On the Record (2020) Movie Script

[bright tone]
[dramatic vocal music]
- What is missing from Me Too?
I--it's difficult for me
to say,
but I don't think
it's a coincidence
that most of the women
who have come forward
in Hollywood
have been white women.
I don't think
it's a coincidence
that they are generally
quite successful.
If we look at the earning power
of people in America,
for example,
at the very top are white men,
and at the very bottom
are women of color,
and that is something
that I think is necessary
to look at when we are talking
about who gets to come forward
and give their own stories
about surviving sexual abuse
or sexual assault.
- America picks and chooses
who they're gonna listen to.
Not only does class
have an indicator,
but what that person
looks like has an indicator.
So who we decide to listen to
is totally predicated
on who we see as valuable
in America.
- A lot of black women
felt disconnected
from Me Too initially.
They felt like, "That's great
"that this sister is out there,
"and we support her
as an individual,
but this movement
is not for us."
- If we're gonna
move this forward,
it can't simply remain
a problem of the beautiful,
the wealthy,
the popular.
This has to be a moment where,
yes, that might lead us,
but we need to be able
to make sure
that a broader group of women
are introduced
into the public consciousness
at the same time.
- It is high time
that the lens turns to us
and that we're allowed
to be heard
and, more importantly,
- [grunts, sniffles]
Where is it?
Okay, so I think I have
to look in my closet.
How could I have lost it
so quickly?
Here it is.
Yeah, this is the demo
for "Junior M.A.F.I.A."
- That's insane, right?
- Yeah.
With Lil' Kim and--
I think actually
Biggie gave me this,
or Daddy-O must have given me
this demo.
At the time, Biggie was--
let's just call it
a entrepreneur.
So he was working outside,
you know?
He just lived
around the corner,
and he was trying
to be a rapper.
I was trying to be
a rap A&R person.
We were all trying
to be something.
- Tell the people
what you're here for
[Gang Starr's
"What I'm Here 4"]
- It's the message
in the song
That makes you rock on
Some people go to places
Where they don't belong
Whether wrong or right
A lot of people fight
But I'm here to bless
This mic, all right
[car horns honking]
- When I lived here,
I worked at Empire
Artist Management.
I was a receptionist
pre-Def Jam.
I was working with Gang Starr,
DJ Premier,
Jeru the Damaja.
This is how I would walk
to the train,
and I specifically walked this
way because Biggie told me,
"Walk down my block
because I run my block
"and everybody knows
you're cool with me,
"so if you walk down my block,
you're not gonna have
any problems."
I mean, it was different.
It was the early '90s.
There were crack vials
It was still, you know,
rough and rugged.
I always wonder
what would have happened
if Biggie had lived.
I feel like Biggie--
Biggie had my back.
[dramatic music]
Music has always been sort of
this language that I spoke.
Everything from, you know,
the Doors to the Beatles
to Prince to jazz.
You know, my mom was a big
Billie Holiday fan,
so I consumed Billie Holiday
I mean, I would stay up
in the middle of the night
and organize my mom's albums
on the living room floor
and I would just play
the songs in order
and I would chase the fades.
I would turn it up to catch
every last drop of the record
because some of the best stuff
was in the fade.
Hip-hop then also had this
additional appeal to me
as this sort of black movement
that was empowering people
who were otherwise lost
and overlooked,
and I grew up feeling
like that was my mission
as the daughter
of local politicians.
I grew up in the thick
of black D.C.
You know,
knocking on doors,
trying to convert one voter
at a time,
and then hip-hop just combined
two things that I loved:
activism and this sense
of pride with music.
And it seemed like it could
sort of, I thought,
change the world.
- Mayor Dixon, are you--
Mrs. Dixon, are you prepared
to take the oath?
- I am indeed.
- Would you please place
your left hand on the Bible?
- When my mom was elected
mayor of D.C.,
I took my junior year off
from Stanford
to help
with her inaugural ball,
and in the process of putting
together her inauguration,
I had the opportunity
to pick the artists.
So I picked Rare Essence,
my favorite go-go band.
[upbeat music playing]
I picked Kwam.
- I came here for something
Funky to happen
- And I picked Big Daddy Kane.
- Let me hear you say ho
all: Ho!
Say ho
- Suddenly I was interacting
with the people
behind the scenes,
and it occurred to me,
"Oh, what about those jobs?
"Maybe that's what I should do.
"There's, like, this industry,
and there's people
"who aren't the artists
but they kind of
"make it all happen.
Maybe that's the thing for me."
And so when I found out
there was this job called A&R,
where you could discover
new artists
and make great songs,
you know,
I started reading "Billboard,"
and I had all of these books
and magazines,
and Russell Simmons
was a huge part of, like,
that sort of ideal.
Like, that's where I wanna be.
I mean, I drove across
the country to New York
with a dream
to make hip-hop records.
I mean, I--I can't even put
into words how excited I was.
[upbeat music]
- I was an A&R coordinator
at EMI Records.
I met Drew when she'd
just finished college
and she had moved to New York
from D.C.
She was, like, this bright
spirit that came out,
and we hit it off right away.
- I started by answering
phones at various companies
from Jive Records
to Warner Bros. Records
and eventually became
a publishing executive
at Zomba Music Publishing.
- Drew was a young, powerful
something to watch.
An interesting,
intelligent woman
who cared so much
about this music.
- After about two years
of just being in the mix,
eventually I guess people
sort of figured out,
"Oh, this woman is always
hanging out and showing up
and knowing what's hot."
And so when Def Jam called me
and was like,
"Russell wants to offer you
this job,"
I mean, I was thrilled.
I was--it was my--
It was like, "That's it.
I won."
- Yes
Was the start of my last jam
So here it is again,
another def jam
- Who didn't wanna be
Russell Simmons?
I mean, he had the foresight
to cultivate
what was in these clubs
and in these streets
in New York City
and make it into, like,
this business.
- The Russell Simmons
that I met
when I was 21 or 22
was the godfather
of the whole damn thing.
- I met Russell
at Disco Fever.
Disco Fever was, like,
the popular club in the Bronx
that everybody who was somebody
was able to go.
You know, he was like God
to everybody.
- Everybody always looked
at Russell as Def Jam,
so that's a black label.
'Cause the major labels
was not touching us.
They were saying,
"You a fad.
What is this rap thing?"
- He managed Run-DMC,
one of the first groups
to ever break the mold
with pop music
with Aerosmith.
That had never
been done before.
- She told me to
- Walk this way
Talk this way
- And Drew was there
in the middle of, like,
all of this swell of hip-hop,
and Def Jam became the royalty
of labels to be on.
- Working for Russell Simmons,
doing A&R,
I mean, I could not
have scripted it better.
[dramatic music]
- Exactly one month since the
first "New York Times" story
about Weinstein's harassment,
more and more powerful men
have been held to account.
They've been accused
of harassing
or assaulting behavior,
so what is next?
Or maybe I should say,
"Who is next?"
- So when the Harvey Weinstein
stories started coming out,
it was upsetting.
I didn't know anything
about him.
I didn't know him,
but it was so familiar,
and I was so grateful
that those women
were being believed,
'cause I knew--I could
just feel in my bones--
like, I know what that's like;
I know what that's about.
But I was also kind of like,
"I don't really wanna read
these articles.
"I don't really
wanna take this in,
"because I don't want this
to get too close to me,
"where I'm gonna have
to decide,
"well, what would I do
"if I had the opportunity
to come forward?
