Russell Simmons (born October 4, 1957) is an American business magnate. The Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, he cofounded the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons had a net-worth estimate of $340 million in 2011
Russell Simmons was born and raised in Queens, New York. His father is a public school administrator and his mother is 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.
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 Russell Simmons co-produced and appeared in the film, Krush Groove. Simmons’ company, Rush Communications Inc. includes over ten businesses and three non-profits. Simmons has also produced television hits HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, 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.
Simmons met model Kimora Lee in November 1992. They dated for four years and married on December 20, 1998. 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.
Russell Simmons also dated German model Hana Nitsche.
Russell 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 with the 2001 PETA Humanitarian Award and the 2011 Person of the Year Award.
In 2004, 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 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 also a longtime supporter for gay rights. 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 denounced his former friend, real-estate developer and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in an open letter after Trump called for Muslim immigrants to be barred from entering the United States.