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Known by many as a pioneering hip hop mogul, Russell Simmons’ public image began to shift in the wake of a large number sexual misconduct allegations made public beginning in 2017.
Both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times published lengthy pieces in 2017 detailing the stories of numerous women accusing Simmons of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. After the first allegations came to light, Simmons issued a denial describing the claims as “horrific” and steadfastly denying engaging in any misconduct. However afterwards, more and more women began to come forward, with many of them explaining that they were moved to do so after learning that Simmons was denying the claims of other women.
The allegations against Simmons began making headlines again following the release of the HBO Max documentary “On the Record” last month. Although the film focuses primarily on the claims of Drew Dixon, a former record executive who quit the industry after allegedly being raped by Simmons, many other accusers are also featured and they tell their stories in severe — and oftentimes disturbing — detail.
Simmons declined to participate in the film, and instead issued another denial to producers, which reads, “I have issued countless denials of false accusations against me. ... I have lived my life honorably as an open book for decades, devoid of any kind of violence against anyone.”
To date, around 20 women have accused Simmons of some form of sexual misconduct.
1. Drew Dixon
Drew Dixon was a record executive at Def Jam, the label that Simmons is known for co-founding, when he raped her in the mid-1990s, she told The New York Times in 2017 and, recounted during "On The Record." Simmons would routinely proposition her for sex, at times trying to kiss her and repeatedly exposing himself to her at work, to the point where keeping him away began to feel like a “full-time job," she told the Times.
Simmons raped her in his Manhattan apartment in 1995, after getting her up to his room by claiming that he had a demo that he wanted her to listen to, she alleged in the HBO documentary. Once inside, she felt “cornered,” she recalled to The Times; he pinned her to the bed where he raped her, she claimed. She quit her job at Def Jam soon after, and eventually stepped away from the music industry after then experiencing harassment at the hands of another powerful man: former Epic Records CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid.
In a statement obtained by The Times, Simmons admitted to “inappropriate conduct” involving Dixon during her time at Def Jam, but, through his lawyer, denied having sex with her or sexually assaulting her.
Reid apologized publicly to Dixon in 2017, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
2. Toni Sallie
Toni Sallie was working as a journalist and writing for a music magazine in the late 1980s when she first met Simmons and briefly dated him, she told The Times for their 2017 report. She alleged that he raped her in 1988 after inviting her to a party at his apartment, only for her to arrive and find that Simmons was the only one home; she said that he then forced himself onto her in his bedroom.
“He pushed me on the bed and jumped on top of me, and physically attacked me,” she told the outlet. “We were fighting. I said no.”
She was too afraid to report the incident to police, she said. When she ran into Simmons around a year later, at a hotel in Florida, she said Simmons attempted to get her alone again. After she resisted his attempts to lead her to a secluded beach, he physically attacked her, pulling her hair, she alleged. Sallie fled and he chased her into a restroom, but she was ultimately able to escape and hide in her hotel room, she said.
Simmons denied having non-consensual sex with Sallie and his lawyer claimed that Simmons never “[conducted] himself inappropriately.”
3. Tina Baker
Tina Baker, a singer who debuted in the 1980s under the name Tina B. and who is now a lawyer, told The Times her story in 2017, and alleged that Simmons raped her in either 1990 or 1991 when he was her manager. After inviting her to his apartment one night, he began giving her drinks and made advances toward her, but she fought him off, she said. Things then got “really ugly, pretty fast,” and he pinned her to the bed and raped her. She recalled him telling her, “'Don’t fight me.’”
“I did nothing, I shut my eyes and waited for it to end,” she told The Times.
What happened with Simmons affected her so profoundly that she did not sing “for almost a year,” she said. But following the alleged assault, she and Simmons still had to work together, and she recalled him exposing himself to her during a meeting some time after the incident, prompting her to leave. Her career also slowed down, and the combination of these things led her to grow depressed.
Simmons denied Baker’s claims, and his lawyer told The Times that Simmons had “no recollection of ever having any sexual relations with Ms. Baker.” He also said that, during his time representing her, he “did everything he could to professionally promote her career.”