I don't think I wanna
even think about that."
And also, I felt like,
as a black woman,
I was like,
"I don't know if this applies.
I don't think this applies."
- Victims of sexual harassment
in Hollywood
to tell their stories.
This morning, allegations
surfaced against Brett Ratner,
a filmmaker best known
for directing
the "Rush Hour" trilogy.
- When Brett's name came up,
then I literally started to get,
like, you know,
the, like, knots in my stomach.
Like, "Oh, boy,
here we go."
And then Russell's name
started to come up
in the stories about Brett.
- The "Los Angeles Times"
revealed accusations
of Simmons teaming up
with Hollywood director
Brett Ratner
to allegedly assault women.
- And then literally
what happened,
one of my friends,
she said,
"You know, I'm friends
with Jodi Kantor
at 'The New York Times.'
Do you wanna talk with her?"
I was like, "No, no, no, no, no,
no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
I do not wanna be radioactive.
But then he denied everything,
and I was so infuriated that
I texted her back and I said,
"Okay, intro me
to Jodi Kantor.
Just intro me."
[distant siren whooping]
I spoke
to "The New York Times."
So I met with Jodi
and Joe Coscarelli,
the other reporter,
and I was like,
"This is off the record.
"I'm just meeting with you.
"I just wanna kind of generally
tell you my story,
"and you guys tell me if you
think it's even worth,
you know, documenting."
- Mm-hmm.
- So they were like,
"We'll think about it."
You know, "Just think about it.
Let's stay in touch."
And, um--
- What are the stakes for you
in terms of this, like,
coming out?
- Chaos.
I don't really want chaos
'cause I have kids
and my husband
doesn't like chaos.
- Have you talked to your kids?
- My kids know generally
that men
behaved inappropriately
with me in the music industry,
and that's all I said.
And I'm also just afraid
that after finally finding
some sort of peace after
some really rough years,
it's inviting more chaos
into our lives.
[distant sirens wailing]
So this is, um, where Def Jam
used to be.
160 Varick Street.
Spent two years of my life here.
You know, I definitely remember
somewhere along this street,
catching cabs because
I have #LightPrivilege,
so I would, like,
get the cab,
and, like, I remember, like,
Method Man and Redman
would be like,
"All right, guys,
everybody in, everybody in!"
I would be, like,
the stealth cab catcher.
This was Def Jam in the '90s.
This is where it all went down.
[hip-hop music]
- I was an executive assistant
at Def Jam.
It didn't feel like an office
so much as almost, like,
you're in a--
like, a club.
- When I started doing outside
counsel legal services
for Def Jam,
Russell had in place
someone else
who was really running
the operation day-to-day.
That was Lyor Cohen.
Very, very so--
I mean, he's legendary
for being, you know,
just this hugely strong
- Russell and I's daily
meeting was at Danceteria,
'cause he was just nonstop:
"and we're going to do this,
"and once we do this,
we're going to do that,
and goddamn,
she's fine."
- So Lyor was president
of the label
on my first day.
At some point, he called me
into his office and he's like,
"I don't know
who the fuck you are,
"but I don't have any time
for any of Russell's
"tall, skinny bitches,
"so this is what
I want you to do.
"If you see me in the building,
"if you see me in the hallway,
"find the nearest open office--
"the nearest open door,
"go into it,
and hide,
"because I don't want
to fucking see any tall,
"skinny bitches who are friends
with Russell.
Got it?
Got it, tall, skinny?"
I was like, "Got it."
[smooth music]
- It was clear what he meant.
There was this perception
that I had a certain kind
of relationship with Russell,
which was definitely not true,
and so I didn't wanna fail.
I mean, how much better
of a shot could I get
than being the director
of A&R at Def Jam?
This has to work.
And so the only way to really
get his full attention--
'cause he was quite scattered--
was to be in front of him.
So I would stay in touch
with his driver, Kenny Mac.
"Where is he gonna be and when
is he gonna be there?"
He'd be like, "He's gonna be
in front of the building.
Just come out now."
And that's essentially
how I made it work.
Eventually Russell gave me
a soundtrack to put together,
and it was
a hip-hop documentary
and it was like a survey
of hip-hop.
- Put your hands in the air
if you's a true player
- So when you're pulling
a soundtrack,
you have to get all these
different types of sounds
for the score.
- The R to the E
to the S-P-ECT
- Working with
that kind of a budget
and it's, like,
your first record to do,
it was, like, a daunting task,
but, um, like, she was
definitely up for the challenge.
- Here you had
very sophisticated deals
that had to be done
to license these songs,
to license the sound recordings
of the songs,
artists that you had to deal
with all their representatives,
and so she had a lot
of ground to cover.
- I just started picking up
the phone and calling, like,
"Hi, my name is Drew Dixon.
I work at Def Jam.
"We're doing a soundtrack
about hip-hop
and I think it's important
that you're represented.
"I wanna represent
the Midwest.
"I wanna represent
the South.
"I feel like
these are the genres
that represent
the state of the art,"
and I just sort of made it up
as I went along.
[lasers zapping]
Like, I called
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
out of the clear blue
'cause I saw them
on "Video Music Jukebox,"
and I just called them and said,
"Can we have a song?"
And they were like, "Cool,"
and even, like,
Def Jam was like, "Who?"
And I was like, "Trust me.
They're dope."
- It's an everyday thang
When you let
your nuts hang
- And at the end of the
record, I have a shout-out.
"Everyday Thang,"
if you listen to it.
- Much love to Drew
and everybody at Def Jam.
- It was my first shout-out.
It was so great.
Well, they were like,
"You're from Def Jam
and you're calling us?"
I was like, "Yeah,
you guys are dope."
- Tupac was on that album.
Slick Rick,
Dr. Dre.
She got Method Man and Redman
on the record together.
- Method Man and Redman.
That literally meant she gave
some of the best MCs
on the planet a deal.
That's dope.
That's dope.
- "The Show" was a big success.
Um, I worked on other things
that were big successes.
I, um, heard an interlude
when they were working
on Method Man's album,
and the interlude literally
was just Method Man
a cappella saying,
"Shorty, I'm there for you
anytime you need me.
"For real, girl,
it's me in your world.
Believe me."
- Believe me
Nothing make a man
feel better than a woman
Queen with a crown
that be down for whatever
- I was like, "Wow.
Well, that's dope.
"That's, like,
a hip-hop sonnet.
That's dope."
Like, I remember
telling Russell,
"That's a song.
That's not an interlude.
And it should be a duet."
I was like,
"What about Mary?"
He's like, "Okay."
And then I remember
a phone call with Puffy.
And he's like, "Okay, so I
have an idea for this record.
Do you know the song
"You're All I Need to Get By"
by Marvin Gaye
and Tammi Terrell?
I was like, "Of course I do."
He's like, "Okay, can you sing
the Tammi Terrell part?"
And I was like, "Okay."
You're all I need
- You're all I need
- All I need
- To get by
- To get by
- Aye
- He's like, "Okay,
now imagine the--
the 'Children's Story' track."
He's like, "Okay."
Shorty, I'm there for you
anytime you--
And I'm, like, singing Tammi
and he's like...
For real girl
I was like, "Oh, my God.
"Mind blown!
Yo, this is crazy!
Oh, my God.
We have to do this."
- To this day
when you hear that song,
you know that the people
behind that had a vision.
First of all, you had to know
that Mary and Method
go together.
They just do,
but who knew?
- The record won a Grammy.
