Being Russell Simmons takes a lot of work, and the man can’t do it alone. Managing the hip-hop pioneer’s multi-million-dollar companies, philanthropic ventures and social life requires a small army of staffers, which is the story behind the new docu-series on Oxygen, Running Russell Simmons.
Simmons and his staff, especially his executive assistant, Simone Reyes, are deeply entrenched in one another’s lives. Reyes – who started as a receptionist at Simmons’s Def Jam Records in the 1990s and is now known as his “longest female relationship” as well as a staunch animal activist who frequently demonstrates naked for PETA – has pushed her boss to think more about animal rights.
“Animals are here, in my mind, as equals,” Reyes tells PEOPLEPets.com. “If we have any jurisdiction over them, it’s to help protect them.”
For his part, Simmons (who doesn’t have pets) has done a PSA against dogfighting, supported Reyes’s causes and has even changed his eating habits. “I became a vegan because I wanted to be compassionate, although my health [also] changed dramatically,” Simmons says. “Not only the karmic shift that happens when you stop abusing animals, but physically, you do better.”
Catch new episodes of Running Russell Simmons on Oxygen each Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.
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