Russell Simmons

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Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Simmons at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Mansome
Born Russell Wendell Simmons
(1957-10-04) October 4, 1957 (age 60)
Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater City College of New York
Occupation Co-founder of Def Jam and founder of Phat Farm, All Def Digital, Global Grind, Def Pictures, Argyleculture, Tantris, American Classics
Music Producer
Net worth Increase $340 million (2011)[1]
Spouse(s) Kimora Lee (m. 1998; div. 2009)
Children 2
Relatives Rev Run (brother)
Daniel Simmons, Jr. (brother)
Website Rush Communications

Russell Wendell Simmons (born October 4, 1957)[2] is an American entrepreneur, record producer, and author. The chair and CEO of Rush Communications, he cofounded the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings[3] and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons's net worth was estimated at $340m in 2011.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Simmons was born and raised in Queens, New York.[4]

His father was a public school administrator and his mother was a New York City park administrator, his brothers are painter Daniel Simmons Jr., and 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.[5][6][7][8][9]

Upon hearing Eddie Cheeba perform in Harlem in 1977, Simmons knew that hip hop would be his career.[10] Simmons stated, "Hearing Cheeba in '77 made me feel like I had just witnessed the invention of the wheel."[10]

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.[11]


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.[12] 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][13] In 1996, Simmons co-produced the hit film The Nutty Professor, starring Eddie Murphy.[14][citation needed] In 2003, Simmons co-founded RushCard, a prepaid debit card provider.[15][16]

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 not only hip hop clothing for men, but also women and children. Phat Fashions 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.[17]

In 2004, Simmons sold Phat Farm and Baby Phat to the Kellwood Company for $140 million.[18]

Russell Simmons, along with his brothers Danny Simmons and Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons, 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. [19]

Personal life[edit]


Simmons and model Kimora Lee met in November 1992, they married on December 20, 1998,[20] on the island of Saint Barthélemy. They have two daughters, Ming Lee (born 2000) and Aoki Lee (born 2002); in March 2006, Simmons announced his divorce from Lee.[21]


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

Simmons is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation (TM)[23] 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.[24][25]

Simmons is believed to have a estranged niece in the state of Maryland, Marquise Simmons born on his mother's side.

Social activism[edit]

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 also a longtime supporter for gay rights, 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]

Sexual misconduct and assault allegations[edit]


In November 2017, model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons of sexual assault in 1991 when she was seventeen. Simmons and Brett Ratner, who was also accused by Khalighi of watching them without intervening when she asked for his help, both deny that the encounter was non-consensual.[42]

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 a screenshot of the alleged e-mail he had received from Simmons on his Twitter account.[43][44][45][46]

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.[47] On the same day, HBO announced that they would be removing Simmons’s name and his 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."[48]

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.” [49]

On April 25, 2018, Jennifer Jarosik, a filmmaker who alleged Simmons raped her, dropped her lawsuit, the suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Jarosik can not refile allegations in court. [50]


A number of women, some of whom were aged seventeen at the time of the alleged incidents, have accused Simmons of sexual harassment, assault or rape:

Sexual harassment or assault[edit]

Women who said they had been sexually harassed or assaulted (including attempted rape) by Simmons include:

  1. Kelly Cutrone, publicist and author.[51]
  2. Keri Claussen Khalighi, model.[52]
  3. Lisa Kirk, an acquaintance of Simmons.
  4. Toni Sallie, music journalist.
  5. Amanda Seales, actor and comedian (verbal harassment).
  6. Natashia Williams-Blach, actress.
  7. Luann de Lesseps, reality television personality[53]


Women who said they had been raped by Simmons include:

  1. Jenny Lumet, screenwriter.
  2. Sherri Hines, musician.[54]
  3. Tina Baker, singer-turned-lawyer.
  4. Drew Dixon, former music recording executive.
  5. Jennifer Jarosik, filmmaker.[55]

Parody video[edit]

Prior to 2017, Russell was the subject of public outrage in August 2013 when his All Def Digital YouTube channel launched by posting a sex parody video titled "The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape" featuring an actor as abolitionist Harriet Tubman having sex with her owner to convince the owner to work on the Underground Railroad.[56] Black Twitter and women from his own community as well as Spike Lee[57] were offended by the controversial comedy sketch.

The Rolling Stone magazine 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."[58]

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.[59]

Repercussions of allegations[edit]

In 2017, after additional allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced that led Simmons to step down from his role in Def Jam Records, his yoga lifestyle brand and multiple media properties according to the New York Times[60] and CNNMoney.[61] HBO also decided to remove Russell Simmons’ name from “All Def Comedy,” a series he created to launch and showcase emerging comedians.[62]


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

  • Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, + God, published September 24, 2001
  • Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway … and More, published March 29, 2005
  • Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, published April 10, 2008.
  • Super Rich: Inside and Out, published November 1, 2011
  • Success Through Stillness, published March 11, 2014
  • The Happy Vegan, published November 4, 2015