4. Sherri Sher
Sherri Sher, also known by her stage name of Sheri Sher, told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that Simmons raped her around 1983 when she was 17 or 18 years old. At the time, she was a member of the hip-hop group Mercedes Ladies, but she and Simmons already knew each other from their involvement in the local music scene. After bumping into Simmons at a night club, he invited her to see his office, which was in a building near the club. Once there, he raped her, she told the Los Angeles Times.
“The next thing I knew, he was pinning me down and I was trying to fight him and he had his way,” she told the outlet. “I left crying.”
Speaking to WNYC the following year, Sher — who had originally approached Simmons about why he’d chosen not to represent her group — said that Simmons “treated her like garbage.”
Simmons’ lawyer issued a denial on his behalf to the Times, stating that Simmons “vigorously denies” that the encounter ever took place.
5. Sil Lai Abrams
Journalist and writer Sil Lai Abrams alleged in a 2018 piece for The Hollywood Reporter that Simmons raped her in 1994. Abrams, a former model and Def Jam executive assistant, first met him in 1989, and they had a casual sexual relationship, she said. They spent time together over the years, but things changed in 1994; during one occasion when she met up with Simmons as friends (she was in a relationship with someone else at that point) and at the end of a night of partying together, she asked Simmons to take her home, she wrote.
Simmons instead took her to his apartment, where she passed out in his bedroom. When she woke up, Abrams said Simmons was naked and wearing a condom, and although she repeatedly said no, he raped her, she said.
“I kept saying, ‘No, no, no.’ I kept thinking, My boyfriend, my boyfriend, my boyfriend,’” she recalled during “On the Record.” “And then he raped me and I couldn’t fight. I couldn’t do anything. I just lay there.”
Abrams said that after it happened, he immediately told her to leave, and the next morning, at home, she attempted to kill herself by taking a lethal amount of pills. After taking the medicine, she called Simmons and told him, “I hope you know for the rest of your life that you made me kill myself!” He denied having raped her during the call, and Abrams’ life was saved by the woman she was staying with, who realized that she was in trouble and made sure she got to a hospital, Abrams recounted.
In a statement issued to The Hollywood Reporter by his lawyer, Simmons denied raping Abrams and claimed to have passed a lie detector test during which he was questioned as to whether he’d ever sexually assaulted anyone. He also denied receiving the phone call that Abrams alluded to in her piece.
6. Jenny Lumet
Actress and screenwriter Jenny Lumet alleged that Simmons raped her in the 1990s. In a guest column published in 2017 by The Hollywood Reporter, Lumet wrote that she first met Simmons in 1987, and he began to casually pursue her, “on and off."
Years later, in 1991, she accepted a ride home from Simmons after running into him at a restaurant, but he had his driver take them to his apartment instead, where he raped her in a bedroom, she alleged.
In her open letter, Lumet described being afraid, and hoped that the man that she thought she knew would reappear. She wrote that she “simply did what [she] was told” that night.
“I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating. I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult. I wanted to stay as contained as I could," Lumet said in the column.
Afterward, she went home alone. The two continued to be in the same orbit, socially, but neither addressed the assault, she said. She did not tell anyone until October 2017, when she confided in a friend in the midst of the #MeToo movement.
In response to Lumet’s allegations, Simmons issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter denying ever being violent, and stated that he recalled their “night together” differently than Lumet did.
“While her memory of that evening is very different from mine, it is now clear to me that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real,” his statement reads, in part.” While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades, and I sincerely apologize.
He went on to announce that he’d be stepping down from his various businesses, in order to “commit [himself] to continuing [his] personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.”
7. Luann de Lesseps
“Real Housewives Of New York” star Luann de Lesseps alleged in a 2018 interview with The Daily Beast that Simmons touched her inappropriately “around three summers ago.” The two were alone in an elevator together at Soho Beach House in Miami when the incident occurred, she recalled.
“He grabbed my ass in an elevator, he was just a pig. I haven’t told anybody about that before,” she said. “I was grossed out. I was like ‘How dare you?’ He invaded me, he took advantage of me, being who he is, thinking he is all ‘it,’ all everything. He thought he could just do that. I looked at him and said, ‘Don't ever do that again.’”
