The six-hour series “Surviving R. Kelly” aired by Lifetime reviewed 30 years of accusations lodged against the singer with women participating in exclusive interviews and some parents of star-struck teens, denouncing his notoriously inappropriate behavior.
Though not all the women featured in the mini-series were underage while engaging in sexual relations with R.Kelly, all described similar abusive, manipulative, and controlling behavior.
In an interview with EW, Executive Producer Dream Hampton said, “We wanted irrefutable evidence. Without leading any of these women, they all had the exact same stories, even if their interactions with R. Kelly were 15 years apart. All of them have stories about being physically abused, being videotaped without consent, being denied food or bathroom privileges as a punishment. All of them have stories about rules that were established early on.”
R.Kelly’s marriage to 15-year-old singer Aaliyah in 1994 caused international concern when newspapers published their marriage certificate revealing they had lied about her age. Later in 2002, a sex tape delivered to the Chicago Sun initiated a lawsuit against the R&B artist who was taken to court for possession of child pornography on 21 counts in 2008. The jury found him not guilty and he continued to sell millions of records.
“There was the marriage certificate to Aaliyah, which was gross. It wasn’t unprecedented in music and rock, but it was gross, as it always is. Then came the stories after that, the lawsuits he was settling with these other young girls. When those stories started breaking around the time that the sex tape was released, it became clear that unlike maybe Elvis he didn’t just fall in love with some teenager once, that he was a predator with a pattern,” Hampton said.
In response to the documentary, Chance the Rapper publicly apologized for his past musical collaborations with the singer, writing on Twitter, “The truth is any of us who ever ignored the R Kelly stories, or ever believed he was being setup/attacked by the system (as black men often are) were doing so at the detriment of black women and girls. I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.
“We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to black male oppression... But black women are exponentially [a] higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world. Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women.”
However, since the series’ release, R.Kelly’s music sales and streams have increased by over 15 percent since Saturday. U.S. actress, Jada Pinkett Smith took to Instagram to ask followers the reason behind the burst of support for the artist.
In a video, Smith said, “I’m having a really difficult time understanding why. I really don’t want to believe that Black Girls don’t matter enough….or is that the reason?”
The mounting allegations against R.Kelly come at an important time for the entertainment industry, when women and men alike are beginning to speak up against their alleged abusers as part of the worldwide #MeToo Movement which captured international attention in 2017.