You may know Katie Rost as the resident hot mess on ‘The Real Housewives of Potomac,’ but before that she was known as a model who once dated mogul Russell Simmons.
Now, Katie’s coming to her ex’s defense as he faces a slew of rape and sexual misconduct allegations.
via Page Six:
“I did want to offer a different point of view because sometimes I think it’s a pile on,” she recently told Page Six.
A new documentary called “On the Record” that is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday will reportedly highlight some of his accusers’ stories. Russell, 62, has “vehemently” denied all the allegations, telling The New York Times in December 2017, “These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual. I have enormous respect for the women’s movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power.”
Rost, 40, said she first met Russell in 2002 when his then-wife Kimora Lee Simmons hired her to model for her Baby Phat clothing line when she was 22 years old.
Prior to the booking, Rost said she heard Russell “had a reputation” from other models and executives at her agency, Click Model Management, who allegedly gave her a “warning.” A rep for Click Model Management declined to comment.
However, Rost said her relationship with Russell began as platonic because he was married. “He was really sweet and very nice, but I was more focused on [Kimora],” she said.
Over the years, Rost and Russell maintained a friendship, but when Kimora and Russell divorced in 2009, their relationship became romantic.
“We took a few vacations together and spent some time getting to know each other a little bit more,” Rost said. “It wasn’t exclusive. He had other girlfriends.”
While they were dating in 2009, Russell offered Rost, who was then 30 years old, a position at Global Grind, his hip-hop-focused entertainment news website. Rost had studied journalism at Boston University and accepted the opportunity.
The couple was able to balance a working and sexual relationship for about six months but eventually broke up when Rost discovered Russell was seeing other women. Rost recalled walking into his Manhattan home and discovering model Julie Henderson, who had just been named Sports Illustrated Model of the Year, there.
“I was, like, ‘Oh, this is not going to work,’” Rost said. “I just didn’t really see myself with someone that old, and he was still a playboy and a player.”
However, they communicated more regularly was when Rost was dealing with a divorce and custody battle in 2016. Rost accused her ex-husband James Orsini of abuse, and she said Russell encouraged her to share her story with the world.
Orsini has vehemently denied any allegations of abuse.After their breakup, Rost and Russell remained friends and still speak about three to four times a year.
“When I was going through all of that crap and all of the pain with coming forward as a survivor, Russell so strongly [said] to me, ‘Katie, you need to write about these things. You have to tell everyone what happened with this pain of your life,’” she said. “He was such a strong voice that it sort of took my breath away reading that he might go down in flames.”
A year later, in December 2017, Drew Dixon, Toni Sallie, Tina Baker, and Sherri Hines came forward to accuse the music mogul of rape in the 1980s. Several other women have also accused Russell of sexual assault. Russell has denied the allegations.
In April 2018, a judge threw out a $5 million lawsuit filed by filmmaker Jennifer Jarosik, who alleged that Simmons raped her in 2016.
In November 2018, Rost said Russell called her to ask her whether she had ever felt he was inappropriate with her.
Rost reassured Russell that she never felt like he crossed a line, to which he allegedly responded, “I feel like you’re giving me a pass. I’m not the greatest guy. I haven’t done everything right, and I’m really trying to figure out who I really am.”“It seemed like he wanted to understand and I think that he still does,” she said. “I guess that’s something that struck me as very different than all of these other men that are going through this stuff. I don’t think Bill Cosby ever went, ‘Oh, wow tell me about what I’ve done.’ Or that Harvey Weinstein has been like, ‘Clarify for me how I was disruptive or did something horrible to your spirit.’”
Rost believes her feelings about some of the allegations are “complicated” because of her own personal experience with the music executive.
“If you’re an overly sexual person or someone who comes on to people … I don’t think that means that you are a predator,” she explained. “I just wanted to say that I never felt that way about him. I did always feel like he was a womanizer — that he was someone who was going to come on to women, let you know that he wanted you — but there was never any aggressive or even using like a power position type of thing over, at least, me for my situation.”
On Jan. 18, Oprah Winfrey revealed she was backing out of producing “On the Record.”
Although the media mogul said Russell “attempted to pressure” her through social media and behind the scenes, Winfrey — who was a victim of childhood sexual abuse growing up — said she did not exit the project for that reason, but rather because she felt she needed more time to “get it right” because of some “inconsistencies.”
Whether Katie’s truth is different from many of Russell’s accuser’s truths or not, she’s entitled to share it.