  1. ^ a b Padgett, Tania (April 26, 2011). "Russell Simmons: Getting rich is so simple". CNN. 
  2. ^ Huey, Steve. "Russell Simmons Biography". Retrieved February 25, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c 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. 
  4. ^ a b Kugel, Allison (January 3, 2011). "Russell Simmons Talks to - "My Religion is Compassion"". Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  5. ^ "Russell Simmons: Athletes leading our cultural awakening", Washington Blade, August 29, 2013.
  6. ^ Carrie Golus, Russell Simmons: From Def Jam to Super Rich, USA Today, 2012.
  7. ^ Fetterman, Mindy (May 23, 2007). "Today's Entrepreneur: Russell Simmons can't slow down". USA Today. 
  8. ^ "Executive Profile: Russell Simmons",; accessed December 16, 2017.
  9. ^ Rachel Kranz, "Simmons, Russell", in African-American Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, Facts On File, 2004, p. 252.
  10. ^ a b 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. 
  11. ^ Wes Woods, "Russell Simmons keynote speaker for Claremont Lincoln University", Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, May 18, 2014.
  12. ^ "Krush Groove (1985) : Full Cast & Crew". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  13. ^ Patrick Neate. "Def Jam Records launched by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  14. ^ Simmons, Russell; George, Nelson (2001). Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God. Random House. ISBN 0609606077. 
  15. ^ Introduction: About Us. "RushCard Prepaid Visa Card". Retrieved 2017-03-04. 
  16. ^ Fortune Magazine by Michelle Toh. "Russell Simmons' Prepaid Debit Card Is Adding New Security Features". Retrieved 2017-03-04. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Russell, Kimora Lee Simmons Split, 31 March 2006
  21. ^ "Simmonses, Russell is believed to have an estranged niece in the state of Maryland, Marquise Simmons". Oakland Tribune. April 1, 2006. p. 1. 
  22. ^ A Day of Yoga with Russell Simmons, David Life & Sharon Gannon MindBodyGreen, January 10, 2011.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Russel Simmons: "Why I meditate." Huffington Post, February 24, 2010.
  25. ^ [1] Archived July 25, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ "Russell Simmons on his vegan diet, Obama and yoga" at Youtube.
  27. ^ "Thanksgiving getting a remake courtesy of Russell Simmons". USA Today. November 13, 2009. 
  28. ^ Cookie Lommell, Russell Simmons Infobase Publishing 2007.
  29. ^ Calvin Stovall, "Russell Simmons Honored by PETA", BET, 19 December 2011.
  30. ^ AbduSalaam, Ismael. "Russell Simmons Leads NY Protest Against Rockefeller Drug Laws". Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  31. ^ Ramirez, Anthony (April 13, 2008). "Backstage With Six Rabbis, Six Imams and No 'Kumbaya'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 3, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Secretary-General pledges to fill gap in knowledge about causes, effects of transatlantic slave trade". United Nations.
  33. ^ "Russell Simmons Got A Joyful Hamptons' Social Life, Hosts Somaly Mam Foundation Benefit". Global Grind. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  34. ^ "2011 East Coast Gala". Somaly Mam Foundation. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  35. ^ "Russell Simmons, gay marriage and Maryland". The Washington Post. 
  36. ^ Samuel G. Freedman (2011-12-16). "Waging a One-Man War on American Muslims". The New York Times. 
  37. ^ "Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons to appear with Kucinich". Toledo Blade. 
  38. ^ "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.
  39. ^ Haberman, Maggie; Eder, Steve (21 December 2015). "Rise of Donald Trump Divides Black Celebrities He Calls His Friends". New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  40. ^ "Philanthropists & Social Entrepreneurs Top 200: From Elon Musk to Melinda Gates, These Are the Most Influential Do-Gooders in the World". Richtopia. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  41. ^ "200 most influential philanthropists in the world". Naij. Retrieved 31 March 2017. 
  42. ^ "Russell Simmons accused of sexual assault alongside Brett Ratner". The Guardian. 20 November 2017. 
  43. ^ [2] LA Times, November 19, 2017.
  44. ^ Mumford, Gwilym (2017-10-11). "Actor Terry Crews: I was sexually assaulted by Hollywood executive". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-29. 
  45. ^ "Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor claims groping". BBC News. 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2017-11-29. 
  46. ^ "Terry Crews Details Alleged Sexual Assault by WME's Adam Venit". November 15, 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  47. ^ Lumet, Jenny (30 November 2017). "Writer Jenny Lumet: Russell Simmons Sexually Violated Me (Guest Column)". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ news|last1=Lewis|first1=Rebecca|title=Strike actor says Harvey Weinstein 'offered sex in return for furthering career'|
  52. ^ Khalighi accused Simmons sexually assaulting her in 1991, when she was 17 and he was about 33."Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner face new allegations of sexual misconduct." LA Times, November 19, 2017.
  53. ^ Pasquini, Maria (April 8, 2018). "Luann de Lesseps Accuses Russell Simmons of Groping Her in an Elevator: 'He Was Just a Pig'". People. Retrieved April 9, 2018. 
  54. ^ 13 Women Total Accuse Music Producer Russell Simmons of Sexual Misconduct — Everything They've Said via @people
  55. ^ Russell Simmons Publicly Accused Of Rape By A 6th Woman via @npr
  56. ^ The Young Turks (2013-08-15), Russell Simmons and the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape, retrieved 2017-12-08 
  57. ^ "Spike Lee Slams Russell Simmons For Producing Mock Harriet Tubman Sex Tape". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-12-08. 
  58. ^ Cubarrubia, RJ (2013-08-15). "Russell Simmons Apologizes for Harriet Tubman 'Sex Tape'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-12-08. 
  59. ^ StraightFromTheA1 (YouTube) (2013-08-15), Harriet Tubman Sex Tape Controversy (Funny? Or Disrespectful?), retrieved 2017-12-08 
  60. ^ Victor, Daniel (2017-11-30). "Russell Simmons Steps Down From Businesses After Sexual Misconduct Report". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-08. 
  61. ^ Melas, Chloe. "Russell Simmons steps down after sexual assault allegation". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-12-08. 
  62. ^ "HBO cuts ties with Russell Simmons after third assault allegation". The Mercury News. 2017-11-30. Retrieved 2017-12-08. 

External links[edit]