Co-founder of the pioneering record label Def Jam
Russell Simmons is a co-founder of the pioneering record label Def Jam. He helped launch the careers of a number of important artists, such as Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. His empire includes a clothing line and an energy drink. Simmons is often described as the man who made black urban culture a part of the mainstream, but Newsweek’s Johnnie L. Roberts noted that “in the view of many, he is now emerging as potentially the most credible and effective leader of the post-civil rights generation.”
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. 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. Simmons is also a long-time supporter for gay rights. He encourages marriage equality.