On January 3rd, 2019 Lifetime began airing the “Surviving R Kelly” docuseries.
The three-night, six-hour documentary included interviews with musicians and producers as well as testimonies from women accusing Kelly of mental, physical and sexual abuse dating back to the early 1990s.
NPR TV critic Eric Deggans wrote: “All of the women who say in the docuseries that they were abused by Kelly have previously made public allegations against the singer, but ‘Surviving R Kelly’s’ power comes in hearing their stories told on camera, and all together.”
Kelly, who has denied every allegation made against him, claims he did not watch the documentary but is “disgusted” by it and plans to sue “everybody who had anything to do with this”.
He believes it is a “vendetta” against him, when it is in fact a call for accountability over his alleged behaviour.
In a possible attempt to capitalise or distract from conversation around the series Kelly released his new song “Born to My Music” on January 1st.
However public attention has been focused on the disturbing allegations that have emerged and the fact that many high profile figures are distancing themselves from him.
Musician John Legend tweeted that he didn’t “give a fuck about protecting a serial child rapist” and dismissed praise for being brave enough to take part: “It didn’t feel risky at all. I believe these women.”
Chance the Rapper apologised for working with Kelly in the past, calling their collaboration “a mistake”.
“Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women…I made a mistake and I’m happy that those women are getting voices now and I can grow to understand better what my positioning should be or should’ve been when that opportunity came.”
He also tweeted: “I apologise to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.”
French band Phoenix tweeted: “We are deeply horrified by the stories of abuse surrounding R Kelly. We regret that we were not both more informed and more discerning when we worked with him previously. We fully support all victims of sexual abuse, and it’s our hope that there will be a path to justice.”
Lady Gaga apologised via twitter for the duet “Do What U Want” she sang with Kelly in 2013: “I stand behind these women 1000% percent, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously. What I am hearing about the allegations against R Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible. As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely violent and provocative because I was angry and still hadn’t processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life…I think it’s clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time.”
After watching the documentary Keke Palmer turned to Instagram: “I have spent the last hour crying. As a student of R Kelly’s for the time I was and having been around his light and understanding the obstacles he overcame as a child to actually be birthed into the musical genius he is today…All to put others through the same darkness he was running from is the most disheartening thing to accept…I am hurt and saddened because he could have been a blessing to these women but instead he repeatedly took advantage and that I cannot accept.”
Mathew Knowles, father of Beyoncé and former manager of Destiny’s Child, claimed he actively kept the R&B group away from Kelly, turning down offers for the group to work with the singer after hearing “some of those things” about him.
Buku Abi (given name Joann Kelly), one of Kelly’s three children with ex-wife Andrea, has been estranged from her father for years.
Following the documentary she denounced Kelly on Instagram as she received so many questions about him: “The same monster you all confronting me about is my father. I am well aware of who and what he is. I grew up in that house. My choice is not to speak on him and what he does for my peace of mind. My emotional state. And for MY healing. I have to do and move in a manner that is best for me.
My mother, siblings and I would never condone, support or be a part of anything negative he has done or continues to do in his life. Going through all I have gone through in my life, I would never want anyone to feel the pain I have felt.
I pray for all the families and women who have been affected by my father’s actions.”
Although Kelly’s lawyer Steven Greenberg pushed back against the allegations against Kelly, he confirmed on “Good Morning America” that the singer married Aaliyah when she was only fifteen years old.
Greenberg claimed that Kelly had “no idea” that was her real age: “My understanding is that she did not claim to be 15 and, in order to get married, she had to lie about her age. He had no idea.”
The same day as the documentary premiered Timothy Savage, father of Joycelyn Savage, one of Kelly’s alleged victims, reported Kelly’s manager Don Russell to the police for threatening his family.
Savage claimed that Russell sent him a text saying it would be best for the family if the documentary did not air.
Russell followed this up with a phone call saying that if Savage continued to support the series he and Kelly would be forced to release information that would paint Savage as a liar, which he warned would ruin Savage’s reputation, his business and his family.
Facebook removed a page called “Surviving Lies” that attempted to “expose” Kelly’s accusers, discredit them and clear his name.
Although Kelly’s “camp” were controlling the page and a website bearing the same name it is unknown whether Kelly himself was behind them.
On January 8th Kim Foxx, state attorney for Cook County in Illinois, held a press conference to ask any of Kelly’s victims to come forward so that her office could start an investigation.
Ms Foxx said: “I was sickened by the allegations. I was sickened as a survivor. I was sickened as a mother. I’m sickened as a prosecutor.”
At least two women have contacted Ms Foxx’s office since the appeal.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Fulton County in Georgia is opening its own investigation.
Yesterday Kelly was confronted by police at his Trump Tower residence after an anonymous caller claimed he was holding two women against their will.
After questioning the two women – Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary – the police determined that they were their by choice and left without making any arrests.
The parents of both women still believe that Kelly brainwashed their daughters.
The women still insist that that’s not the case.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the National Sexual Assault Hotline received an increase in calls around the time of the documentary.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual violence and is struggling after watching, reading about or hearing about this docuseries, please know that you are not on your own, there is help out there and it’s totally ok to reach out.