I mean, literally,
it's on Obama's mixtape
of his favorite songs,
and I'm like...
After the duet was successful,
and then "The Show" soundtrack
hit number one
on the R&B chart,
shipped platinum,
it really helped build
our credibility
with PolyGram records.
I was suddenly on the radar
with the parent company.
I wasn't just Drew Dixon
from Def Jam.
Lyor sent me this, like,
massive gourmet gift basket
to thank me for my hard work
and to sort of say, "I'm sorry
I didn't appreciate
how talented you were."
- That's one
of the beautiful things
about the music industry.
If you have a great work ethic
and you have some talent,
you can end up
running a label.
So it is a space
where there was
a lot of mobility for women,
but at the same time,
there was tremendous amount
of sexual harassment that was
just baked into the culture.
all: Thank you, Daddy.
- Music comes with a certain
sense of promiscuity.
Like, whether you're an artist
or the--you're the guy
making the artist,
you have that kind of power
where sex is just part
of the game.
- When things went awry,
if things were uncomfortable,
if they were misogynist,
if they were sexist,
you didn't get a lot
of sympathy for that, you know?
That was considered
the price of admission.
- The first time Russell
was inappropriate with me,
we were at Caf Tabac.
He was waiting outside
of the restroom
as I was leaving the restroom
and he grabbed me
and pulled me into a closet
and tried to kiss me
and I got away,
and then it started happening
in my office,
and he would come in
and lock the door.
The first couple times,
he would just try to kiss me
and I got out of it,
but then Russell escalated
from pushing me
against the wall
to literally coming in,
not touching me,
but exposing himself.
I thought that he was,
like, this tragic, like,
ADD puppy dog that I just had
to keep retraining,
but then he wasn't,
like, violent.
- [speaking indistinctly]
- He always sheepishly
apologized later,
so I thought, "He feels bad,"
and he would sort of back off
for a while, and then
he would do it again.
I guess I thought it was part
of the culture
and I needed
to just manage around it,
and then eventually I thought
that I had proven myself
and was now too valuable for him
to wanna burn the bridge.
I thought,
"I am an executive with value,
"and he's a businessperson,
"and he's a very
well-regarded one,
so surely he'll leave me alone."
[crowd cheering]
I really didn't understand
that all of those
other violations
of my physical boundaries
were breaking me down.
- You stay because you hope
that perhaps you can
provide enough value
to the company
and move ahead,
but part of the ability
to ascend
is contingent upon your ability
to either, A,
comply with someone's
sexual advances
or letting them think that they
might have a shot in hell
without encouraging them.
It's something that you have
to go along with
because the alternative
is that you'll be unemployed.
- I think for a lot of women
of that era,
it's only now that we're really
unpacking how toxic
so much of that time was.
[percussive music]
- When I was in college
and rap started,
it was like party music,
and at some point, I remember
dancing and--and singing along,
and then words--"bitch,"
"ho," you know,
stuff like that started
coming into the music,
and I was like,
"I'm not quite sure
if I'm down for this."
- I'd say by mid-'80s,
you have your G Raps and
you have your hard-core MCs
who are introducing misogyny
over, like, dope beats
and then things
become palatable.
- And then you introduce video
at the level video begins
in the '90s, and women began
to look alike.
They were all typically
They all had long
and/or wavy hair.
It was clearly a statement
against the large majority
of black women,
how we look
and how we present.
- And go dig in them guts
like a gardener
If she starts screaming,
I'ma fuck the bitch harder
- I actually think that
the things that are being said
about black women
are actually racist.
You know,
you're basically dancing,
you know, to, um, ideology
that had been, you know,
spread by defenders of slavery.
You don't realize that this
is basically the same kind
of idea that justified the--
the abuse of black women
for centuries.
- When I was younger,
I would look at the women
and I would judge them, right?
And I would feel
some type of way,
but as I get older,
I look at the culture
that breeds that.
- Hip-hop certainly didn't
invent misogyny in music.
Just did not.
Every other music form
has some level of misogyny.
- Hip-hop has always
been reflective
of the world that we live in.
These white patriarchal
power structures that exist,
we just mimic them,
and we carry them on
and make them our own.
- Hip-hop was not just
about misogyny,
that hip-hop was not just
about sexism.
- We got to fight
the powers that be
- And even though
it may have been couched
in very hyper-masculine
imagery and language,
there was really an expression
of, like, pain
and struggle
and what it meant
to grow up with the legacy
that the hip-hop
generation inherited.
- You stand in solidarity
with the movement
as a black woman.
You don't parse the sexism
within the movement
as a black woman,
and we were all so excited
about hip-hop and what it meant
that we just sort of
tolerated it.
We laughed it off.
We thought, like,
"It's, you know, like--
don't be so thin-skinned,"
is sort of what we said
to anyone who pushed back
against some of that language,
and now that I'm older,
I realize that language
set a tone,
but I didn't see it that way
at the time.
[rain pattering]
"The New York Times" is doing
a super-rigorous
background check
to determine if I'm even
a credible source,
and I haven't even decided
if I'm gonna do this--
if I'm even gonna go
on the record.
[line trilling]
- Hello?
- Hey, Joe.
How are you?
- Good, and you?
- I'm okay.
Is this an okay time?
- Are we--are we on camera?
- Uh, you are,
so if you don't wanna be,
we can--we can remedy that.
- Yeah, I mean, I think
this'll probably be, like,
sort of sensitive.
- Okay.
- Uh, I don't know.
I, uh--
I don't really know
what the rules are,
but I just feel like--
'cause we wanna sort of
take you through the story,
- Yeah, okay.
- Yeah, I don't--I don't know.
Uh, let me merge Melena
onto the call.
Is that okay?
- Sure.
[dramatic music]
I don't have a game plan.
I haven't told the story
in probably a decade,
and talking to the reporters
just brought it all back.
That particular night,
we were all at the Bowery Bar,
which was very common,
and he left ahead of me,
which I think I actually
purposely waited for
because there had been times
when he'd sort of
followed me out,
and I had to walk by
his apartment to get a cab,
and he stopped me
and he asked me
where I was going,
and I said I was going home
and I was just getting cash
to get a cab,
and he was like,
"Don't be ridiculous, Money.
"Like, you've got
this hit record.
"Like, you're a big deal.
you're a big executive now.
Why don't you, um,
let me order you a car?"
And so I went upstairs,
and this was the first time
I literally walked
into his apartment
and I was alone,
and I--I immediately
felt uncomfortable,
and so then I said,
"Why don't I wait downstairs
for the car?"
And he said,
"No, no, no, no,
no problem, Money,
"but there's a demo that I got
that you're gonna love.
I want you to hear that first,"
which is catnip for me.
I was like, "Really?
"Um, why don't I
take it with me?
I'll take it with me."
And he's like, "Okay, cool.
Um, it's in the CD player."
I'm like,
"Where's the CD player?"
"It's in my bedroom.
Just go in there
and make a left."
So I go in and I see
this huge, daunting stereo.
I remember I was struggling
to figure out
how to turn it on.
The next thing I know,
he is naked
wearing a condom,
and he just grabbed me.
He just grabbed me,
and he just threw me on the bed
and he wrestled me to the bed
and pins me down,
and I'm fighting,
and I'm saying no.
He's telling me to stop
fighting in a very cold...
detached voice
that I'd never,
ever heard from him before.
Um, I see handcuffs dangling
from the canopy.
I'm not saying for one second
I had any interaction
with those,
but they scared me,
and I just blacked out.
I blacked out.
