On January 5, 2019, the TV network, Lifetime, aired a six-part docu-series called Surviving R. Kelly, about the stories behind the famous singer and rapper R. Kelly formerly known as Robert Sylvester Kelly. The main purpose of this series was to shed light on the once brushed aside allegations that Robert S. Kelly was a predator and abuser of women specifically young girls. The docu-series provides explicit and heart-rending stories that make it uneasy to watch.
An extensive amount of evidence is provided, journalists, reporters, and survivors of R. Kelly themselves alongside their families, employees of R. Kelly, family, and friends of R. Kelly, people in the music industry, and even physiologists, which renders great credibility and background to the stories discussed in the series.
As a result of the airing of the series, many families of the survivors have made hotlines for individuals going through abuse and seeking a way out. Many streaming services said they are going to downgrade his music and stop playing them on featured soundtracks in support of a growing media movement called #MuteRKelly. Additional cases have been filed against R.Kelly. who was previously charged for child pornography in 2002 and 2003; their charges were dropped in 2004. Many women filed against him but he provided settlements outside of court and was later cleared of all charges. Then, in 2018, a woman named Faith Rodgers filed a lawsuit against Kelly for the filming of nonconsensual intercourse and routinely locking her up. He has yet to respond and continually denies any wrongdoing, calling the recent string of allegations “a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family, and the women with whom he spends his time.”
Now after the series, a criminal investigation has been opened against R. Kelly in Georgia because of the interviews provided. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has been reaching out to several of the women who dated R. Kelly. Don Russell, Kelly’s long-standing manager reportedly has a history of threatening and intimidating the alleged victims and those connected to the victims of R. Kelly. The Blast obtained a police report filed by Joycelyn Savage, a young girl whose family hasn’t been in contact or seen her since 2016 when she met R. Kelly. Savage claims to have suffered from Kelly’s abuse while she lived with him. Days before the premiere of Surviving R. Kelly, Russell allegedly called Savage’s father and said if their family continued to publically speak about the rapper in a negative way, he would, “ruin him, his reputation, business and family, because it would show him a liar.” This case is also under investigation.
Celebrities such as Jada Pinkett-Smith, Meek Mill, Ne-Yo, and John Legend have chosen to speak out against Kelly.
On January 3 John legend tweeted: “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. … To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn’t feel risky at all. I believe these women and don’t give a f— about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision. … 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.”
However, there are many celebrities who were asked to speak in the docu-series but chose not to, including, Jay Z, Lady Gaga, Erykah Badu, Dave Chapelle, Mary J. Blige, Questlove, and Lil’ Kim. The executive producer of Surviving R. Kelly, Dream Hampton, said, “Most people just don’t want to touch it, [Questlove] was like, ‘I would do anything for you but I can’t do this.’ It’s not because they support him, its because it’s messy and muddy. It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”
Questlove responded with a tweet that he later deleted: “I always thought Kels was trash. My reason for declining the RKelly docu that I support 10000000 percent is I didn’t wanna be in the ‘good times’ portion of the doc, like stanning for his ‘genius.’ I was asked to talk about his genius. I do not nor have I EVER stanned for him.”
Additionally, Erykah Badu tweeted, “I love you. Unconditionally. That doesn’t mean I support your poor choices. I want healing for you and anyone you have hurt as a result of you being hurt. Is that strange to you? That’s all I’ve ever said. Anything else has been fabricated or taken out of context.”
Lady Gaga apologized publicly for recording the 2013 duet “Do What U Want (With My Body)” featuring vocals by R. Kelly. She admits that “As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and the video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn’t processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life,”
She later removed the song off of all streaming platforms.
DaBrat, a celebrity not asked to speak, but one who defended R. Kelly says, “I do think he needs help. I love him. I grew up with him. He’s kinda like family. We had the same music teacher. We were around the same circles as kids. I’ve never seen him do anything bad, but I don’t believe all these people are lying. But at the same time, where are the parents?” she added. “So, I think he needs help for sure. I love him. I hope he don’t get mad at me, and I think the parents need to take responsibility. Where is your 14-year-old child? Why are[sic] you there? Something is wrong with that.”
Still, there are many young girls’ stories to be told people like the Clary family who haven’t had contact with their daughter in almost 3 years and who are all looking for a change. Many individuals are choosing to change how situations like this are handled by either speaking out, starting a campaign #Metoo, or by making a documentary. Robert Kelly has yet to offer a comment on the docu-series which has already brought on so much since it aired.
Clearly, the #METOO movement is not losing steam in the new year.