5 Facts You Need to Know About R. Kelly
R&B singer R. Kelly is once again at the center of a scandal after it was reported that the singer may be holding several aspiring female singers in what some are describing as a “sex cult.” The parents of Joycelyn Savage, one of the alleged captives, has sought the assistance of the police and the media in retrieving their daughter from what they feel is an abusive situation. Savage, for her part, has denied that she is doing anything she doesn’t want to do.
Nonetheless, Kelly’s dark history, including an infamous marriage to a teenaged star and charges of child pornography (he was acquitted in 2008), adds to the alarm surrounding these latest claims.
Here are some things you need to keep in mind when examining R. Kelly accusations and his history.
In his 2013 book Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, R. Kelly talks about being sexually abused by family members when he was a child.
The singer revealed that a male family member wanted to watch him masturbate, and also shared that when he was a child by an older woman in his family.
“I tried to push her away, but she wouldn’t stop until she was finished. When she was, she said, ‘You better not say shit to no one or else you gonna get a terrible whupping,'” he recalled to GQ in 2015–adding that he eventually started looking forward to it. “Over time, yeah. I remember actually, after a couple of years, looking forward to it sometimes. You know, acting like I didn’t, but did.”
His book ever mentions Aaliyah.
In 1994, R. Kelly thanked Aaliyah during an acceptance speech at the Billboard Awards. Winning the award for Best R&B Artist, Kelly singled out his protege, specifically, after thanking managers and teachers. “Most of all I’d like to thank two very special people in my life: that’s my mom who is in heaven…and my best friend in the whole wide world, Aaliyah.” Kelly would also later refer to Aaliyah as his “best friend” when asked about their relationship following her 2001 death. But in his 2013 memoir, Kelly never says anything about this person who meant so much to him.
In a 2015 interview with GQ, R. Kelly made it clear he understands how the abused can become abusers.
“I, well, definitely forgive them,” he said regarding the sexual abuse. “As I’m older, I look at it and I know that it had to be not just about me and them, but them and somebody older than them when they were younger, and whatever happened to them when they were younger. I looked at it as if there was a sort of like, I don’t know, a generational curse, so to speak, going down through the family. Not just started with her doing that to me.”
In a 2011 memoir called The Man Behind The Man, a former manager said R. Kelly married Aaliyah in 1994 because she was pregnant.
Demetrius Smith worked for R. Kelly before and after he became a star. In his book, Smith says that while on tour in Miami in 1994, Kelly claimed to have gotten a distressing phone call from Aaliyah, who believed she was pregnant and was planning to run away from home. Kelly was supposedly led to believe that he could possibly nullify any legal fallout if he married the 15-year old star. Smith flew with Kelly back to Illinois, obtained a fake state I.D. through associates at the Public Aid office and Federal Express, and R. Kelly married Aaliyah at a Sheraton Hotel before Kelly resumed his tour.
After the marriage to Aaliyah was annulled and she switched labels (from Jive to Atlantic, in 1995), a lawsuit against R. Kelly surfaced in 1996.
According to a 2000 Chicago Sun-Times story, Kelly had settled a 1996 lawsuit with a woman who claimed to have had sex with him when she was 15. Tiffany Hawkins claimed in the suit that she began having sex with R. Kelly in 1991 when she was just 15 and he was 24. Kelly ended things in 1994, around the time he was with Aaliyah, and a distraught Hawkins slit her wrists. Kelly paid the settlement and had her sign a confidentiality agreement in 1996 after Hawkins gave a seven-hour deposition. There are believed to be at least 11 other such settlements that have been paid by the singer over the past 20+ years.