Russell Simmons: ‘Progressive’ Hollywood ‘Incredibly Segregated’

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 03: Entrepreneur, author, activist and philanthropist Russell Simmons, speaks onstage during 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton on May 03, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Music mogul-turned Hollywood producer Russell Simmons slammed so-called “progressive activists” in Hollywood for turning the entertainment business into a racially segregated industry.

“I think Hollywood is incredibly segregated. I’ve never seen any place like it,” Simmons said in an interview with LinkedIn. “The gatekeepers who are the most progressive activists inspired to make the world better … they’re better people, right? They’re segregated. It’s self segregated in some cases, but there’s nobody Black in charge of anything in Hollywood.”

“I shouldn’t say there’s no Black agents,” the Def Jam founder continued. “There’s one or two and they represent the Black client until the Black client becomes big and then they lose that client.”

Beyond the negative optics, Simmons says Hollywood’s segregation problem is also hurting the industry’s ability to turn a profit.

“The lack of diversity is costing money. I think that the bosses, the chairmen, want the CEOs to create and the CEOs want people to create success and money. Without a diverse team then even if you’re a good story teller, you’re telling a story that is maybe not cultural,” Simmons said. “If it’s not cultural then you have a big hurdle to jump like [with the movies] Carol or Brooklyn. It’s not Straight Outta Compton. They’ll see that before they find out if it’s good or bad.”

Russell Simmons produced his first film, Crush Groove, in 1985 and executive produced Def Comedy Jam, which ran on HBO from 1992 to 2008.

“They’re lacking culture in Hollywood. That gives me a big up, right? I know something about pop culture. Urban pop culture is its own phenomena that is for some reason left out of Hollywood,” he added. “It’s the most mainstream thing there is.”

Earlier this year, in response to the “White Oscars” controversy, Simmons hosted his own movie awards ceremony, the first-ever All Def Movie Awards, which aired days before the 88th Academy Awards.



Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson