Simone Reyes, known primarily as “Russell Simmons’ longest female relationship,” started working for the Def Jam-founder right after she graduated high school and is now one of the stars of Oxygen’s “Running Russell Simmons.”
But Reyes is also known for her staunch veganism and commitment to animal rights. “I didn’t just become a vegan because it’s healthier or to lose weight,” she says. “It was because of animals. Over time, you realize that veganism is a way of life, not just a dietary choice.”
So where does she get the energy to “run” Russell Simmons while also advocating for animals? We peeked inside her fridge full of faux meat to find out.
Has being so close to Russell influenced your food choices?
It has recently, because I had a health scare, and Russell, who’s an ethical vegan, but is really, really into health, always knew I was what many people call a “junk food vegan.” But Russell is very into juicing and clean eating, so he’s helping change me into a healthy vegan.
With a vegan diet, how do you make sure you have the energy to fulfill all of the responsibilities that come with being Russell’s executive assistant?
I think eating breakfast is the most important thing, and for years, I didn’t do it. If you start the day with oatmeal or something else that gives you fuel, it helps. And, by working out. For years, I just sat at my desk. Russell has a lot of stamina, and just to keep up with him, you need a lot of it.
How has being on the show changed your eating patterns? Is it harder to make healthy choices when you’re so busy?
I’m lucky because New York and LA have the most amazing vegan choices, and even grocery stores in places I’ve never heard of are starting to carry vegan products. It’s really taking over.
What’s the one thing you always have in your fridge?
Probably soy milk—for cereal, drinking, and, it’s great for if you cook. Which, unfortunately, I don’t.
You have vegan BBQ skewers, vegan roast turkey-style deli slices, and tofu hot dogs. Faux meat, much?
I’m really into substituting! I don’t feel like vegans should miss out on anything. We can literally have anything we want—chicken parm, pizza, a seitan pepper steak.
Okay, but tofu hot dogs? Do they actually taste good?
They’re amazing! Amazing. Russell always laughs when he has a vegan event. I’ll volunteer to taste the food and he says, “You can go, but I’m not going to listen to your opinion. I’m going to listen to someone who eats meat and drinks milk, because you don’t even remember what real meat tastes like.” And that’s true. But substituting is my life! I don’t remember what a real hamburger tastes like, but I love that if I want a “burger,” I can have one.
I see you have juice from Organic Avenue. Do you have a favorite?
Russell’s favorite is from Liquiteria. He picks them up and brings them in for me. And then, of course, I do wheat grass shots, which I just had this morning. I’m not going to pretend I like how they taste. You just wash it down with water, and in the end, it’s worth it because of the amazing health benefits.