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Russell Simmons’ office is not just in a corner, it’s in a wing all its own. Located in a Manhattan high-rise, it features the Power Player’s requisite big desk and panoramic view. But as I step inside, my first thought is that this dark-wood paneled den, with its plump leather furniture and inlaid argyle motif on the wall, is a whole lot smaller than I thought it would be.
Then, I realize, it’s not the office that’s small, it’s the crowd of people stuffed inside that are making it seem small. What is up?!
What’s up is that everyone wanted to meet Russell Simmons! Typically, when we shoot Power Player interviews for Black Enterprise Business Report, you see two folks on camera: The subject (Russell Simmons, Nick Cannon, Amsale Aberra, Paula Madison–not that I’m name dropping!) and me. Behind the scenes, there are not many more of us than that: there’s a producer, a small camera crew, and a makeup artist (thank God for them all, makeup in particular).
So who’s here today? There are, of course, three essential Simmons staffers, Adair Curtis, Christina Puljasaj, and Simone Reyes, all of whom are featured on his latest reality show, Running Russell Simmons .
But our team is over the top! We have two producers, two stylists, a makeup artist (not even the one who did my makeup), a reporter, a photographer, a production assistant, and a manager from our digital department who says she’s come to fill in for PR. PR? Public relations has never come to a shoot before. But then, we never interviewed the godfather of hip-hop come business mogul, mega-brand builder, and reality TV producer-turned-star before! And let’s not forget, he’s also an author, with a new book (his third) hitting stores in January.
It’s the book that he’s most interested in discussing, and if anyone can speak to the title, Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All, it’s Simmons. Thriving multi-million dollar business empire, bulging personal bank accounts, mansions in a few states, close friends in high places, clout, access, cash: he’s got it all–and then some.
But Simmons’ riff on making it big isn’t about any of that. In fact, with chapters like “Succeeding Through Stillness” and “The Work That Prays,” Simmons steps out on faith to preach an unexpected message about wealth: that’s it’s not what you have that matters, it’s who you are.
Of course, the idea that living a faithful life should trump your desire to have a “phat” net worth isn’t new. But it’s new coming from Simmons, whose early brands all celebrated excess and exclusivity.
Today, he’s a vegan and fervent yogi. He begins each day with deep meditation and yoga and favors a strand of traditional Buddhist prayer beads to the bling of even his own jewelry line. Perhaps it’s the calm of his spiritual practices that makes him seem to float above the heat and buzz around him. Or maybe he’s just used to causing a stir. Either way, he is patient, smiling, and amiable to everyone, even agreeing to take personal pictures and sign autographs when the interview is done. He’s the embodiment of his own take on the super rich, and it suits him well.
Check out more Outtakes With Caroline Clark