Entrepreneur, author, activist and philanthropist Russell Simmons has launched scores of groundbreaking careers and innovative enterprises in arenas as varied as music, film, television, fashion, comedy, poetry, digital platforms, theater and finance. His lifelong mission has been giving a voice to extraordinary talent and empowering underserved communities as they in turn shape the mainstream of culture. After having produced or managed artists such as Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Whodini and Jimmy Spicer, Simmons joined forces with producer Rick Rubin to found Def Jam Recordings. Under Simmons’ leadership as Chairman, Def Jam signed acts including the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Jay Z and Kanye West.
Simmons’ long-running HBO series “Def Comedy Jam” helped make household names of comics including Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart and JB Smoove. “Def Poetry Jam,” also on HBO, won a Peabody Award and a Broadway version netted Simmons a Tony®. Simmons’ numerous big-screen hits include The Nutty Professor, which grossed more than $273 million.
Simmons has written three New York Times best-selling books, including Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple, which was published in 2014. He has also launched a multitude of diverse business ventures including pop-culture website Global Grind, UniRush Financial Services, Simmons Jewelry, Run Athletics and clothing subsidiaries Phat Farm, Baby Phat, Argyleculture, and American Classics. Most recently, he has been building All Def Digital, a premium, multi-platform digital media company and entertainment hub, curating, developing and connecting a new generation of content creators to global fans. He also co-founded the digital marketing firm Narrative.
A longtime champion of social justice and equality, Simmons was honored with the 2011 GLAAD Excellence in Media Award. He is also a leading animal rights activist, having been named PETA Man of the Year in 2011. His charitable endeavors include the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a global organization that supports educational initiatives for disadvantaged people in diamond-producing African nations, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which gives young people opportunities to create and appreciate art, and Foundation for Ethnic Understanding which he serves as chairman promoting understanding and cooperation between and among ethnic groups to help reduce the existing tensions among diverse racial and ethnic communities.
A native of Queens, NY, Simmons has two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee.