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Surviving R. Kelly Docuseries Highlights 3 Decades of Abuse Allegations From One of Music’s Biggest Stars

Last night, Lifetime aired the first of its three-night event docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, highlighting the alleged sex crimes and abuses that R&B star R. Kelly has been accused of throughout his career. It also worked to expose how, despite many of the accusations against Kelly being highly public and existing for decades, the music industry has still allowed Kelly to flourish.

Before the series premiered, there were threats of gun violence made during the New York City premiere at the NeuHouse Madison Square. As People reported at the time of the incident, Lifetime spokespeople said, “There were several called in gun threats to NeueHouse. With the safety of guests in mind, we decided to evacuate the theater,” and claimed it was “an intimidation tactic from R. Kelly to further silence these women.”

While his team has not responded to those claims, Kelly’s team has denied the allegations in the film, calling them “dark descriptions put forth by instigators and liars who have their own agenda for seeking profit and fame.” It was reported that alleged sexual assault survivors Jehonda Pace, Lisa Van Allen, Lizette Martinez, Asante McGee, Faith Rogers, and Kitti Jones were in attendance at the premiere.

Emily L. Hauser, a journalist, took to Twitter in March of last year, bringing up the fact that 43 of R. Kelly’s collaborators were asked if they’d work with him again in a Buzzfeed article, and none of them answered the question. This includes artists like Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Jay Z, Britney Spears, Usher, Kid Rock, and many others from across every genre of music:

Diane Haughton, mother of the late artist Aaliyah, slammed the series, saying it was a way of sabotaging “Aaliyah’s legacy,” when the reality is that, when you look at the fact that Aaliyah was 15 and allowed to marry Kelly, who was 27 at the time, the only ones who look bad are Kelly and Aaliyah’s parents.

Complex spoke with showrunner and executive producer dream hampton about the series and what to expect, and emphasized why the terms “survivors” and “surviving” were used in the series:

“It’s a self-identification thing for the women who chose not to be just a victim. So I’m respecting the way that most of them are self-identifying. I’m not saying that the women who’ve not come forward to tell their stories aren’t survivors—R. Kelly’s been doing this for at least three decades, so he literally has dozens, if not hundreds, of survivors. I think women who decided to put themselves out here for this, for no paycheck, to be ridiculed, doxxed, disbelieved, trolled, absolutely self-identify as survivors.”

hampton talks about speaking with some of the survivors like Lisa Van Allen, who met Kelly in the late ‘90s, when she was 16, on the set of a music video. Another was a 16-year-old girl in the 11th grade who skipped school to go to his trial in 2007. It is alleged that while he was on trial for having underage sex, he then started to have a sexual relationship with another underage girl.

I’ve spoken before on how I feel pop culture and satire really dropped the ball on exposing R. Kelly for what he is and played his crimes for a joke that maybe had the intention of mocking him, but really just made the incidents seem comical, and the depravity and abuse of what he’d done was never highlighted to me.

As an adult, I’ve exorcised R. Kelly from my music because his behavior is so disgusting and predatory that there is no way to listen to it and not think of the allegations against him. Yet, I’ll go into bars and hear his songs playing in 2018, when the allegations of his crimes are well-documented. I still have to cringe when someone plays “Ignition (Remix)” and sings along to it in public.

For R.Kelly to have coasted through the cesspool of sludge that he is and remain out of jail is a testament to how little people care about black girls. The massive Buzzfeed article on the topic talked about how parents knew that he was cruising high school areas to talk to young black girls, how people knew about his reputation and just brushed it off. His name is The Pied Piper of R&B.

When someone makes the choice to call themselves the child abductor of R&B, maybe you should listen?

This six-part, three-day event is going to be a rough one to watch, but it’s important that these women get to speak and be heard in some way, even if it may be too late to get legal justice.

(image: screenshot)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.