I blacked out,
which is something survivors
often do.
It's, like,
a self-preservation tactic.
The next thing I remember,
I was in the bathtub
with him naked
and he says,
"And so now that you
and I are fucking, Drew,
we'll hang out
and we'll fuck all the time."
And I was just like,
"I'm gonna go."
I don't know if I said,
"I'm gonna go."
Maybe I said I'm gonna go.
I got out,
I'm naked,
I'm wet,
I'm naked walking around his bed
trying to find my clothes,
and I walk home.
I lived 22 blocks away.
I walk home.
And when I got home,
I got in the shower
with all my clothes on,
and I took, like,
a cold shower,
lying down just crying,
and I just laid there
for a really long time.
I was reduced to nothing
in that moment.
I was nothing.
I was trash.
Nothing about me mattered.
Nothing about anything that
makes me who I am mattered.
I was a physical object.
I was a physical device.
I was a physical...
I--I--some physical thing
that he utilized
for his pleasure.
- At that time,
when she came to me,
she had told me that she had
been assaulted
a few days earlier.
I believed her
when she told me.
I could see it in her face,
like, something had happened.
That spirit,
that light wasn't there.
Like, it had been, like,
almost, like, taken away.
Then I had asked her, um,
"Are you all right?
Do you wanna go to the police?"
And she was reluctant
because she was like,
"No one's gonna
take me seriously.
"He's, like, Russell Simmons.
Like, who's gonna believe me?"
- I think I must have
continued working there
for a little while longer.
I remember going in
for some meeting
and he was in the building
and asked me to sit on his lap,
and I just remember
feeling like, "My God."
I'm like...
"He thinks I'm that person now."
"I'm not that person."
And so then I, like,
submitted a handwritten letter
of resignation
which I wrote once and had,
like, all these cross-outs,
but I literally did not even
have the physical strength
to crumple it up
and start again.
And they were like,
"Do you want more money?
"Do you wanna be
a vice president?
How much money
is it gonna take?"
This is Russell talking.
And then finally Lyor
was like, "Stop.
"Stop talking.
"Let her go.
She's gone.
Let her go."
And that was it.
[car engine revving]
[cell phone keyboard clacking]
[cell phone buzzing]
Wait, that was a call
from California.
That's scary.
Hey, Joe.
Like, every 310 phone call
I get today,
I have to tell,
you I've had a heart attack.
I'm like--I think it's, like,
either Russell or LA,
and I'm like,
"Oh, my God, oh, my God,
should I not answer?
Oh, my God."
- Mm-hmm.
- Sure, okay.
- Mm.
Okay, okay.
"The New York Times"
called me back and said
there were other women and
there were other black women
who've been assaulted
by Russell,
that they won't
go on the record
unless I go on the record,
but I'm still terrified
of the backlash.
I remember my senior year
and Stanford,
the Anita Hill hearings.
- Professor, do you swear
to tell the whole truth
and nothing but the truth,
so help you God?
- I do.
He spoke about acts
that he had seen
in pornographic films
involving such matters as women
having sex with animals
and films showing group sex
or rape scenes.
- I was like, "Well, that
didn't go very well for her.
"He's on the Supreme Court now.
I'm never gonna do that."
- Now, again,
for the record,
did he just say,
"I have great physical
capability and attributes,"
or was he more graphic in--
- He was much more graphic.
- Can you tell us what he said?
- Well, I can tell you that
he compared his penis size,
uh, he measured his penis
in terms of le--length,
um, those kinds of comments.
- I mean, that's one thing
about being a victim
of sexual abuse.
The words are on your mouth.
You're the one that has
to disgust the world
by telling them
what happened to you,
so you then become associated
with this vile,
vile act.
You are defiled again because
you have to tell people,
and they see it on your lips.
- Unequivocally,
that I deny each
and every single allegation
against me today
that suggested in any way
that I had conversations
of a sexual nature...
- And then the person who did it
is shocked to the core,
as is society,
so then they're aligned
with society like...
Clutching their pearls.
- It is a high-tech lynching
for uppity blacks
who in any way deign
to think for themselves.
- And you have this tawdry,
nastiness on your lips,
so you seem gross.
- There are a lot of people--
and you know it, Desiree--
who say
2:00 in the morning
in a man's room with beds,
what--what were you doing there
at 2:00 in the morning?
- I just wasn't thinking.
It--there's--you know,
there's no other explanation.
- And then I remember
Desiree Washington,
who was the pageant winner
who was raped by Mike Tyson,
and, like, the black community
was not kind to her.
- "The Washington Post"
conducted interviews
with young women
in college of your age,
black women,
and they didn't seem to show
a lot of sympathy.
One said, "18-year-olds are not
naive in this day and age.
What did she think a guy wanted
at 2:00 in the morning?"
Another said, "She asked for it.
She got it.
It's not fair to cry rape."
- It's sad.
It's sad that women
in 1992 feel that way.
- It's like,
"Oh, no.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
"I'm never, ever
gonna be that person.
"He's Russell Simmons.
He's the king of hip-hop."
"No, I'm never gonna be
that person.
"The black community
will hate my guts.
- Black women's need, um,
and really duty that we feel
to protect black men
is definitely
a hindrance
to protecting ourselves.
There's this added layer
in the black community
that we have to contend with
of, like,
"Oh, you're gonna put this
before the race?"
Right, "You're gonna put this--
because this--
"you let this thing happen
to you,
now we have to pay for it
as a race?"
And--and then we're silenced
even more.
- On the one hand,
they are in an incredible amount
of pain
and want their perpetrator
to be punished,
but they're also fearful
of being cast as the person
who is putting a black man
in the line of fire.
- Many black women will allow
race loyalty to buy them
an early tombstone because
they cannot reconcile
the idea of engaging in
American criminal
justice system
that has been so brutal
to black men.
- This whole
ride-or-die mentality
is killing black women.
There's part of us that, um,
we're innately designed
to protect them because America
destroys our men, right?
So we're designed
to protect them
from what America
has historically done to them.
From slavery to beyond, like,
to Jim Crow,
like, we're designed
to innately protect them
'cause we know the struggle.
- If we go back historically,
we know that one
of the allegations
that led to the lynching
of black men
has been sexual assault.
So there has developed over
time in the black community
an awareness that lynching
is an expression
of white supremacy.
It's a particular expression,
the sexual projection
of black men
as being dangerous.
- You're worried
as a black woman
that you'll say something
that will have
consequences that you
hadn't anticipated.
Even down to just calling
the police.
- Your responsibility
to muffle, you know,
your screams is greater
than his responsibility
not to do it in the first place.
- It's a very, very terrible
burden to bear
to know that you might still
be judged as somehow
being a traitor.
- Are we gonna pile on?
We're gonna add fuel
to the fire of the myth
of the sexually aggressive
black man?
I don't wanna do that.
I wanted Russell
to be a hero too.
I mean, for 22 years,
I took it for the team.
Russell Simmons is the king
of hip-hop,
and I was proud of him
for that.
So I took it for the team.
I didn't wanna let
the culture down.
I love the culture.
I loved Russell too.
[water rushing]
- Turn your head
to the left for me.
Turn to the right.
[hair dryer whirring]
I think it's important
that you do tell your story
because people, like--
little girls need it.
Even grown women with little
girls inside of them
need it--to hear,
like, "It wasn't just me.
Oh, my God, somebody else
went through the same thing."
And you're showing, like,
your daughter, like,
"Look, no matter what happens,
you can overcome it."