When asked, de Lesseps said, “Of course he didn't apologize.”
When contacted by The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for Simmons re-issued a previous blanket statement denying various accusations of sexual misconduct. In that statement, Simmons said that he “had never been abusive or violent in any way in [his] relations with women.”
8. Alexia Norton Jones
Alexia Norton Jones alleged in 2018 that Simmons raped her on a first date in the fall of 1990. Speaking to Variety, Jones —who worked as a model and actress at the time — said that Simmons invited her back to his apartment, and once she was there, they began kissing. Things then took a turn; she did not want to go further with Simmons, but Jones claimed he trapped her against a wall, pulled her dress up, and raped her, despite her saying no “seven to 10 times.”
She described the alleged assault as a “murder of the soul.” However, she eventually forgave him because she knew they’d run into each other again due to being in the same circles, she said. It was when Simmons’ other accusers came forward that she was moved to share her story and file a police report as a show of solidarity.
Jones was one of numerous women who recounted being sexually assaulted or otherwise subjected to sexual misconduct in “On the Record.” Recalling the rape, Jones said, “He took a piece of me with him when he did this, and then he carried it with him. And he carried it with him for three f--king decades.”
In a statement issued to Variety in 2018, Simmons said that he was “deeply saddened” by Jones’ claims and denied raping her. He continued, “Alexia and I dated, were intimate and attended multiple events together after she alleges the incident occurred in 1990. I considered her a friend for all these years and continue to have a warm relationship with members of her family.”
Jones denied having dated Simmons.
9. Jennifer Jarosik
Filmmaker Jennifer Jarosik filed a lawsuit against Simmons in 2018 alleging that he raped her two years prior at his Los Angeles home, according to USA Today Jarosik said that Simmons, who she first met in 2006, invited her over under the guise of wanting to fund a documentary project that she had in the works, but once she arrived, asked if she wanted to have sex with him; when she said no, he grew “aggressive,” knocking her down and causing her to hit her head, she claimed. He then raped her while she was in “shock and fear,” the suit, which sought $5 million, reportedly read.
Simmons denied the claims, calling them “absolutely untrue” to USA Today. The two embarked on a brief legal battle, with Simmons claiming that, following the alleged assault, he and Jarosik maintained a friendship, with Jarosik allegedly sending him unsolicited explicit photos of herself, according to the Associated Press.
That suit was dismissed a few months later when both sides reached a settlement and agreed to cover their own legal fees. The details of the settlement have not been made public.
10. Kelly Cutrone
Publicist Kelly Cutrone came forward in 2017 with her allegations regarding Simmons after he denied the first wave of claims against him. She told Page Six that Simmons tried to rape her in 1991 after she ran into him at a party. They were walking together to a second party when Simmons invited her to his apartment, she said. She declined, but he then claimed that he needed to stop by a friend’s house; Cutrone believes that he actually led her to his own apartment, where he then tried to rape her. Simmons pushed her down onto the floor and tried to forcibly undress her, Cutrone claimed.
“And I started kicking him really, really hard, screaming, telling him to get the f--k off of me,” she recalled. “And that I would have him killed if he ever f--king laid a hand on me.”
Cutrone is also featured in “On the Record," and describes Simmons as someone who was a peer that she once felt “safe” with. But that night, he seemed to want to “physically dominate” her, she said.
Cutrone was able to get away, she told Page Six, leaving a “shaken up” Simmons in the apartment. She ultimately decided not to go to the police and pursue charges, what she described as an “overwhelming” thought at the time.
When contacted by Page Six, Simmons’ representatives issued a previous denial, calling the claims “horrific.”
11. Keri Claussen Khalighi
Keri Claussen Khalighi was a 17-year-old model when Russell Simmons raped her in 1991, she told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. Simmons and his colleague, director Brett Ratner, had taken her to dinner and then they all went together back to Simmons’ apartment, where Simmons began coming on to her aggressively, taking her clothes off and trying to push her into having sex with him, she alleged. She said that Simmons did so in full view of Ratner, who did nothing to help her when she asked.
During “On the Record,” she recalled being shocked by what was happening, and initially thinking that it was all a joke.
