'Surviving R. Kelly': The Most Disturbing Claims From the Lifetime Docu-Series
R. Kelly has been accused by numerous people of abuse and having sex with underage girls.
The six-hour "Surviving R. Kelly" docu-series, which premiered on Lifetime TV earlier this month, accuses the Grammy-Award winning artist of repeatedly having sex with underage women and being physically and emotionally abusive to many women and young girls.
The documentary focuses on the emerging movement #MuteRKelly, a campaign to end Kelly’s musical fame through protests and asking others to boycott his music.
In the wake of the documentary, a criminal investigation has been opened against Kelly by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Georgia, with police reportedly reaching out to many of the women featured in it.
Here is a list of some of the disturbing claims from the docu-series. A spokesman for Kelly said the allegations in the docu-series are false. Kelly has always denied the allegations of physical abuse and sexual misconduct.
1. R. Kelly and his brother were reportedly molested as children
Kelly initially opened up about his own childhood sexual abuse in his 2012 autobiography "Soulacoaster." He said it began around age 7 and continued into his early teens. In "Surviving R. Kelly," Kelly's younger brother, Carey, said he would not be surprised if Kelly’s claims of being molested were true because he was also sexually abused as a young child.
“I was molested by a family member and that shook my world,” Carey said. “I knew it wasn’t right even though I was 6 at the time. I was afraid to tell my mom. Robert, being my big brother — I brought that to him and told him what happened to me. And when I told him, he didn’t really respond to it like I thought he should.”
Carey said he approached Kelly as a child to tell him he had been molested, to which Kelly allegedly responded, “Naw, that didn’t happen to you.’”
Carey said he didn’t try to tell his parents after that.
2. R. Kelly allegedly forged documents to marry Aaliyah when she was just 15 and he was 27.
More details about Kelly’s alleged secret marriage to the young star Aaliyah when she was just 15 were revealed during the docu-series. Kelly allegedly wed Aaliyah in a clandestine ceremony after claiming she was 18 in court documents, which were obtained by producers.
According to one of Kelly’s backup singers, Jovante Cunningham, she saw Kelly have sex with Aaliyah on a tour bus in 1994 when Aaliyah was 15. Kelly initially met the star when she was just 12.
“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” Cunningham said in the docu-series. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
Demetrius Smith, one of Kelly’s former managers, claims he was present during the impromptu wedding ceremony, which he said happened because Kelly feared he had impregnated Aaliyah. Smith added that he helped forge the marriage documents.
“It was just a quick little ceremony, she didn’t have on a white dress, he didn’t have on a tux. Just everyday wear. She looked worried and scared,” Smith said.
Aaliyah’s mom, Diane Houghton, vehemently denies that Kelly had a sexual relationship with Aaliyah while she was underage and calls Cunningham a liar, saying she had never heard of Cunningham until now.
Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah was reportedly annulled two months after it took place.
3. The underage girl in the infamous alleged R. Kelly sex tape was one of Kelly’s former artist’s nieces.
Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, most-known for her 1998 single “Be Careful,” said she introduced her niece, who was not named in the docu-series, to Kelly she was was just 12.
Edwards also testified in the 2008 child pornography trial against Kelly, identifying her niece as the girl in the infamous tape in which a man, whom many believed to be Kelly, peed on a 14-year-old girl.
Kelly was acquitted of the charges.
A tearful Edwards said in the docu-series that she deeply regrets introducing the pair. She said she has been estranged from her family for 10 years due to her choice to take a stand.
“I should have never introduced her to him. I should have never introduced my family to him. How dare [he]?” Edwards said. “On the tape, my niece has the same hairstyle she had when she turned 14. That was her, for sure. And that was him. Definitely.”
Edwards also alleged in the docu-series that she was offered her “six figures” to change her story, but she did not take it.
4. One of R. Kelly’s alleged victims, Jheronda Pace, met him because she attended his trial and was a superfan.
Jheronda Pace said she was 15 when she met Kelly during his 2008 trial in Chicago. She said she was the daughter of a single mother who did not know she was skipping school to attend the trial. She claimed she formed a relationship with the singer when he invited her to his home after the trial was over. She was 16 years old at the time.
In the beginning, Pace said they bonded because they had both been sexually abused.
“He talked about being molested as well, and he told me he was molested by an older guy in his neighborhood,” Pace said. “I felt like we had a connection, because I told him I was sexually abused when I was 4, 6, and 8 years old.”
Pace said the star took her virginity and that he allegedly taped many of their sexual encounters. She admitted she initially told the star she was 19, but when she later admitted she was 16, she said Kelly didn’t seem bothered.
“OK, what is that supposed to mean?” Pace said he told her. “He said to continue telling everybody that you were 19, and to act 21.”
She said he eventually became physically abusive toward her before she was able to leave the relationship.
Pace reportedly broke a nondisclosure agreement to go public with her story in 2017.
5. R. Kelly allegedly abused his wife Andrea Kelly throughout their marriage.
Andrea Kelly discloses in the docu-series that Kelly planned their 1996 wedding, when she was just 22, without asking her.
