons DJ

Joseph Ward Simmons, better known by the stage name Run, Rev. Run or DJ Run, is a musician, rapper and actor. Simmons is one of the founding members of the influential hip hop group Run–D.M.C. He is also a practicing minister, known as Reverend Run.

Upon hearing Eddie Cheeba perform in Harlem in 1977, Simmons knew that hip hop would be his career. [11] Simmons stated, "Hearing Cheeba in '77 made me feel like I had just witnessed the invention of the wheel." [11]

Eddie Cheeba was a pioneering DJ in New York in the 1970s, considered to be the number one club DJ.

Harlem Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

Harlem is a neighborhood in the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is bounded roughly by Frederick Douglass Boulevard, St. Nicholas Avenue, and Morningside Park on the west; the Harlem River and 155th Street on the north; Fifth Avenue on the east; and Central Park North on the south. It is part of greater Harlem, an area that encompasses several other neighborhoods and extends west to the Hudson River, north to 155th Street, east to the East River, and south to 96th Street.

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. [12]

Claremont Lincoln University (CLU) is non-profit, regionally accredited online graduate university offering master's degrees in Social Impact, Interfaith Action and Organizational Leadership with concentrations in Civic Engagement, Ethics, Healthcare and Human Resources. Incorporated into each program are a sequence of core courses designed to develop human capacities for awareness of self and others, dialogue, collaboration and strategies for change.

Foundation for Ethnic Understanding

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) is a not-for-profit organization based in New York that focuses on improving Muslim–Jewish relations and black–Jewish relations. FFEU was founded in 1989 by Rabbi Marc Schneier and theatrical producer and director Joseph Papp. The goals of the organization are in part motivated by the historical cooperation between African Americans and Jewish Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. Russell Simmons joined the Board of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in 2002 as Chairman of the Board. In 2007, the Foundation began its program in Muslim–Jewish Relations and has since hosted the First National Summit of Imams and Rabbis, two European conferences of Muslim and Jewish Leaders, three Missions of Muslim and Jewish Leaders to Washington D.C., and has held the annual program "The Weekend of Twinning" each November since 2008.


Russell Simmons Russell Simmons.jpg
Russell Simmons

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 . [13] 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. [3] [14] 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. [15] In 2003, Simmons co-founded RushCard, a prepaid debit card provider. [16] [17]

Rick Rubin American music producer

Frederick Jay Rubin is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, he is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Geto Boys, and Run-DMC, Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.

Universal Music Group American music corporation

Universal Music Group is an American global music corporation that is a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Vivendi. UMG's global corporate headquarters are located in Santa Monica, California. It is considered one of the "Big Three" music companies, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group. Since 2004, the corporation is no longer related to the film studio Universal Studios. In 2019, Fast Company named Universal Music Group the most innovative music company and listed UMG among the Top 50 most innovative companies in the world and "amid the music industry's digital transformation, Universal is redefining what a modern label should look like." UMG has signed licensing agreements with more than 400 platforms worldwide.

<i>Krush Groove</i> 1985 film by Michael Schultz

Krush Groove is a 1985 American film by Warner Bros. that was written by Ralph Farquhar and directed by Michael Schultz. This film is based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings and up-and-coming record producer Russell Simmons, portrayed by Blair Underwood in his feature film debut. Simmons was the film's co-producer and story consultant; he also had a cameo in the film as a club owner named Crocket.

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 In addition, the clothing line was carried by some 3,000 retailers in the United States. [18]

Ralph Lauren American fashion designer and business executive

Ralph Lauren, KBE is an American fashion designer, philanthropist, and business executive, best known for the Ralph Lauren Corporation, a global multibillion-dollar enterprise. He has also become well known for his collection of rare automobiles, some of which have been displayed in museum exhibits. Lauren stepped down as CEO of the company in September 2015 but remains executive chairman and chief creative officer. As of 2018, Forbes estimates his wealth at $7.2 billion, which makes Ralph Lauren the 91st richest person in America.

Tommy Hilfiger American fashion designer

Thomas Jacob Hilfiger is the principal fashion designer at Tommy Hilfiger Corporation.

In 2004, Simmons sold Phat Farm and Baby Phat to the Kellwood Company for $140 million. [19]

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. [20]

Personal life


Simmons and model Kimora Lee met in November 1992. They married on December 20, 1998, [21] on the island of Saint Barthélemy. They have two daughters, Ming Lee (born 2000) and Aoki Lee (born 2002). In March 2006, Simmons announced that he and Lee had ended their relationship; [21] they officially divorced two years later. [22]


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, [23] which encourages vegetarianism and social and environmental activism.

Simmons is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation (TM) [24] 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. [25]

Social activism

Simmons has been vegan since 1999, and advocates Ahimsa and veganism, citing animal rights along with the environmental and health benefits. [3] [4] [26] Simmons is a supporter of Farm Sanctuary, an organization working to end cruelty to farm animals. [27] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals awarded him the 2001 PETA Humanitarian Award and the 2011 Person of the Year Award. [28] [29]

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. [30]

Simmons became chairman of the board of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in 2002. [31] 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. [32] In a similar vein, Simmons is a supporter of the Somaly Mam Foundation, [33] and was honored at their 2011 gala dinner. [34] 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. [35] 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. [36]

In 2012, Simmons supported Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich's re-election campaign, appearing with the politician at various speaking events. [37] In November 2013, he pledged support for New York's mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio in recognition of his support for animal rights. [38]

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. [39]

In 2017, Simmons was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 23 in the list of 200 Most Influential Social-Entrepreneurs and Philanthropists Worldwide. [40] [41]

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. [42] Women from his own community, as well as filmmaker Spike Lee, [43] were offended by the controversial comedy sketch. [44]

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.

I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry. [45]

Despite his apology in 2013, the nature of shareable digital media has allowed the comedy video to continue to circulate on YouTube and around the web. [46]

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 was accused by Khalighi of watching them without intervening when she asked for his help, both deny that the encounter was non-consensual. [47]

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. [48] [49] [50] [51]

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. [52] 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." [53]

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 in order to not become a distraction." [54]

On April 25, 2018, Jennifer Jarosik, a filmmaker who alleged Simmons raped her, dropped her lawsuit. The suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Jarosik cannot refile allegations in court. [55]


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:

  1. Keri Claussen Khalighi, model [56]
  2. Kelly Cutrone, publicist and author [57]
  3. Luann de Lesseps, reality television personality [58]
  4. Lisa Kirk, an acquaintance of Simmons'[ citation needed ]
  5. Toni Sallie, music journalist[ citation needed ]
  6. Amanda Seales, actor and comedian (verbal harassment)[ citation needed ]
  7. Natashia Williams-Blach, actress[ citation needed ]


Women who said they had been raped by Simmons include:

  1. Tina Baker, singer-turned-lawyer
  2. Drew Dixon, former music recording executive
  3. Sherri Hines, musician [59]
  4. Jennifer Jarosik, filmmaker [60]
  5. Jenny Lumet, screenwriter


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." [61] [62] [63]

HBO decided to remove Russell Simmons' name from All Def Comedy, a series he created to launch and showcase emerging comedians. [64]


Simmons has written several books that reflect his experiences in the entertainment business and his personal beliefs.

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Harriet Tubman African-American abolitionist and humanitarian

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