Drew Dixon was pursuing her dream of working in the music industry when her career at Def Jam records was derailed by alleged sexual assault that she suffered at the hands of someone higher in the corporate food chain than her — specifically, Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons.
Dixon's story is similar to that of so many other women who have spoken out as part of the #MeToo movement, and it's Dixon's story that is at the forefront of HBO Max's new documentary, "On The Record," a nearly two-hour feature film delving into the sexual misconduct allegations against hip hop mogul Simmons.
In the 1990s, Dixon was nourishing a promising career as an executive at Def Jam — where she worked with such famous names as Biggie Smalls and Mary J. Blige. Although she is credited for her work on iconic songs, her career was ultimately cut short when she left the industry after allegedly being raped by one powerful musical industry professional and being harassed by another.
It was while working at Def Jam in 1995 that Simmons, her supervisor, subjected her to routine harassment that included exposing himself to her and culminated in him raping her in his apartment, as reported in a 2017 piece for The New York Times and discussed at length in the HBO documentary. Following the assault, Dixon quit her job at Def Jam; she later worked with Antonio "L.A." Reid, another music industry mogul. Dixon alleges he also sabotaged her career after she rejected his sexual advances.
It was enough that Dixon nearly left the music industry behind for good.
"After a decade of working my way up from the bottom of my industry, I just quit," she said in the film. "I also completely and utterly cut myself off from the parts of myself I love the most: my creativity, music. I mean, I don't listen to any of the songs that I made. I don't listen to them."
"I tried to bury that part of myself in like, a manhole, and I just tried to become cerebral and steady," she continued, adding, "I ran away from anything that might even get anywhere near that pain and I turned around and I scorched the earth so I would never, ever have the option of going back."
As she stated in the documentary, she then went to Harvard Business School, where she met her husband. The couple had two children together, but leaving her promising career behind was not easy, she recently told the Huffington Post.
“The loss of my career was devastating,” she told the outlet in a piece published this week. “My son is 15, and when we go into Urban Outfitters or some store, the songs I produced will come on, and I used to tell them, ‘Mommy made that.’ But I have nothing to show for it now. Nothing.”
Today, Dixon continues to be a powerful voice for survivors of sexual violence. In February, she testified in front of the Democratic Women’s Caucus for a special #MeToo hearing, as did a number of other survivors. That same month, she sat on a panel at the Athena Film Festival called "The Silence Breakers," speaking about what it was like to come forward after so many years during which she kept silent.
She also shared that in the years since she told her story to The New York Times, no one in the industry has reached out to work with her, despite her track record of collaborating on iconic hit songs like the Mary J. Blige and Method Man song, "You're All I Need."
Despite being apparently shunned by her former peers, Dixon has seemed to return to her creative roots; in some of the final scenes of the documentary, she's shown working with a young musician to record new music. In addition to a potential book and a TV project, Dixon recently launched her own record label called The 9th Floor, according to a Harvard Business School piece published in December. She was inspired to do so after working with young artist Ella Wylde, who was the first artist that she signed after re-entering the business, according to Essentially Pop.
Judging from Dixon's Instagram page, the pair was working on new music together as recently as April.
Following the release of "On The Record" last month, Dixon has spoken out again on why she chose to come forward with her story, explaining to the Huffington Post that she was moved to use her voice for the benefit of other black women who are survivors of sexual assault.
“I want for black women from Greenwich, Connecticut, to the South Bronx to the Ninth Ward to know it’s not you. It’s them. It’s not your fault, it’s theirs," Dixon said. "But class, privilege, even Stanford won’t save you. We live in a rape culture that tells us that Black women are not seen as valuable, worthy of protection, but our lives matter, and we are worth saving and fighting for.”
Both Simmons and Reid declined to be interviewed for "On The Record." Reid called the allegations in the film "unfounded" and a "fabrication." A statement from Simmons, who has consistently denied all allegations against him, was included in the HBO documentary.
"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," the statement read.
Reid, who left Epic Records in 2017 amid sexual misconduct allegations not related to Dixon's accusations, apologized publicly to her that same year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"I'm proud of my track record promoting, supporting and uplifting women at every company I've ever run," his brief statement issued to The Times read. "That notwithstanding, if I have ever said anything capable of being misinterpreted, I apologize unreservedly."
Simmons was accused of sexual misconduct by 18 women in 2018, PEOPLE reports. The HBO documentary states that that number is now up to 20.
Speaking to the hosts of the daytime talk show "The Real" last month, Dixon remarked that it was learning that there were others who had also been victimized by Simmons that helped her "start to forgive" herself.
"It's really been incredibly uplifting and gratifying to know that I wasn't the only one," she said.
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