Russell Simmons’ All Def Movie Awards return with irreverence, silliness for a second year

Russell Simmons arrives at the 25th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation's Academy Awards viewing party on Feb. 26.
(Tibrina Hobson / AFP / Getty Images)

How do you respond to Hollywood’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy when you’re a black Muslim activist with your own multiplatform media company? Well, if you’re Russell Simmons you launch an awards show and air it at the same time as the Academy Awards. Hence the birth of the All Def Movie Awards last year.

On Wednesday, multimedia platforms Fusion and Simmons’ All Def Digital joined forces again for the second iteration of the show, hosted by comedian Mike Epps at downtown L.A.’s Belasco Theatre. (Fusion didn’t broadcast the ceremony until Sunday night.)

“It was built out of #OscarsSoWhite, but it’’s really about celebration of diversity,” Simmons told The Times. “This is a celebration of a lot of people who otherwise might not get celebrated. And I think it’s a pretty gentle, fun nudge to Hollywood to keep moving forward.”


“We want to keep doing it until material progress is made,” said All Def digital CEO and President Sanjay Sharma. “Our whole idea behind this show was to create something like what the MTV Movie Awards were for my generation — an irreverent, fresh, cultural take on what had become kind of stale.”

Cheeky award categories included Most Out of Place White Person in a Movie (nominees included the casts of “Gods of Egypt” and “Aloha,” Tilda Swindon in “Doctor Strange,” Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai” and Matt Damon in “The Great Wall” — they all won); Best Comedy Without Madea or Kevin Hart (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s “Keanu”); and Movies You Wish You Could Unsee (that honor went to “Batman v. Superman”).

Needless to say, it may be one of the most unconventional awards shows ever. But the whole point of the show, according to Simmons, is to recognize films and artists overlooked by the academy.

“What the white gatekeepers miss is that in the suburbs of Cleveland, these voices are relevant,” he said. “We need to have these shows not just to have fun but to recognize that there’s still work to do.”

Rapper Ice Cube and reality star Amber Rose were the night’s top honorees, receiving the lifetime achievement and vanguard awards, respectively. Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, musician Will.I.Am, reality star Blac Chyna and models Eva Marcille and Cassie Ventura were among the guests.

Last year’s inaugural show was hosted by comic Tony Rock at Hollywood’s Lure Nightclub, while brother Chris Rock was hosting the Oscars just down the street at the Dolby Theatre. Despite this year’s more polished digs, the atmosphere at the show was just as relaxed, with Snoop Dogg visibly smoking marijuana in the audience and presenters liberally using expletives while presenting the nominees and in acceptance speeches.

Ice Cube provided the evening’s most poignant moment when he received his award, which Snoop Dogg and LL Cool J presented to their peer.

“I appreciate this, I appreciate everybody in this room … yeah, ya’ll can sit down now,” he said to the audience that rose in a standing ovation. “It’s been a great career, it’s been a long career … and to be up here with LL and my homie Snoop … you and Russell showed us how to do it, how to be pros at this instead of just amateurs. I’m just happy to be in a room like this. It’s just great to be here after all this time.”

With big stars like Ice Cube winning awards alongside up-and-comers such as “Keanu”actress Tiffany Haddish (who took home the award for Bad… Boss Chick and during her acceptance speech exclaimed “I’m gonna put this up like I won an Oscar tonight!”), the ADMAs were the picture of an inclusive Hollywood that inspired Simmons to create the show in the first place.

“It is a real concern, the lack of integration,” he said of Hollywood’s ongoing diversity problem. “The gates in Hollywood are bigger than the gates in Cleveland. The gates in Hollywood are bigger than the gates in other places where people are forced to see each other.”

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