Russell Simmons defends himself against André Leon Talley: “I’ve done more for blacks in fashion and gay rights”


Another New York Fashion Week came to a close on Friday, September 13, but it didn’t take long before attitude stepped off the catwalk and onto the Twitter feed.

Fashion icon André Leon Talley and business mogul Russell Simmons are in the midst of a public feud after Talley told The Grio that Simmons should have been excluded from Fashion Week.

“I don’t think Russell Simmons should be seated on anybody’s front row this week after having done that disgusting Harriet Tubman sex tape,” Talley said in an interview with The Grio. “He is a man of great achievement. He is a great philanthropist… why would he think it would be an honorable thing to do? He said he thought it was funny. That is not funny. It is outrageously disrespectful to the legacy and history of Harriet Tubman and to the struggle.”

Talley was referencing the wildly unpopular parody uploaded to Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam YouTube channel, All Def Digital, in August.

The three-minute video portrays African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman engaging in intercourse with her “massa” while another slave hides outside the bedroom door with a video camera. Afterward, Tubman lies in bed with her master, smoking a post-coital cigarette as she reveals her plan to blackmail him: “Massa, I’ve got what you white folks like to call leverage. And I’mma be tellin’ everybody about your Negro-loving.”

The video caused a major uproar and even prompted a petition demanding both an apology and that the video be taken down.

On August 15, one day after uploading the video, Simmons removed the “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” and released a formal apology on his website.

But on September 13, the scandal resurfaced when Simmons turned to Twitter to defend himself in several tweets to Talley.

While Simmons does have an extensive philanthropy background and has been vocal about his support for LGBT rights, his claim that he has “[done]more for blacks in fashion and gay rights [than Talley]” has proved controversial in light of the Harriet Tubman scandal, which some of his fans find unforgivable.

Under the username Stephanie Todd, one Global Grind commenter expressed her disappointment in Simmons:

“I’m grossly disappointed in you and I have thought of you as one of our great leaders practically all of my life… I’m not just disappointed by you giving that video your stamp of approval, I am hurt. If we can’t count on a man as wise and enlightened as you to protect the sanctity of our history and serve as a moral compass, who can we count on? …You’ve lost a chunk of my respect today. And, I’m not sure if simply removing the video redeems it.”


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