The Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly” sheds new light on allegations that have circled the R&B star for decades. Maeve McDermott explains.
The first of the series’ two-part conversation addressing the allegations against the singer premiered late Friday .
As she did in Part 1 Lisa Van Allen, who claims to be a survivor of Kelly’s and was featured in Lifetime’s six-part docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” spoke with hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
Van Allen, who says she began dating Kelly when she was 17 and he was 31, severed ties after a decade together. She said she made the decision to leave after he allegedly made repeated suggestions that she buy dresses for her daughter, causing her to become suspicious of his intentions.
Van Allen’s 16-year old daughter, Akeyla, also took part in the conversation and was overcome with emotion at one point. She said she and her mother watched the docu-series together.
“It’s changed my perspective on a lot of stuff, ’cause … people are really judgmental nowadays,” she said, “and it’s just, when you hear someone’s story, and it’s like, you don’t know… anyone could be going through anything.”
Akeyla said she no longer wonders why her mother was so “overprotective.”
“I understand now that it’s scary out there,” she said. “People are crazy.”
Pinkett Smith could relate, noting that she’s kept a close eye on her own 18-year-old daughter.
“There have been so many times I’ve had to have very real conversations with Willow in regards to, ‘I don’t care if you look at this person, as, like, your older brother and you trust them, you’re not to be alone anywhere,’ ” she explained.
“Here’s the thing about girls, when they get to those ages of 17, 18-years-old: you think you’re grown,” she continued. “And as a parent, you only have but so much control.”
Pinkett Smith said she had gone through that phase with her own mother, telling Banfield-Norris, “You were on me, and I’m like, ‘I’mma find a way to lie to her, I’mma find a way to manipulate her.’ “
“I would be Azriel (Clary),” Pinkett Smith said, referencing another alleged victim of Kelly’s. Clary was 17 when she met Kelly – underage by the standards of her home state of Florida – but convinced her parents to let her travel with Kelly and pursue a music career as his mentee in 2015, with her sister traveling to Chicago to watch over her.
“I’d be like… ‘hold up, I got a dream. Now, you’re not going to get in the way of that,’ ” Pinkett Smith added.
Monday’s guests also included Dr. Candice Norcott, a psychologist who appeared in Lifetime’s docu-series.
“You don’t know what love is, when you’re younger, you don’t know how it’s supposed to look, if you’ve never had it, if you’ve had an abuse experience,” Norcott, a University of Chicago faculty member explained. “And then especially if you’re a star, and you’re inviting somebody into your world, (it’s like) ‘This is how it is.’ “
“And me,” Van Allen said, “17, dating a 31-year-old, how would I know what dating a man would be like at 17? … All I could say to myself is, ‘He’s a grown man, he would know better than I would.’ “
Pinkett Smith spoke of how the docu-series affected her in Part 1.
“I had a lot of feelings about it. One being, I was like, man, how complicit we all have been,” she said. “That really broke my heart, like, to really think about, we ignored it.”
The general public, celebrities and authorities have all turned their attention to Kelly following the broadcast of “Surviving R. Kelly,” which painted the Grammy-winning singer as a controlling master manipulator with a disturbing affinity for underage girls. The six-hour series even went so far as to allege that Kelly has operated a “sex cult” and that he has abused many women both physically and sexually.
In 2008, Kelly was tried on child-pornography charges. He was accused of making a 27-minute-long sex tape with an underage girl in 2002. However, the girl declined to testify, and it took only a few hours for a jury to declare him not guilty on all 14 counts.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, says the abuse allegations made in the documentary are false.
In a Jan. 8 phone interview with The Associated Press, the Chicago-based defense attorney dismissed the allegations as “another round of stories” being used to “fill reality TV time.”
Pinkett Smith previously spoke out about Kelly on Instagram on Jan. 6, asking followers to explain the rise in popularity of Kelly’s music following the docu-series. According to Nielsen, the singer’s album sales, song sales and audio and video streams have spiked since the Jan. 3 premiere of the three-night program. Lifetime also ran all six hours back-to-back on Friday.
“I just want to understand what I’m missing,” Pinkett Smith said in the clip. “I really don’t want to believe that it’s because black girls don’t matter enough,” she added, “Or is that the reason?”
Kelly appears to be unbothered by the commotion, celebrating his 52nd birthday at a nightclub in his native Chicago Wednesday night.
“Y’all mother-(expletive) don’t know it’s my mother-(expletive) birthday, and I don’t give a (expletive) what’s going on tonight,” he told an amped-up crowd after an a capella renditon of his 1994 hit “Bump n’ Grind.”
Contributing: Julia Thompson, Andrea Mandell, Maria Puente and Maeve McDermott
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