“I remember fighting it, fighting on the bed, because I didn’t want his penis in me,” she said. She added later, “I had to do some dark nights of the soul to work through this layer of shame.”
Simmons eventually pushed her into performing oral sex on him while Ratner “just sat there and watched,” she told the Times. Afterward, while she was in the shower, Simmons allegedly came up behind her and penetrated her without permission.
In a statement issued to the Times, Simmons denied sexually assaulting Claussen Khalighi, remarking, “Everything that occurred between Keri and me occurred with her full consent and participation.” He went on to say that her allegation “does a disservice to those who have been true victims of sexual harassment.” Similarly, Ratner said through his attorney that he did not hear “any alleged protest” from Claussen Khalighi and said that he did not recall her asking him for help.
12. Natashia Williams-Blach
Actress Natashia Williams-Blach told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that Simmons tried to force her to perform oral sex on him in 1996.
Then a college freshman, she met Simmons after being cast in the film “How To Be A Player,” which Simmons produced. He invited her to attend a hot yoga class with him, and afterwards, took her to his house — purportedly to watch promotional material for her film. However, once there, he began trying to kiss her, and did not stop his advances after she told him that she was not interested, she said. He instead grabbed her head and pushed it to his crotch while his hand was on his zipper. It lasted “just a few seconds,” she explained, because she told him that she needed to get back to campus, and he agreed to take her home.
Simmons told the paper, via his lawyer, that he did remember taking a yoga class with Williams-Blach, but “vehemently denies” everything else.
Like others, Williams-Blach said that she was inspired to share her story after reading Simmons’ denials of other claims against him.
Appearing on “Megyn Kelly Today” after going public, Williams-Blach spoke again about the experience, recalling that she claimed that she had school work to do in order to get away, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“You realize you just escaped a minefield,” she said.” I went into an automatic, ‘You just gotta go. You got to get out.’”
13. Lisa Kirk
Lisa Kirk also told her story to the Los Angeles Times in 2017, alleging that Simmons attempted to sexually assault her in a public restroom in 1988. Kirk recalled partying with a group that included Simmons at a club in New York. When she stepped away to go to the bathroom, she found that Simmons had followed her. He pushed her into a stall, causing her clothes to tear, and began taking his penis out. However, things came to a halt when Kirk locked eyes with him, and he seemingly grew embarrassed.
“He looked mortified and literally ran out of the bathroom,” she told the outlet.
Kirk decided to leave the club and was forced to do so with her underwear visible due to her clothes being ripped, according to the Times. She said that she did not tell anyone about what had happened because she wanted to “make it go away.”
Kirk was moved to go public after Simmons’ denial of other allegations. Simmons’ lawyer issued a statement to the Times calling Kirk’s claims “outrageous” and “unverifiable.” Simmons, responding to the numerous claims outlined in the 2017 report, again denied ever assaulting any women and said that the “new stories” about him “range from the patently untrue to frivolous and hurtful.”
14. Amanda Seales
Amanda Seales, comedian and “Insecure” actress, said in 2017 that Simmons once behaved inappropriately with her during a meeting. In an Instagram video, Seales included an earlier clip of herself referring to an unnamed “very important man” who asked her, “'Uh, have we ever f--ked?'” during a conversation in his office about working together. Seales recalled that when she said no, the man then said, “'Oh, right, ‘cause I would have remembered that, right?'”
In a more recent clip, Seales alluded to being asked by her fans to share her thoughts regarding the recent accusations about Simmons; she then revealed that the man she was referring to in the earlier clip was Simmons.
Seales also addressed the incident, which happened in 2016, in a 2017 interview with the Los Angeles Times. Simmons told the outlet that he never said anything appropriate during the meeting, which was held at his All Def Digital offices in Los Angeles. He also gave the outlet signed statements from two witnesses who also claimed that nothing inappropriate occurred.
15. Christina Moore
Christina Moore told The New York Times in 2017 that she first encountered Simmons after she and a female friend ended up in the same elevator as him at Soho Beach House in 2014. When Simmons learned that they were lost, he suggested that he would help them, but instead led them to his room, she alleged. Once there, he began to fill the bathtub with water, and then pushed Moore up against a column in the room. Simmons, she said, groped her “all over [her] body,” and told her that she was a bad girl and that he wanted to tie her up. She and the friend fled the room at that point.
