Lifetime dropped a bombshell on Thursday night with the premiere of their three-night docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”
While allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse with women and underage girls have plagued Kelly for years, he has continued to deny all allegations and has never been convicted of any wrongdoing. The singer threatened to sue Lifetime if they aired the series, according to TMZ, but the network did not back down.
Series creator Dream Hampton gathered 50 people from throughout Robert Kelly’s life, including relatives, employees, business associates and women who allege sexual relationships with him, to tell their stories. The series also features expert commentary from journalists and psychologists to offer historical context, as well as a behavioral understanding as to why someone might behave in the ways alleged to Kelly by his various accusers.
The first two hours covered Kelly’s upbringing through the mid-’90s, offering unsettling stories from women speaking out about their alleged experiences with the “Pied Piper of R&B.” Future installments will take a look at his legal troubles and take us to the present day.
“There’s certain things that Robert has done to me that I’m not willing to talk about today because the pain, the disbelief, still,” said his ex-wife Andrea “Drea” Lee. “And the darkness of it.”
We’ve gathered the 17 most shocking claims and allegations made in the first two hours of this docuseries below:
Robert and Younger Brother Molested
Robert had previously revealed in an interview that he had been molested by someone in the family, and on Thursday night, his younger brother Carey said that the same thing had happened to him. “If he’s saying that, I don’t think that he’s lying, because it happened to me,” Carey said of Robert’s claims that he’d been molested. “It happened to me. … I was molested by a family member.”
According to the younger brother, he was six-years old when he was molested. He further said that he tried to talk to Robert about what happened to him, but Robert shut him down. Carey says his older brother simply told him that it hadn’t happened.
In explaining why he never went to their mother, he said he was worried she might not believe him. “My brothers was the test. If they believed me, then maybe I could have took it to an adult.”
Older Brother Doesn’t See a Problem
Speaking from prison, Robert’s older brother Bruce didn’t seem to see an issue with Robert’s alleged proclivity for young girls.
“Robert likes younger women,” he said. “You have people who have fantasies about different things. I like older women. Go figure, you know. But that’s just a preference. It’s a preference. Everyone has preferences.
“So what is the big deal? What’s the big issue with my brother?”
The Pied Piper of R&B
Several of the interview subjects found new discomfort in many of Robert’s songs, and even his self-assigned nickname: The Pied Piper of R&B.
“All these pop stars pick their titles, right?” said music journalist Nelson George. “I’m the Pied Piper of R&B. The Pied Piper was a children’s character who played a flute and children would follow him down the road to whatever he was leading them. So he literally picks a metaphor for seducing young children with music.”
There Were Beds in the Studio
There were several stories throughout the two-hour premiere about Robert allegedly engaging in sexual acts in his recording studio. Music producer Craig Williams said that when he went down to Robert’s studio, he found beds in almost every room, including the main recording one, and that wasn’t all.
“There was girls everywhere,” he said. “There was a young girl sitting and she had to be … I don’t know, but anywhere between 15 and 17 to 18. She was a teenager. She was young. You can tell what’s young. I don’t know if they were together.”
“When I went to another room there was a girl in that room with the lights out. Waiting. There was another girl in this lounge, over there. Lights out. Waiting.”
Sex with Aaliyah on Tour Bus
One of his backing vocalists, Jovante Cunningham, said that she could confirm a sexual relationship with singer Aaliyah, who she described as a very close friend at the time. Cunningham says she and several other people witnessed this.
“On a tour bus there really aren’t any confined spaces,” she explained. “When you get on the bus there are bunks, and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping. So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks, curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing … when the door flew open on the bus.”
When asked what she saw at that moment, Jovante responded, “Things that an adult should not be doing with a child. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
Aailyah’s mother, Diane, disputes Cunningham’s account.
Witnesses to Sex Acts
Several of the accounts accused Robert performing sex acts in the proximity of other people. “The first time I witnessed a sexual act in the studio was during the recording of “Slow Dance'” the remix,” Cunningham said. “He had one of my teenage friends in the booth with him, bent over. And we were all right there. … None of us were of age.”
Cunningham claimed she met Robert when she was 14 years old and he allegedly spent a lot of time around her high school, which was near his recording studio. She was one of the earliest women in Robert’s career timeline to share her story for the documentary, meeting him in 1991 after he’d signed with Jive Records and was just starting to make a name for himself.
Music producer Craig Williams admitted that he knew about Robert’s alleged visits to the high school. “I heard a lot about Rob going to Kenwood High School to hang out and I always wondered, what the heck is he doing hanging around the high school?” he said. “I heard he was picking up a lot of kids from the school.”
Later in the documentary, Lizzette Martinez — who says she met Robert when she was 17 years old — detailed a time when he allegedly forced her to perform a sex act with his friends in the backseat as a form of punishment. “It was like he owned me,” she said.
Forged Marriage Documents
Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable people in this first part of the docuseries was Robert’s former tour manager and personal assistant, Demetrius Smith, who seemed to be involved in all kinds of things he was not proud of and stammered and squirmed through most of his interview segments.
“We’d meet girls. Robert would, um– I would a lot of times make people know that R. Kelly’s here,” he said of those early days around the high school.
Later in the episode, he said that he helped facilitate Robert’s marriage to Aaliyah, then 15 years old. “I’m not proud of that,” he said. “I forged– I had papers forged for them. But Aaliyah was underage.”
According to Smith, the marriage was Robert’s solution to a pregnancy scare. “Her parents trusted– They trusted me. They trusted us,” Smith said. Smith said that Robert had denied having a physical relationship with Aaliyah until the pregnancy scare.
Hunting for Teens at the Mall
In the ’90s, there was no place more packed with teen girls than the mall, which is where a then-17-year-old Lizzette Martinez says she met Robert in Florida. She said after she identified him walking near them to a friend, Robert overheard them and made contact. According to Smith, “We’d go to the mall in every city [on tour].”
“His bodyguard came back and handed me his phone number and said, ‘R. Kelly would like you to call him.'” Martinez was an aspiring singer, but says that Kelly didn’t learn this until after she called him back.
She says he invited her to sing for him. “He thought I could make it and he was gonna help me,” she said. “And then he leaned over and kissed me. And I was really taken aback by that. I didn’t know how to say no. All of a sudden, his tongue is in my mouth.”
“I Felt Like a Sex Object”
Martinez said that her first sexual experience was when she was drunk at a party with Robert. “I was really, like, hazy, and I remember he took me up to the room. It was just a blur,” she said. “He went back to the party and I just kind of passed out. It was my first sexual experience and I didn’t think it would be that way.”
She said that their relationship became primarily sexual. “Visiting him it was mainly about sex,” she said. “I felt like a sex object.”
“You Are Not Alone”
Another thing many music critics and journalists throughout the episode were saying was that Kelly’s “story” manifested itself through his music. Aaliyah’s “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” speaks directly to the idea of underage girls having sex with adult men.
And when he got the opportunity to work with Michael Jackson, Martinez said that it was her own experience with a miscarriage when she was a senior in high school that informed Robert’s writing of “You Are Not Alone,” which Michael Jackson recorded for his album “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.”
Pattern of Control and Abuse
According to Martinez, Robert began to slowly take control over her behavior as well, forbidding her to interact with anyone outside of himself, and telling her that he had her followed so he would always know what she was doing.
“The first time he was physically abusive I was 17 and I said hello to someone that I shouldn’t have or I was looking at someone that I shouldn’t have been looking at, you know, so he didn’t like that,” Martinez said. By this point, she says she was effectively living in a hotel room
Similar accusations were levied against Kelly by the woman who became his second wife, Andrea Lee.
“Having to call him Daddy, there should not be repercussions if I do not call you daddy,” Lee said of her own encounters with Robert’s alleged controlling behavior. “Having to control what you do, who you do it with, how long you’re doing it, where you go, what you where, how long you sleep, when you sleep. I honestly believe that he has a god complex.”
Common details included allegations that Robert made them call him Daddy, forced them to ask his permission to eat or use the bathroom and that they were forbidden to talk to anyone.
Control Freak on Tour
Lee said this control manifested beyond his relationships.
“There was a rule being on tour with him,” she said. “The dancers do not communicate with my background singers. My band don’t communicate with my dancers. He really ran it like a dictatorship.”
She described her marriage in much the same way, echoing some of Martinez’ allegations of control and manipulation. “You fall in love with the charmer, you fall in love with his brokenness,” Lee said. “And then slowly he lets the other one creep in. He’s a control freak.”
Backup singer Sparkle said she experienced the same things on tour, noting that she didn’t understand why people would ignore her greetings.
“Come to find out, they couldn’t speak to me. He wouldn’t let them,” she said. “That’s not me ’cause I’m going to speak to everybody and anybody and who I want to speak to. So, when I learned I would go out of my way to speak to people just to tick him off, ’cause I’m just like, you can’t tell me what I can and cannot do.”
Wedding Control Freak
Robert sprung both a surprise proposal and a surprise wedding on Lee as well, and apparently gave her absolutely no involvement in it at all. According to her, he had a lavish presentation set up one day and she just walked in on it.
“What if I wanted to do it in a church? What if I wanted to wear a wedding dress? I don’t think he even understands that you’ve now crossed that line from being generous to being controlling,” Lee said.
Robert’s brother Bruce said that he could see that Lee was uncomfortable. “I felt bad,” he said. “I could see that she wanted her people there. She wanted her mom there. She wanted her dad there. But that’s Robert, though.”
He also said that he and Robert were alike in that they both liked to maintain a certain level of control in their relationships — once you’re in a relationship with them, you don’t need to be having male friends and talking to these people anymore — which would explain why he could dismiss her unhappiness by simply saying, “That’s Robert.”
Changing Cell Phone Number
Lee also claims that Robert changed her cell phone number without telling her and may have stopped her parents from getting a hold of her on multiple occasions.
“My parents were trying to get a hold of me and they couldn’t. I did not know that my cell phone number was being changed,” she said. “And I believe that he strategically did it so that he could have all of this going on and, if I keep you locked away and keep you isolated, you don’t get to see this other side.”
Lee was referring to the other young girls he was allegedly involved with, including Lizzette Martinez.
Coming to Chicago
17-year-old Lisa Van Allen was surprised when Kelly singled her out at his “Home Alone” video shoot. “I thought I’d be the last one he would try to talk to because I was probably the youngest one there.”
According to Van Allen, Robert immediately asked how old she was and when she told him she was 17, he said, “‘Will your mother let you come to Chicago?'” The age of consent in Illinois is 17 years old.
Robert then took her back to his tour bus while the video was still shooting and had sex with her, according to Van Allen. “I pretty much stayed on the bus in his t-shirt and in-between scenes he would come back and forth on the bus until he finished shooting.”
Lisa then detailed “life in the studio,” including the beds he had there, calling it “kind of boring.” She also claimed that Robert did not allow her to really engage with anyone else.
“One time, one of his friends came to the studio and he’s speaking to everyone and just a normal reaction, you speak back. Rob would get upset and say, ‘You’re not supposed to speak to them,” he said. “You don’t speak to anybody. You just look straight forward. If they speak to you, you don’t say anything.”
Rules of Threesomes
Van Allen said that Robert eventually introduced the idea of threesomes into their relationship, often with a young girl. When Van Allen first met this girl, Robert told her that she was 16 years old. According to Van Allen, both girls were instructed to not talk to one another except during the sex act itself — which was often filmed — and only under the direction of Robert.
She also said she recalls watching as Robert lied to the other girl’s parents about his relationship with her. “I knew that he was having sex with her but he would put up this front for her parents,” she said. “He knows that he’s sleeping with this young girl. Him and I both were actually having sex with her. But I didn’t know at the time that she was actually 14.”
According to Van Allen, she discovered this during a car ride when she stole a quick conversation with the girl, who told her that Robert was going to buy her a car for her upcoming 16th birthday. Their ongoing threeway relationship had already allegedly been going on a year.
As it turned out, this young girl was allegedly the niece of Robert’s longest-serving backup singer at the time, Sparkle. She said she’d wanted to introduce Robert to her then-12-year-old niece as the young girl was a rapper. Robert was helping Sparkle with her own burgeoning solo career, and so she hoped he might be able to do the same for her niece.
She said she later found out that the young girl was being dropped off at the studio and going with friends to teen parties at Robert’s house. “I thought I left my niece in good hands, but think of a grown man hanging out with young girls,” she said. “It just felt like I just shouldn’t have introduced them. Something ain’t right.”
After the documentary revealed that the young girl Robert and Van Allen allegedly engaged in multiple threesomes with was this same niece, Sparkle said, “It still haunts me, you know. I should have never introduced her to him. Like, how dare you? How dare you?”
The story continues to unfold Friday and Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.
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