It’s safe to say that Lifetime’s docuseries premiere “Surviving R. Kelly” took the world by storm Thursday night, dominating social media across multiple trending topics.
While the show itself quickly emerged as the top-trending topic on Twitter, it was followed immediately by late R&B singer “Aaliyah,” Kelly’s first name “Robert,” his ex-wife “Andrea,” and former protege “Sparkle.” And while the series was not implicitly suggesting any sort of connection between the two, fans got “Bill Cosby” trending as well, making their own association.
As part of its description for the series, Lifetime says, “For the first time ever, survivors and people from R. Kelly’s inner circle, are coming forward with new allegations about his sexual, mental, and physical abuse. They are now finally ready to share their full story and shed light on the secret life the public has never seen.”
Over 50 interviews were conducted for the project, which chronicles Kelly’s life, career and the numerous sexual assault and abuse allegations he has faced. Kelly has denied all of the allegations brought forth about him and has never been convicted of any wrongdoing in relation to any of them. He was acquitted on multiple charges of making child pornography twice in the 2000s.
On Thursday morning, TMZ reported that R. Kelly’s lawyer had threatened to file a lawsuit over the docuseries and demanded that Lifetime not air it, arguing it’s full of lies and even alleging that it has videotaped evidence that Lifetime knows that some of the women aren’t telling the truth.
“Lifetime has always been a brand that champions women’s stories,” the network told TMZ in response to the threat. On the show’s description page, Lifetime says, “This program falls under Lifetime’s commitment to provide a platform to give women a voice where they have previously been unheard to bring awareness to the abuses and harassment of women.”
The first two installments aired Thursday night as scheduled. And while viewers were left reeling, series creator Dream Hampton teased the upcoming final two installments via Twitter. “Episodes 3 & 4 are about his trial and the systemic ways the criminal (in)justice system fails and re-traumatizes victims,” she wrote. “Episodes 5 & 6 are about right now and are to me, the most important.”
One of the more shocking allegations to emerge from the series is the claim from a former R. Kelly backup performer that she saw him and Aaliyah engaged in sex when the young singer was only 15-years old. In a statement released prior to the premiere, Aaliyah’s mother Diane Hauhgton vehemently **denied this claim.
“The woman and so-called back up singer in the forthcoming ‘Surviving…’ documentary that describes seeing, meeting or ever breathing the same air as my daughter, Aaliyah, is lying and is a liar,” Haughton said. “These lies and fabrications cannot be tolerated and allowed to be spewed from the forked tongues of saboteurs of Aaliyah’s legacy.”
The Hampton was quick to point out via Twitter that Aaliyah was only a small part of the story she is telling with this series. While she was turned down by many A-list celebrities, the focus of the story was never intended to be on them anyway.
We spent less than 15 mins on Aaliyah’s story in today’s two hours. I promise y’all this show is about regular, non famous black girls that could’ve been any of us #SurvivingRKelly
— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) January 4, 2019
“Celebrated as one of the greatest R&B singers of all time, R. Kelly’s genre defining career and playboy lifestyle has been riddled with rumors of abuse, predatory behavior, and pedophilia,” Lifetime says of the singer. “Despite damning evidence and multiple witnesses, to date, none of these accusations have seemingly affected him.”
They have, however, followed him throughout his career and become the focus of much conversation surrounding the artist. And now, with the first night of “Surviving R. Kelly” airing on Lifetime, that conversation has come to dominate social media. Below are some of the strongest reactions, including from some who participated in it.
As a reminder, R. Kelly has denied all of the allegations brought against him and has not been convicted of any wrongdoing at this time. Any presumption of guilt from the tweets attached below reflects that individual’s opinion.