And really, more people
are abused than they talk about.
You know?
- Mm-hmm.
[hip-hop music]
- I grew up in a certain part
of the Bronx.
When you used to go outside,
on every corner,
somebody was playing or rapping.
You have Grandmaster Flash
playing on one corner
and you could have Kool Herc
playing on the other.
It was empowering, like,
to hear somebody's talking
about where you're coming from
and--and actually making
our neighborhood
look fabulous, you know?
And me,
I felt important.
You know, when we discovered
hip-hop and rap,
that's--we went for it.
Mercedes Ladies is the first
all-female DJ and rap group
in hip-hop history.
We had to be tough because
we was going against
an all-male arena,
and that's how we met Russell,
and so I told him
Mercedes Ladies is looking
for some serious management,
so he's like,
"Oh, yeah, I heard of y'all,
and I wanna get you
in the studio."
So for three,
four months straight,
we was just rehearsing
every single day.
He had us in there for hours,
and we was like,
"We're finally gonna get
our chance, you know?
After the hard work,
it's finally paying off."
And then one night, he says,
"You wanna come see
my new office?"
It was a little, small office,
and then he's like,
"Sit down, sit down."
So then he sat down
next to me,
so I thought we was
gonna talk business,
and the next thing you know,
I'm pinned down to the, um--
the couch that he had,
and I could remember
I kept saying,
"What are you doing?
Like, get off of me.
What are you doing?"
So I'm trying
to force him off of me.
It happened so fast.
He had his pants down,
and it just--
he just took, took,
took what he wanted.
[dramatic music]
When you're raised in that
environment in the hood,
everybody was taught
that things happened.
You just didn't talk about it,
and so I just always
put on this front.
Like, everybody always say,
um, "Sheri, how you doing?"
And this is me,
always with a smile.
"Oh, I'm okay.
I'm okay,"
and then I, um,
finally realized,
all these years,
I wasn't okay.
I wasn't okay,
but I'm taking more control
of myself now
and forgiving myself
and--and starting to know
who my--my worth is
and not--my worth is not based
on things I've been in life
and all the unfairness
that was done to me in life.
My--my worth is based on that
I got through these things
and I'm still standing.
- It was in '94.
I was modeling.
I was living in Europe.
I was in Italy working,
and I came back because I--
there was some personal drama
that I was going through,
and I reached out to Russell
'cause we had stayed friendly.
We hadn't had any type of
physical sexual relationship
in close to two years,
and it was really odd.
I remember he was
drinking Pellegrino,
and I was like,
"You're not gonna have a drink?"
'Cause we used
to party hard together.
And he said--he said,
"No, I'm not drinking.
I quit drinking."
I said, "Okay."
You know, he was--
he was coming on to me.
He said something,
and I told him, I said,
"Russell, I've got
a boyfriend,
and I'm really happy,
and that's not happening."
And--and he grabbed my hands
and he said, "Sil Lai,
we are friends."
He said, "That's your pussy,
"and I would never
take anything from you
that you didn't give me."
And at a certain point,
I said to him,
"I wanna go home,"
but instead of taking me
to my girlfriend's place,
he took me to his place.
I figured I would just crash
like I'd crashed
at other friends' houses.
I remember I came upstairs
and I passed out
on--on his bed
and I heard some noise.
I think he had gone
to take a shower,
and he--and I opened my eyes
and he is walking towards me
and he's naked except
he's wearing a condom.
I kept on saying,
"No, no, no,"
and--and I remember thinking,
"My boyfriend, my boyfriend,
my boyfriend."
And then he raped me,
and I couldn't fight.
I couldn't do anything.
I just lay there.
And then when it was over,
I remember he just said,
"Okay, well,
you know,
I'm gonna have Kenny
take you home,"
and I get dropped off
and I go upstairs
and I--I freaked.
I freaked out.
I--I mean, I just--
I was so angry
and I was so filled
with self-loathing
and I was so filled
with guilt...
And rage, just rage
over what he had done,
and so I swallowed--
I believe it was 18
prescription sleeping pills.
These things were lethal,
and I kissed my son good-bye.
I just remember looking at him
and seeing how--
how beautiful
and how pure he was.
I mean, he really was
such a beautiful child,
and, um...
I was like,
"Your mother's a failure."
"She can't do anything right,
and nobody treats her
like a human being."
"You're just a fuck toy.
You're a chew toy
for men of power."
"This is your life."
"How are you going to be able
to give him anything?
How are you gonna be able
to be there?"
And I said--
you know,
my girlfriend
that I was staying with,
she was older--
20 years older than me.
She was very responsible,
and I said,
"Carol's gonna be
your mommy now."
[siren wailing]
Eventually I get taken
to the hospital.
It's too late to pump
my stomach.
They give me
activated charcoal,
and it was touch-and-go.
The doctors said that
had I gotten there 20,
25 minutes later,
I would have been dead.
It's definitely the low point
of my life,
and it caverned me,
and I left fashion.
I didn't wanna do anything
where I would see people
who were adjacent to this man.
Russell was everywhere
I looked.
- Now you tell me
who the fuck is winning
I'm on my Russell Simmons,
Nicki denim, Nicki linen
- Our special guest
Russell Simmons,
a man who needs no introduction.
- He was named one of the top 25
most influential people.
- The one and only,
the godfather of hip-hop,
Russell Simmons is in the house.
- Oh, man.
- Russell Simmons went on
to create clothing lines,
"Def Comedy Jam" on HBO,
and "Def Poetry Jam"
on Broadway.
- Russell Simmons
is one of the wealthiest
entrepreneurs in the world.
- He later sold his stake
in Def Jam for $100 million.
- Who's the animal
invented lower living
The projects thank God
for Russell Simmons
- A pioneering philanthropist
who's also a "New York Times"
best-selling author.
- He describes the journey
in his new book, "Super Rich."
- He's out with a new book,
"Success Through Stillness."
- This whole idea
of being selfless
and giving all this effort
to the world
but not taking care of yourself,
you're not as good a servant,
so you have to take care
of yourself.
- You know him
as the godfather of hip-hop.
- Russell Simmons!
- Thank you so much.
Thank you.
I love you.
- I told a few friends about
what happened with Russell,
but I didn't tell
that many people.
I just wanted
to put it behind me.
Even in that dark shame,
I just wanted to make records.
Once I decided, okay,
I have something to offer,
well, let me try again.
And then finally I met Clive,
and I loved Clive.
He was a music man.
So I started working
for Clive Davis
at Arista Records
in May of 1996,
and I was back.
I had a run of phenomenal hits.
- A rose is still a rose
- Lauryn Hill gave me
"A Rose Is Still a Rose"
for Aretha.
- Your love is my love
- Wyclef gave me "My Love
is Your Love" for Whitney.
So I worked closely
with the artists
who made the Album of the Year
two years in a row.
Lauryn one year...
- "The Miseducation
of Lauryn Hill,"
Lauryn Hill.
- Carlos Santana
the next year.
["Smooth" playing]
- And I was good.
I had a hot hand,
and I was back.
[dramatic music]
And then in 2000,
L.A. Reid replaced Clive Davis
as my boss at Arista Records.
L.A. Reid is one
of the most important
black music producers
and black record executives
really of the past 20 years.
He discovered TLC,
Toni Braxton,
and I really admired him.
And then when I worked
with him,
all of a sudden,
it just changed.
It became,
"Meet me at the Four Seasons
when you leave the studio."