She said Kelly, with whom she has three children, was initially nice to her in the early stages of their relationship but quickly became abusive and controlling.
Andrea, who was married to Kelly for 13 years, said she was shocked when she found out about all the sexual abuse allegations.
“He denied it for the longest time, like, ‘Drea it’s not what you think. They are lying on me, somebody set me up,’” Andrea said. “I finally realized it doesn’t get better. It gets worse. I had small children. They were already dealing with their father in the news having a court case that deals with pedophilia.”
Andrea said she thought about committing suicide during that time.
"I remember going out on the balcony and climbing up on the ledge, like, ‘God, I can’t take another day. I can’t do this anymore,'" she said during the series. "He had taken me to a place where I was willing to leave my babies."
Andrea said she left Kelly after that. In 2005, she filed a restraining order against him. In 2009, their divorce was finalized.
6. The documentary details allegations of harrowing abuse for girls in R. Kelly’s homes and studios
An unidentified former employee of Kelly spoke about the allegedly horrible conditions in which Kelly’s “girls” were kept.
The employee said girls who lived with Kelly were not allowed to leave their rooms without permission, not even to use the bathroom.
They allegedly had to ask for food and there were buckets placed in rooms in case they needed to use the bathroom.
A’lceis Clary, one of the victim’s sisters who said she went through rooms in Kelly’s studio looking for her sibling, Azriel Clary, said what she saw was disturbing.
“She noticed buckets in the corner of every room,” Alice, Azriel's mother, said. “And she said that it looked like they were using the buckets to use the bathroom.”
Another alleged victim, Asante McGee, said she initially met Kelly on tour as a die-hard fan and dated him for two years before moving in with him. She said that’s when the controlling behavior began.
McGee returned to the house where she lived with him in Atlanta for the docu-series and couldn’t enter her former room because of the trauma she said she’d experienced inside. She became very emotional during the visit.
McGee also walked into a room known as the “black room” and detailed how girls were allegedly forced to do very demeaning things inside.
“The worst thing he asked you to do, you did it,” McGee said.
7. Two women are still allegedly involved in R. Kelly’s “sex cult” and their families have not had contact with them in years.
Joycelyn Savage originally met Kelly as a 19-year-old college student in Atlanta in 2015, her parents claimed in the documentary. They said the last contact they’ve had with her was in 2016.
Savage did release a video to TMZ in 2016 saying that she was OK and wasn’t being held against her will, but her parents stated they believe she has been brainwashed.
An unnamed former employee detailed how R. Kelly allegedly tried to do damage control in 2017 after Savage’s parents spoke out about their daughter and her relationship with the star.
"When the Savages first came out, talking about Joycelyn, R. Kelly had meetings to strategize to fix the situation. The first thing was to put Joycelyn in front of the camera on TMZ, which is something he ordinarily would not have done," the anonymous source claimed. "As far as the video Joycelyn Savage made, I would say that it was scripted, because Robert does not allow those girls to say anything that he has not told them to say."
Azriel, mentioned above, is allegedly another one of Kelly’s girlfriends whose parents have not heard from her since 2016. She was initially a Kelly fan and met him when she was 17, according to her parents, and her parents had trusted him with her career.
“Me being a protective father, I'm OK with it because I don't think none of this can happen to me," Angelo, Azriel’s father, said.
Once Azriel turned 18, however, the parents said they stopped hearing from her as well as Kelly.
The Clarys and the Savages have asked police to do welfare checks on Kelly’s homes, but according to the anonymous source, Kelly was tipped off about these checks before they happened.
“I was told about the wellness checks being done at the house in Atlanta as well as the studio in Chicago," the anonymous employee said. "R. Kelly knew about the wellness check in Chicago before it happened because he has friends in the police department in Chicago who warned him.”
Both sets of parents still desperately want to get in touch with their daughters.
8. One of R. Kelly’s alleged victims was rescued by her mom during the series.
Dominque Gardner, who met Kelly when she was 17 in 2009, was reportedly still living with the singer when taping for the docu-series began and by the end of it, her mother had gotten into contact with her and convinced her to leave.
It’s clear that Gardner’s appearance has drastically changed when viewers get a glimpse of her after her mom, Michelle Kramer, sees her for the first time in years in a Los Angeles hotel room.
An anonymous source in the docu-series claimed that Kelly had made Gardner his "boy toy."
“She’s a little tomboyish, and Robert plays on that, so he has molded her into the boy he wants her to be,” the source said. "So he’s had her shave all her hair off, he has her carry herself like a boy.”
Kramer executes an on-camera rescue of a clearly shaken-up Gardner. Before it happens though, the hotel manager of the place where Gardner is staying informs Kramer that someone called the cops for her, claiming that she wasn’t Gardner’s mother.
Kramer and her daughter are eventually seen hurrying off in an emotional moment. Gardner allegedly returned to Kelly three days later, according to the documentary, but eventually left him for good.
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