“I felt assaulted,” Moore told the Times.
When contacted by the outlet, Simmons acknowledged meeting the two women but denied any sexual misconduct. He said that they chose to go to his room, where they asked him about local parties (they met during Art Basel). He ran the bath as a “signal to Ms. Moore and her friend to leave,” Simmons’ lawyer said.
16. Erin Beattie
Massage therapist Erin Beattie told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that Simmons exposed himself to her during a massage in his hotel room in 2005 and propositioned her. Thirty minutes into the massage, Simmons removed the towel and showed her his penis, asking her if she “[wanted] to work this out,” she recalled. She declined, and then said that she would either leave or continue the massage as long as there were no further sexual comments made, according to the outlet. Simmons agreed and she continued the massage as normal.
Beattie agreed to give Simmons another massage the following day, with the agreement that things would not get inappropriate, according to the outlet. While Simmons did not expose himself or ask for sexual favors again, she claimed that he did make sexual and racial remarks.
In a statement to the Times, Simmons did recall the massage, but claimed that he’d asked for a “happy ending” as a joke. He also claimed that he and Beattie both joked about “racial and sexual” things, but that he now regrets “any offense” his remarks may have caused.
17. Karen Russell
Karen Russell, an ex-general manager at Simmons’ former yoga studio, Tantris, told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that Simmons used the studio to pursue and harass women. She recalled one of the instructors there coming to her to report that she was uncomfortable due to Simmons’ aggressive advances, which included repeatedly trying to get her alone in private meetings and asking her to get dinner with him, according to the outlet. Russell said that when she reported these allegations to management, they did not seem surprised, and said to her that they’ve “always been able to handle it and clean up his mess.”
In a statement issued to the Times, Simmons’ attorney described Russell as a “disgruntled former employee” and denied claims that any studio staff complained about him.
18. Tanya Reid
Tanya Reid told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that Simmons and Ratner were both inappropriate with her in 1994, when she was working as a hotel clerk in Miami. She met the men when they were staying at the hotel, and both would call the front desk specifically to speak to her, and tried to get her to come up to their room. She recalled an occasion where Simmons wanted her to bring him a toothbrush, but also suggested sexual things.
“I remember this very, very clearly, the exact words he said on the phone. He wanted me to come upstairs so Brett could hold me down and he could [perform oral sex],” Reid told the outlet.
“I mean no disrespect to her when I say I do not recall a conversation with a hotel front desk clerk over a quarter of a century ago.” Simmons told the Los Angeles Times.
Reid also alleged that Ratner successfully coereced her into performing oral sex on a later occasion. An attorney for the director stated that he did not recall Reid or the alleged incident.
19. 'Jane Doe'
A woman known only as Jane Doe filed a $10 million lawsuit against Simmons in 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The woman said that she first met Simmons at one of his concerts, and went out with him; he then got her alone in his hotel room, where he raped her, she alleged. The unnamed woman also alleged that there was at least one person who “saw [her] leaving the hotel room in tears,” the suit reportedly claimed.
In response to the suit, Simmons issued a previous denial, that read 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.”
A judge denied Simmons’ request to dismiss the suit in August 2019, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
20. Anonymous Women/Women
An anonymous woman filed a police report with the New York Police Department in 2018 claiming that Simmons raped her at his apartment in 1991, according to TMZ. She reportedly told authorities that she and Simmons were at his apartment after a date when he began trying to undress her. She resisted, and he raped her, the woman reportedly claimed.
In response, Simmons re-issued a previous denial.
An anonymous woman also appeared in shadow in “On the Record" — though it is unclear if she is the same anonymous woman who accused Simmons of raping her in 1991. She described the assault thusly: “He puts his knees on my legs and pins my hands down.”
“I pushed him off of me and I was like, ‘What the f--k are you doing? What the f--k is wrong with you?’” she continued.
Simmons did not participate in the film, but did reiterate his claims of innocence in a statement included in the documentary.
"On the Record" is available to stream on HBO Max.
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