And so I felt like,
"maybe I can just
sort of be flirtatious
"and play along and,
you know,
he can play with my hair
in the back of the car,"
and--and then you realize
this is gonna end one way.
He wants me to come to the hotel
with him and listen to music
and I just keep not going,
and he gets meaner and meaner
and meaner,
and there are more and more
professional consequences.
I auditioned Kanye West,
and not only did
he pass on Kanye.
L.A. Reid dressed me down
in front
of the entire A&R department.
"Drew, this was not only
a pass.
This was a waste of my time."
And I remember after, like,
a 45-minute
dressing down, saying,
"Kanye's still
in the waiting area.
"Can I just go tell him?
'Cause he's waiting."
And I remember I brought Kanye
into my office.
He had tears in his eyes.
I was like,
"Let me tell you something.
"You're gonna get a deal
You're gonna win Grammys.
"You're gonna look back
on this.
"You're gonna laugh.
Promise you."
John Legend was the last
artist I tried to sign
back when he was
John Stephens.
I scheduled an audition
for him with L.A.,
and he was really excited.
We even booked a concert space
two days before
so that he could rehearse
with his band,
and then L.A. told me
he didn't wanna go,
and he told his senior staff
not to go.
He passed on him.
He just passed.
So I walked in all alone
and watched John perform
with his band
in the folding chairs.
I was the only one there.
I had to tell John,
"I can't sign you.
I'm so sorry."
[crowd clamoring]
Unless I sleep with L.A. Reid
as a quid pro quo,
not because I like him but
literally as a quid pro quo,
I am doomed.
I mean, I can't get
John Legend
or Kanye West signed?
I mean, I'm dead
in the water now.
[crowd clamoring]
So I give up.
I give up.
I give up.
After a decade of working
my way up from the bottom
of my industry,
I just quit.
I also completely and utterly
cut myself off from the parts
of myself that I love the most:
my creativity,
I mean, I don't listen to any
of the songs that I made.
I don't listen to them.
I just--
I tried to bury that part
of myself in, like, a manhole.
And I just tried
to become cerebral
and steady.
So I thought,
"I'm going to Harvard
Business School."
I ran away from anything that
might even get anywhere near
that pain
and I turned around
and I scorched the earth
so I would never,
ever have the option
of going back.
What I'm grateful for is that
I met my husband there
and we got married and had the
two most wonderful children
on the Earth,
and I really did wanna be able
to be the person
that absolutely covered them
365 days a year,
but there was a part of me
that was sleepwalking.
You know, I just ran away
from my dream,
from my passion.
[distant train clattering]
- Let's get started
with breaking news.
of sexual harassment
are rocking
another media mogul.
This time,
it's Russell Simmons.
In a scathing letter
to Simmons
published today
by "The Hollywood Reporter,"
screenwriter Jenny Lumet
alleges Simmons forced her
to have sex with him
back in 1991.
She writes in very graphic
and disturbing detail...
- There were three things
that pushed me over the edge:
Jenny Lumet's piece--
first of all,
she's a black woman
putting herself out there.
She specifically said,
"When I read
Keri Claussen's account
"and he called her a liar,
I couldn't let her twist
in the wind knowing
what I know,"
and I remember thinking,
"I can't let Jenny twist
in the wind.
"I mean,
I don't know her,
but I can't let her twist
in the wind."
The other thing
was Beverly Young.
She was one
of the Roy Moore accusers,
and she was crying on TV
about him assaulting her
when she was
a 16-year-old waitress.
- Mr. Moore reached over
and began groping me
and putting his hands
on my breasts.
Instead of stopping,
he began squeezing my neck,
attempting to force my head
onto his crotch.
- I saw her on TV crying,
and I thought,
this is her hometown.
She's in her 60s.
These are the--these are
the only people
she's ever known,
and she's standing
in her hometown where she will
spend the rest of her life,
in all likelihood,
putting it all on the line
and being called a liar.
That's brave.
And then the other thing
that did it,
I read Harold Perrineau's
about his daughter Aurora,
and he said he was terrified
when she decided
to come forward,
but he said he looked at her
the other day and realized,
"My daughter's not
a victim anymore.
She's a warrior."
And I thought,
"I'd like to be a warrior.
"I'm tired of being a victim.
"I've been a victim
for 22 years.
"Let me see what
the other thing feels like.
Can't be worse."
And that's when I said,
I will go on the record."
[train brakes squealing]
[camera shutter clicking]
- Hey, Joe,
it's Drew.
Just out of curiosity,
in any of the other cases,
have the sources
been contacted?
So I can literally say,
"If you wanna talk to somebody,
if you wanna comment,
you can speak
to the reporters"?
You're saying that to say that
his lawyers would tell him
not to call me?
Okay, are you only reaching out
to Russell,
or are you also reaching out
to L.A.?
So he isn't--
So they're both in the story?
They are both going to find out
that they're in the story
either tonight
or tomorrow morning,
and they will know that they
are in the story
and that I named them.
- From recent searches,
and this is a search
of information about,
uh, the United States
- Well, it's, uh--
it's a query.
- The White House
and President Trump's
private attorneys
will go over the part...
[elevator beeps]
- Joe texted me.
They have Russell's
lawyer's response.
He admits harassing me.
He denies sex.
He says we made out a few times,
and he, uh--the "Times"
will call me once they talk
to their lawyer.
If locking someone
in their office
and pulling your penis out
and making out with them
in a tiny space
where they can't escape
is making out a few times,
then that's an interesting way
to describe it.
[cell phone rings]
Can't do that right now.
I don't think
I should call anybody.
I don't wanna, like,
rope anybody into my, like,
mania right now.
I'll just wait for them
to call me back.
[birds chirping]
Just the paper.
- Do you need a bag?
- Uh, no, thanks.
I'll just do the $20.
- Russell Simmons is strongly
denying new accusations
that he raped three women
decades ago.
All three women say
their music industry careers
were derailed or ruined.
Simmons says he categorically
rejects the allegations.
- In extensive reports
in the "LA Times"
and "New York Times,"
nine more women accuse Simmons
of a wide range of misconduct.
- Russell invited me out.
Um, he wanted me
to see his new apartment.
- I felt really safe with him,
and I don't think
we were comrades,
but I felt like we were,
I mean, peer--
like, hangout peers.
- And we talked a lot
about yoga.
We talked a lot
about spirituality.
- And he said, "Well, why don't
we go back to my apartment
and we can talk there?"
- And suddenly here I am
and he has pinned me.
- It was just so out
of left field.
I remember being really shocked
to the point where I--
I thought it was a joke.
- And I was absolutely shocked
and taken aback
and I froze.
- He pushed me into the door--
in through the door
and pushed me down
on the ground.
- I remember fighting it,
fighting on the bed,
because I didn't want
his penis in me.
- He puts his knees on my legs
and pins my hands down.
- I think of it akin
to that feeling
that must happen when you think
that you're on a plane
and it starts to go down.
That, "No, no, no,
this isn't happening."
- That anybody could so swiftly
and forcibly penetrate me...
While--actually while
I'm saying no.
- He wanted
to physically dominate me
and rape me.
- I pushed him off of me
and I was like,
"What the fuck are you doing?
What the fuck
is wrong with you?"
- I kicked really, really hard
and I fucking screamed,
and I--and I just ran
to the door
and he, like,
let me go.
- I had to really do some
dark nights of the soul
to work through this layer
of shame.
- He took a piece of me with him
when he did this,
and then--then he carried it
with him,
and he carried it with him
for three fucking decades.