We should all thank my friend @dreamhampton for her very necessary work to create #SurvivingRKelly. These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard. I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 4, 2019
So proud of the women telling their truth tonight. It’s finally time for the music industry to be held ACCOUNTABLE.#SurvivingRKelly https://t.co/IDZkLJot8V
— terry crews (@terrycrews) January 4, 2019
Um, lemme tell ya what they not gon’ do, act like #RKelly is holding young girls captive because he had a tough childhood. LOTS of folks had tough childhoods and did not go on to do what he is alleged to have done. #CutItOut! #SurvivingRKelly
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) January 4, 2019
— Trasean D Stepney (@DTrasean) January 4, 2019
The most shocking part of this whole #SurvivingRkelly thing (Bc we already knew he was a predator) is the insane amount of ADULTS actively involved… no wonder he’s still free… most of y’all were accomplices! ALL YALL TRASH! pic.twitter.com/57LHQeplp0
— KNWBDY (@KingEx_IV) January 4, 2019
I love that John Legend is so honest and aware. He and Wendy Williams were the only 2 mainstream celebs with enough balls to speak out against R. Kelly. And that, people, is how the cycle of abuse continues–silence. The music industry is a shady business. #SurvivingRKelly
— ItsMe (@TheKagneiKing) January 4, 2019
— Harriet’s Trigger Finger (@Tai76) January 4, 2019
The interviewer said are you interested in teenage girls
— Kai 😘 (@_theonlykalika_) January 4, 2019
— necia 💘 (@_janeciaa) January 4, 2019
The first 20 minutes I was like wow, he’s definitely gonna sue and now I’m like ohhhh okay Lifetime wants him to sue so they can take him to court with the evidence they have! Smart! #SurvivingRKelly pic.twitter.com/EkbtGTFZp9
— bbsongoli💅🏾 (@Songoli4) January 4, 2019
— Jefa (@Sxy_NtheCity) January 4, 2019
Stellar journalism, stellar filmmaking. But furthermore, just grateful for your resolve to amplify survivor stories and the truth. Thank you and everyone involved for believing black women @dreamhampton. #SurvivingRKelly
— Christina Coleman (@ChrissyCole) January 4, 2019
— King of Valet (@Gabriel_Will1) January 4, 2019
It should go without saying that Black girls should matter more than good music & a musical gift; that a minor should not be maligned as a manipulator of a man. Let’s teach boys that girls’ bodies are not theirs to molest & misuse. Not theirs to do anything with. #SurvivingRKelly
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) January 4, 2019
— MrsRosalie (@MsWhatuneed) January 4, 2019
— Lyss P (@Hope_lyss) January 4, 2019
— Nicole (@lovenic03) January 4, 2019
GUYS. HOW are we gonna get through FOUR MORE HOURS of #SurvivingRKelly.
Who’s starting the prayer circle? pic.twitter.com/qbrBEQaONi
— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) January 4, 2019
— Jamila (@Jamila_Pope) January 4, 2019
— zyyx (@zayy771) January 4, 2019
— LaToya (@KissMy_Pisces) January 4, 2019
God bless all the survivors who are telling their stories because this is hard to do in general, let alone to share your truth with the world. Y’all are going to save someone’s life. Thank you so much 🙌🏾 #SurvivingRKelly
— Princess Shuri (@yuupiitsniik) January 4, 2019
Sometimes putting it all out in the world changes things. I hope that #SurvivingRKelly is that.
It’s not about just knowing. It’s about bearing witness. Allowing victims agency and power against the abuser.
— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) January 4, 2019
If #SurvivingRKelly didnt teach yall anything , it should teach yall to be protective of your kids because people will manipulate , control , and take advantage of them .
— ❤️Mrs. Parris ❤️ (@Tweet_Tiggity) January 4, 2019
— ً (@breepeng) January 4, 2019
— DeAsia 🖤🥀 (@xxShawntaxx) January 4, 2019
— Jordan (Jay) Alford (@missjazzyjaybay) January 4, 2019
— Melvin Boyd II (@BoydJr713) January 4, 2019
— Lola 💫 (@Say_It_Slow) January 4, 2019
The #SurvivingRKelly documentary is just too much to stomach.
— xoNecole (@xonecole) January 4, 2019
— Nick (@1800Caution) January 4, 2019
— Ash (@sftblkgrly) January 4, 2019
People are really victim blaming teenage girls for their decisions, and it says a lot about how society approaches rape culture. #SurvivingRKelly
— T’Keyah Lynette 🦋 (@ventrilloquism_) January 4, 2019
— ig | happily.singleee (@HSingleee) January 4, 2019
— Tiffany (@__xotiffany__) January 4, 2019
“everyone have their preferences, so i don’t see the problem.”
— 𝐉 𝐢 𝐦 𝐛 𝐨 𝐛 🇭🇹 (@TheTrueDope) January 4, 2019
And we’re only up to 1996. Strap in folks, the next two nights are going to blow up the internet all over again. “Surviving R. Kelly” continues Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.
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