When your average dude looks at a magazine cover, he doesn’t often see his wife and kids staring back at him.
This has happened to Russell Simmons though. Proudly flipping through his many wallet photos of wife Kimora Lee Simmons and daughters Ming Lee and Aoki Lee, he mentions in passing that one -- of Kimora and Ming -- was on the cover of a parenting magazine.
The real challenge is finding something that Simmons is not involved with. In the twenty-something years that he's been making moves, Simmons has built a hefty empire.
On his quest for world domination, Simmons has already conquered, among others, the worlds of music (Def Jam/Russell Simmons Music Group), television (Def Comedy Jam, Russell Simmons' Oneworld Music Beat), print (Oneworld magazine), fashion (Phat Farm), finance (Rush Card) and even energy drinks (Def-Con 3).
It's no wonder, then, that he has been featured in magazines ranging from Vanity Fair to Business Week. "I like to do things that I think are inspiring in some way," says Simmons, who has also infiltrated the political world with the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and the Rush Philanthropic Arts foundation.
Most recently, the 47-year-old New Yorker organized the Philadelphia Live 8 show. "I talked to Bono this morning and he told me that we had the additional $25 billion for Africa," says Simmons. "We helped the summit to help double the aid to Africa, and I think that that will save millions of lives."
Russell Simmons is undoubtedly a restless soul: His eyes frequently scan his surroundings and he has a habit of tapping his foot. Ever the multi-tasker, he even interrupts one of his many in-store interviews when he notices a lack of advertisement for Phat Fashions. “See the Sean John signage? See the LRG signage? You don’t have anything for Baby Phat or Phat Farm,” he points out to a store staffer. (The response is a quiet “We’ll put more signs up.”)
Simmons is arguably best known for Def Jam Records, which he co-founded with Rick Rubin in the late '70s. Though he sold his stake of the company in 1999, he recently launched the Russell Simmons Music Group -- a joint venture with Island/Def Jam.
"I'm going to be a better mentor," he replies when asked what's going to be different this time around. "I didn't spend enough time mentoring all the people working with me [at Def Jam]... Their futures are brighter if they're given the right direction." Artists already signed to the label include his brother Reverend Run (of Run-DMC) and R&B group Black Buddafly.
Despite generating nearly a half-billion dollars (US) every year from his empire, Simmons remains refreshingly laid-back. He says his children and family make him happiest, and his biggest reward is being able to share what God gave him.
In addition to doing publicity, Simmons also shot an episode of the lesbian drama The L-Word while in Vancouver. “I like the show, because with the bible belt in America, people are struggling and confused with their sexuality and that show inspires them,” says Simmons. With a laugh, he adds: “Plus there’s a lot of hot girls on there.”