- On Instagram,
Russell Simmons was defiant,
"Today, I begin
to properly defend myself."
- Simmons again denied
all the allegations of rape
and other misconduct,
and then he posted
the hashtag,
and he used "NotMe.
- You think you'll be vindicated
at the end of all this, man?
Honestly, I mean,
I wouldn't--
- I don't have a stitch
of violence in me.
I would never hurt anybody.
And I never had
any violence in me,
but, you know...
- Yeah, yeah, yeah, no--
- It's a difficult time
for everybody.
- Absolutely, absolutely.
- All right.
Thanks, guys.
- All right, man.
We'll be watching for you,
Have a good one, man.
- Take care.
- Have a good night, you guys.
- Thank you guys.
- You pinned me down
with your entire might.
I was screaming.
I was crying.
I was begging.
- Have a good night, Rus!
- That's violent.
That's violent.
You're violent.
- There is a discourse
that says that it's still,
like, a cultural impossibility
for black women to be raped.
- They, um, use their sexuality
as gold diggers.
They use their sexuality
as means of control.
Um, you really can't
sexually abuse
or rape a black woman
because there's nothing
that they wouldn't do.
- White women are always--
there's a stereotype
of being, like,
docile and sweet
and innocent and pure,
and if this docile and sweet
and innocent, pure
can still get questioned
and not believed and discounted,
what do you think is happening
to black women in America
when we come forward with
stories about sexual violence?
- It's enraging.
It's enraging to know that
you are more likely to be harmed
and yet fewer people
are going to believe you.
Fewer people are going
to help you.
The system doesn't appear set up
in any way to help you.
- We're not entering
into America's history
with any kind of protection,
and that has a lot
to do with our history
from the transatlantic
slave trade.
- When I was 26 years old,
my dad invited me to go
on this trip with him
to West Africa,
and we went to
St. George's Castle in Ghana.
So it's this big fort, really,
and in the middle
of it is a church,
and then on either side,
there were two chambers--
one for women,
one for men--
where the slaves were held,
and in the courtyard,
the women were chained
to a cannonball by the ankle,
and they were selected
to be raped by the governor
or they were raped
by the guards.
These women had no right
to say no
for the rest of their lives,
and so I think more than half
of the women were pregnant
by the time they got on the boat
for the middle passage.
The other thing that
was really striking to me,
there's this little room
and there's scratch marks
and this is where the men
who attempted to defend
the women were taken to die.
So just the intentional
cruel breakdown
of the black
male-female dynamic
from the beginning.
I understand the plunder
of black men
and I understand...
The burden of black men,
but I also think it's time
for somebody to acknowledge
the burden and the plunder
of black women.
What did you think
of the article?
How are the millennials
taking it?
- I was really happy with how
the article was written
and that they didn't hesitate
to be very clear, like,
this is--not only is this these
particular women's experiences
but because they are black
and because they're
in this industry,
this is what
it is like for them.
- All right, I'm gonna play
this, um, clip
from Hot 97 this morning,
which I'm actually kind of
scared to listen to
'cause Hot 97
is where hip-hop lives.
- Mm.
- So that would be, like,
a very pro-Russell platform.
- Let's hear it.
- On Hot 97.
- So "The New York Times"
posted a report
that four women
are detailing their experiences
of sexual misconduct
and rape from Russell Simmons
between the years
of 1988 to 2014.
- Hold my hand for this.
- He said, "I absolutely
have not raped anyone.
Absolutely not."
Russell's somebody I consider
a friend in this business.
At times like this,
it is about having
open conversation.
Doesn't mean
I don't like Russell.
Doesn't mean I don't like what
he's contributed to hip-hop,
but it does mean that
the way you go about...
- I disagree.
- Sexualizing women
and your behavior has been
out of line for a long time,
and it needs
to be addressed now.
- Can I ask the tough question
in the room, though?
Does it sound like
we're being nicer to,
easier on,
and more open-minded
about Russell than anyone else
who's caught an accusation?
I could at the very least say
I thought he seemed coarse
and inappropriate probably
around women,
and now he has several
rape allegations,
some of which are from women
who are very credible,
worked in the industry
at executive levels, not--
- And who's saying
they don't believe them?
- I'm saying the tone
we're having to me is one
that's much more like,
"Well, open.
Let's have dialogue."
We didn't do that
for other people.
- Mm-hmm.
- Even though we have evidence
to that he was--
has been a--a dirtbag,
we're all kinda keeping our lips
a little bit pursed
and not going the next step.
- He's real.
- Russell's like,
"That's not how I remember it.
I'm stepping down."
Then the rape allegations
come out.
He's like, "I absolutely"--
- But is that why
he stepped down?
Why'd he really step down?
- Mm-hmm.
- Because--I don't know.
What are you saying?
- Because he knew more
were coming, guys.
And guess who else did.
We did.
- Word.
- There's these--all these
women who were trying
to make it in the industry.
One had to--what--
she just ran away,
and guess what.
Then she ended up working
for L.A. Reid.
- And then he did
something to her.
- And then he did it!
- Yeah.
- Sorry, that's not where
my prayers went.
My prayers were, like,
to any woman who's had
to be in this industry
the last 30 years.
- [chuckles]
- Uh, when--when
Drew disappeared,
it didn't strike me per se,
because a lot of women
had started to disappear.
- So when did you find out
why she'd left?
- Um, when I read
"The New York Times."
And it was devastating to me.
I was shaking for days.
Every story--every Russell story
is personal and...
really, really hard,
and so when I read that
about Drew,
I was in bed.
I stayed in bed
because I was like,
"This is my Drew."
I immediately went
right back there
to my 23-year-old self.
I know her! So well.
Even now, like, this has
just unpacked so much,
it's just forced me to think
about all the things
that I've endured
and experienced
and seen,
and particularly with Russell,
because I was
a 22-year-old woman
alone with Russell
in the early '90s,
and so I know exactly
what is possible,
and even though I--
you know, I have fear
around speaking, um, publicly
for all the wrong reasons, like,
I'm smart enough to know
that shame has no place
and, you know, all the things
that I would say
to any younger woman
who needed my counsel,
I have all
the right things to say.
Um, but I'm also
a very private person.
I'm also a journalist.
I'm not used
to being the subject.
And this isn't a rape story.
That's another reason why I--
I think I don't want
to conflate
my story with other stories.
But the fact remains that you
can keep something inside
for 25 years
and keep on keeping on,
and then a thing can happen
like the bravery
of someone like Drew
or Sil Lai
or Jenny
or any of these women
who have dared
to say a name and speak
to a specific time
and you didn't have
to reconcile.
You've gotta deal,
and that's really why
I showed up today.
I'm here really to bear witness
and to say I'm really sorry
to all of these women
who have suffered,
and to those who
will never tell their story,
that's okay too.
I believe you too,
and there's so many of us
who believe you too.
So, um, you know...
You know.
- I am looking forward
to meeting Sil Lai.
Her story just came out
in "The Hollywood Reporter."
And I'm always happy
to see Jenny.
I've met her twice now,
and we've gotten to know
each other over text as well,
and I consider her
a sister already.
It's this bond that's hard
to describe.
- Come in, come in, come in!
Wow, I'm seeing you in person
after all this time!
- [whimpering]
- Jenny?
- Hello.
- Here, have a seat here.
- I--I was, like, in mom mode.
- Me too.
- Well...
- I was making pancakes.
- This is good.
I can have a Beyonc, like--
- Right in the wind.
