A controversial new docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, premiered on Lifetime on Thursday night, and the six-part special is causing a lot of dissension online.
Through the program, its producer, Dream Hampton, aims to force people to pay attention to the accusations against American rapper R. Kelly. Hampton sought to probe the longtime controversy surrounding Kelly and expose allegations of predatory tendencies and sexual misconduct levelled against the star.
Kelly has denied the accusations against him.
These victims came forward about their experiences with Kelly in the 1990s and early 2000s, detailing his alleged acts of physical, mental and sexual abuse.
“Some very brave women have trusted us with their stories, their truth and their trauma,” said Hampton to Billboard upon announcing the cause behind the production of the show.
“They are survivors, and I’m honoured to share their stories with the world,” she said.
In the first two episodes of Surviving R. Kelly, many secrets were revealed. Kelly’s ex-wife shared the story of their wedding and how she was “surprised” with it, claiming Kelly never asked her to marry him and planned a ceremony that was sprung upon her. According to her, the couple’s marriage ended after years of mental and physical abuse.
One of Kelly’s former backup dancers, Jovante Cunningham, claimed she once witnessed the Ignition singer having sex with a minor while recording in the studio. She said there was an audience, too.
“The first time I witnessed a sexual act in the studio was during the recording of Slow Dance (Remix),” she said. “He had one of my teenage friends in the booth with him, bent over. We were all right there. I will not say with whom but I knew she was underage.”
Another victim, Lizzette Martinez, said that she got involved with Kelly sexually while she was underage. She allegedly became pregnant and had a miscarriage shortly after she found out. She also claimed that Kelly told her she was the inspiration for You Are Not Alone — the 1995 hit Kelly wrote for Michael Jackson.
“He said when he wrote it he was thinking of me so when he played it, he called the song You Are Not Alone,” she said.
This is only a brief look into a third of the entire six-hour series.
Kelly has faced numerous sexual assault allegations since 1994, when he reportedly married the late R&B singer Aaliyah — something that Kelly denied even after having the marriage annulled. Aaliyah was only 15 years old at the time. He was 27.
The two were introduced by her uncle and manager, Barry Hankerson, when she was 12 years old. He then produced her first album, ironically named Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number (1994). It helped launch her music career.
Kelly’s former tour manager, Demetrius Smith, made a statement in the first episode of Surviving R. Kelly, admitting he helped make the wedding official and that he felt major regret.
“I’m not proud of that day,” Smith said. “I had papers forged for them. Aaliyah was underage. We got the marriage licence, we were at a hotel in Maywood, Ill. It was just a quick little ceremony, nothing elaborate. she was worried and scared.”
“She gave me a look like she wanted me to talk to her,” he added. “I knew that it had changed the course of everything.”
Kelly came under fire in February 2002 after a video surfaced of him allegedly urinating on and engaging in sexual activities with an underage girl.
That year, he was further indicted on 21 counts of child pornography. After six years of dodging court dates and loopholes, Kelly was not convicted and was acquitted of all charges in 2008.
Since then, his music career has dwindled.
Further accusations of assault, creating an abusive sex cult and knowingly giving one of his ex-partners an STD have all been swept under the rug by Kelly, however people have begun speaking out about the allegations.
After constant backlash, Kelly decided to address these accusations in 2018 by releasing a single entitled I Admit.
WATCH: R. Kelly faces lawsuit form woman who alleges he hid STD
He’s credited in three episodes of Surviving R. Kelly and even addressed his contributions after the debut episode aired. He took to Twitter and explained that it was “an easy decision” and that he believes Kelly is a “serial child rapist.”
Legend has been publicly boycotting Kelly since April 2018 and actively took part in the #MuteRKelly campaign.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 30, 2018
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
Also I'm happy to support the work of people like my friends at @ALongWalkHome who have been speaking out on behalf of the survivors for a long time.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 4, 2019
Legend further reached out to Hampton to express his appreciation for her producing the show.
“These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard,” he wrote. “I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice.”
Following the premiere, many who tuned in to the two-hour debut were absolutely furious.
Thousands of people took to Twitter to cry outrage against Kelly.
I don’t have the words to adequately describe what it’s like to see people defend R. Kelly and do it so stridently.
— deray (@deray) January 4, 2019
If you are watching #SurvivingRKelly & you feel angry, hopeless, or driven to action, consider a donation to Chicago-based org @ALongWalkHome. They work directly with girls & young women of color to fight sexual violence, intimate partner violence &abuse.https://t.co/FNyIJ0ZxDp
— wikipedia brown is behind the fireworks. surprise (@eveewing) January 4, 2019
R Kelly had multiple bedrooms *in* the music studio. He was sexually abuse young girls in between song takes.
But y'all want to "separate the art from the artist." #SurvivingRKelly
— April (@ReignOfApril) January 4, 2019
The allegations were further backed up by Kelly’s own family. Brothers Bruce and Carey Kelly both made an appearance on the Lifetime special. The younger Kelly (Carey) used to work closely with the rapper while on tour.
“Even his brothers spoke against him?” Asked a Twitter user. “This is legit!”
Soooo I take it R Kelly is estranged from his brothers… #SurvivingRKelly
— Monica (@Monica_AnyEvery) January 4, 2019
His own brothers speaking on it. Still not sure how he’s not in jail #SurvivingRKelly
— GEM SZN 💚🦋✨ (@PLAYBOIHUNNI) January 4, 2019
They got his brothers to speak….yep he’s screwed. #SurvivingRKelly
— 🏁 (@Shea_Vee) January 4, 2019
Another user uncovered a clip from an interview conducted with Kelly in the early 2000s. When asked if he likes teenage girls, Kelly replied back: “When you say teenage, how old are we talking?”
“Damn! R. Kelly needed clarification on what a teen was…” the user wrote.
WATCH: R. Kelly says it’s ‘too late’ for the #MuteRKelly boycott to succeed
After reportedly threatening to file a lawsuit against Lifetime, Kelly has not taken action or made comment on the series since it aired on Thursday.
The remaining four episodes of Surviving R. Kelly will air on Jan. 4 and 5, respectively, at 9 p.m. ET.
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