- I'm doing this mental
checklist with everybody.
- Oh, yeah.
- 'Cause I wanna know
who I know is still supporting
this man 19 allegations in.
- Oh, yeah.
- Are you an ally?
Are you a real ally?
Are you down with him?
Do you support me?
Why do you not
say anything to me?
Why do you stay silent?
- It was kind of
like I did not...
Expect, uh...
Anyone to be in it
for the long haul with me,
and I was okay.
- Mm.
- Um, it'd be lovely,
but I'm glad I met you guys,
'cause we're in it
for the long haul.
- Like, I don't--I've been
in bed for four days.
Like, I don't know
how to do this.
I don't know--how do you tell
your story in front
of a national--
in a national forum?
But at the same time
realizing the privilege.
Like, looking at us,
we're all light-skinned.
We're all
"conventionally attractive."
The fact that our story
has been told
is a privilege.
- Mm-hmm.
- It shouldn't be a privilege.
Every woman's story
deserves to be heard.
- Part of the reason
I did speak out
is because I do have
light privilege,
so I have to go ahead
and stick my neck out
and say, "Me too,"
for other black women
who are not safe.
- I wasn't prepared
in whatever way
to speak at all until 2017,
which is the first time
I said anything to anybody.
And I thought...
"I wish I could have gotten
my shit together earlier..."
"So he would have left
everybody alone."
- The aftermath
of coming forward is just--
you can't even begin
to describe what it's like,
but someone else out there
knows exactly what it is,
you know, and to go through
the first,
the assault,
and then the coming forward...
And there's a bond.
You know, there's a bond there.
[rain pattering]
[thunder rumbling]
- I don't know
that there's any comp--
like, any comparable...
- No, there isn't
any comparable--
- Experience to coming forward,
being believed,
finding other victims...
- The trauma,
the coming forward...
- Of the same trauma
by the same person
and suddenly we're together.
I mean, I'd been alone
for 22 years.
I thought it was just me.
- Meeting you was,
"I'm not alone."
- Yeah.
- Meeting you now is,
"I'm not alone."
Um, it's a big deal.
- It's a big deal.
After the article came out,
I asked my husband
for a divorce,
not because it was, like,
toxic or terrible
but because suddenly
I had to deal with this thing
that had happened to me
in, like,
a three-dimensional way,
and I found myself
in a very dark place
and ultimately had
to summon the strength
to leave
and get to know myself
and find out
who that person is.
I thought the only thing
that would be different
after "The New York Times"
published my story
is that the rest of the world
would have the information
I had.
What I did not anticipate
is that I would have
a new relationship
with this information,
which was essentially I had
to process it
for the first time.
It was, like,
unmetabolized information.
Like, it's like
I'd swallowed it whole in 1995
and I had never actually
digested it.
You know, it was literally like
pressing play
on a movie that
I paused 22 years ago
in, like, the middle
of the scariest scene.
I'm just like, play.
I didn't even realize until
I read the "New York Times"
that there was never even a CD.
I literally for 22 years
have wondered
what it was
and was it good
until I read the article
and realized--
I mean,
read the article,
met other survivors of his,
talked to--
talked to them about
the traps he set.
It's like, "Oh, my God.
There was no CD."
There was never a CD.
It was all a ruse
to get me in there
'cause he knew I would
wanna hear the demo
and it was my job,
and that is why I walked right
into that trap
with Russell Simmons at 24.
- You're all I need
To get by
You're all I need
To get by
- Shorty, I'm there for you
anytime you need me
For real, girl, it's me
in your world, believe me
Nothing make a man
feel better than a woman
Queen with a crown
that be down for whatever
There are few things
that's forever, my lady
We can make war
or make babies
Back when I was nothing
You made a brother feel
like he was something
That's why I'm with you to
this day, boo, no fronting
- You have to ask yourself,
you know,
where would her career
have gone in music?
What music did we lose?
What are we poorer for
for Drew not being
a music executive?
If this is what her 20s was,
the magic,
what would the next
20 years have been?
And we'll never know.
It's like we've been robbed
of that.
- When people get out, like, um,
for those kind of reasons,
I think that us as the public,
we suffer because we don't know
what they could have produced
or what they could have brought.
Like, maybe music wouldn't
have changed the way it did
if we had more women,
uh, in music.
- This is so emblematic
of what happens
to women routinely,
and we lose.
We all lose when
brilliant women go away,
when powerful women go away,
you know?
When people lose
their inner light,
that thing--when shame keeps you
from stepping up,
what--all of that,
it's a loss for all of us.
It really, really is.
- You know, I've had glimpses
of access to my creativity
and my joy
and my fearlessness,
but it's really been buried.
The most authentic part
of myself carried the pain,
so I couldn't--
I couldn't open that box.
- Would you rather hear a song
called "Medicine" or "Silver"?
- "Medicine."
- Okay.
- [laughs]
[soft guitar music playing]
- Let me spell it out, babe,
I want you to go
All you do is try to teach me
things I've already known
Do you really think it helps
me having you in control
- There's a mom whose daughter
is in the 11th grade
at my kids' school
and she read the article
and thought
that I might be able
to give her daughter advice.
The last thing I thought
would come from this article
was having somebody want me
to help them with music.
I thought I was, like,
officially closing that door
whether I wanted to or not.
It's awesome.
I love it.
Like, I love it.
- You do?
- Yeah, so those are some
of my favorite verses of yours.
- Yeah?
- Of, like, all.
- Really?
- I love those verses.
They're really haunting and,
like, I love them.
- Oh, thanks.
- Beautiful.
- Thank you.
And you can't wrap your mind
around my words
But your healing efforts
only make me hurt
Don't you know
You're not a medicine,
you're not a medicine
You gave me bad news
and I'm stuck in my bed again
You're not a medicine,
you're not a medicine
[dramatic music]
- I am excited
to be making music again.
I mean, it's sort of like--
it's like breathing.
I feel like I've been holding
my breath for 16 years
and I didn't know it.
If you're a rape survivor,
you are the crime scene.
My life is the crime scene.
The crime doesn't end
the moment the assault ends.
The crime is perpetrated
and reperpetrated
every day that you
carry it with you,
and it informs your behavior,
so, like,
I'm a living crime scene.
And I realize now it was a cage.
I had no idea how much
this one night of my life
shattered me,
and until I said it out loud
and lived to, like,
tell the tale--
I'm still here--
I couldn't fully start to put
the pieces back together,
and I would have
been shattered forever
if this Me Too moment
hadn't happened.
I mean, literally,
it's like--it saved my life.
I--it saved my life.
[Ms. Lauryn Hill's
"Damnable Heresies"]
- These damnable heresies
Sold into slavery
By my insecurities
Oh, they keep
taking me down
Shaking me down
Taking me down
They keep breaking me down
Shaking me, taking me
Total hypocrisy
Teaching me lies
Through human eyes
Total confusion
No right or wrong
Keeping the people
From where they belong
Refusing to speak
Afraid to upset
Spending the rest
of your life
Oh, in total regret
This emotional force
Keeps conforming my mind
Keeping me blind,
keeping me blind
Keeping me blind
From the reality
Of what's being done, yeah
I keep playing the fool
To help everyone
These damnable heresies
Sold into slavery
By my insecurities
Oh, they keep
taking me down
Shaking me down,
down, down
Taking me down
They keep taking me,
breaking me
Making me
These damnable heresies
Sold into slavery
By my insecurities
Oh, they keep taking me