Dark secrets R. Kelly tried to hide
Robert "R." Kelly is perhaps the most controversial figure in the music industry. His signature style of blending bizarrely explicit R&B sex ballads with inspirational gospel songs has drawn intense criticism while paradoxically also propelling him to superstardom.
But the true divide in the public perception of Kelly is not over the kinky crooner's lyrics. Starting with his scandalous rumored marriage to Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old, Kelly has remained a headline regular regarding questions about his alleged preference for sex with underage girls. The most infamous was his acquittal of 14 child pornography charges in 2008, but that certainly wasn't the last word on the subject. Since then, he's continued to produce music and tour, but not without a few major hiccups. Here's what's been going on with R. Kelly.
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Not long after the end of his child pornography trial, R. Kelly and his wife, Andrea Lee Kelly, finalized their divorce. Their marriage, like every other aspect of the singer's life, was not without a significant degree of drama. In 2005, Andrea filed for a restraining order against Robert, claiming he hit her on multiple occasions. She later let the restraining order expire instead of filing for an extension. In an interview with Essence, Andrea shrugged off a question about the restraining order, calling it "old news," and denied the couple's divorce had anything to do with the child pornography case. "When there is a storm, I won't leave you out in the rain. I'm no fair-weather wife," she said. Andrea maintains they simply grew apart.
Years later, a passage from Robert's book, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, seemed to imply the R&B legend was inspired to divorce by the movie The Notebook. The strange anecdote picked up traction on the internet and quickly became a viral sensation, but again, Andrea cleared the air. Speaking to Radar, she said, "The Notebook came out in 2004 and our divorce wasn't final until 2009. Did the movie really have anything to do with the divorce or was that a wakeup call for him to act like a man and realize these are the things he needed to do to step up in this marriage before it is too late?" She added, "A family has come to an end. My children and I are no longer in the same household as their father, that's devastating for anyone."
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Written in his signature style of stream-of-consciousness prose, R. Kelly's memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, has too many odd and random tidbits to list. For example, he spends a lot of time in the book detailing his love of McDonald's, to the point where he refers to it as "the place that gives me comfort in times of trouble." It was even the first stop he made after winning his child pornography trial. He also makes several dark revelations, such as the claim that he witnessed his 8-year-old girlfriend, Lulu, drown in a river when he was a child, and the fact that he was a victim of repeated sexual abuse starting when he was 8 years old.
There are a few disturbing passages relating to his childhood trauma. First, he recounts a time when he was peeking in on two adults having sex. When they caught him watching, instead of being mortified, they invited him to watch them finish, and even snap a few photos of them in the act. From there, older women in the house started physically molesting him, according to LA Weekly. It was a sad glimpse into a past that many viewed as a logical puzzle piece regarding his own history of sexual misconduct allegations.
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In his role as a music critic, Jim DeRogatis spent years covering R. Kelly for the Chicago Sun-Times. Throughout his tenure there, he wrote piece after piece detailing charges brought against Kelly over not just the video recordings at the center of the child pornography trial, but also dozens of additional accusations of statutory rape. In 2013, DeRogatis sat down with The Village Voice reporter Jessica Hopper and laid it all on the table in an effort to try to understand why the general public, in particular Kelly's loyal fan base, didn't seem to mind.
"I think in the end there were two dozen women with various level of details. Obviously the women who were part of the hundreds of pages of lawsuits—hell of a lot of details. There were girls who just told one simple story, and there were a lot of girls who told stories that lasted hours which still make me sick to my stomach. It never was one girl on one tape. Or one girl and Aaliyah," DeRogatis said. Like Hannibal Buress' now infamous 2014 stand-up show in Philly that unearthed Bill Cosby's previously buried rape allegations, DeRogatis' piece trained a spotlight on the the singer's scandals.Prince Henrik accuses Danish Queen Margrethe of not showing him enough respect
Kelly characteristically downplayed the bombshell report, telling Atlanta's V-103 (via Radio), "Well I feel like I got the football man, I'm running towards the touchdown and stopping and looking back, mess around, I'll get tackled." He may have been onto something there.
He started losing work
After the The Village Voice piece, lots of publications started asking the same question: Why weren't we more outraged by this? Clutch Magazine published a piece with the headline "Never Too Late To Hate R. Kelly." A Grantland writer, and admitted Kelly fan, encouraged others to take another look at the performer's past in the article "Rethinking R. Kelly: A Fan's Second Thoughts."Hated stars who are actually really nice people
In 2014, the year following DeRogatis' report, Kelly's career began feeling the effects of mounting public suspicion. According to Vice, Kelly stepped down from headlining the Fashion Meets Music Festival due to mounting pressure from the public, and another act, Saintseneca, even dropped out of the festival in protest. Saintseneca issued a statement saying, "We feel his selection as a performer ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence and assault." Protests also took place at a Houston music festival, and Kelly's record sales for The Buffet were dismal.
The HuffPost Live disaster
With the newly refreshed discussion of his seedy past once again in the public discourse, R. Kelly found it difficult to operate out of his usual playbook, which was to deny everything and divert attention back to his music. In one particularly awkward confrontation, HuffPost Live, host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani asked Kelly how he felt about fans who were conflicted about continuing to support him in the wake of the allegations.Princes speak of 'complete numbness' at mother's death
According to Jezebel, the HuffPost host shared a tweet from a fan that read, "Would I let R. Kelly babysit my daughters? F**k no. Would I play his music at a family party? Ya gotdamn right." Kelly replied, "I say f**k that. I say I have a lot of fans around the world that love R. Kelly and I'm glad that they don't feel the way she do, God bless her. But you can't satisfy everybody and you're not gonna always have everybody to hold you down you know… I'm just glad to know that everybody doesn't feel the way that she does."
From there, the interview quickly deteriorated into Kelly bizarrely complementing Modarressy-Tehrani by calling her intelligent and beautiful, while simultaneously accusing her of interrogating him and focusing on the negative. It's also worth noting that when he leaves the interview—which he does abruptly in the middle of a question—he states in perfectly odd R. Kelly fashion that he's going directly to McDonald's where "hopefully the McRib is out." The full interview can be seen here, and it's worth a watch, as well as inclusion in Psych 101 curriculum from here on out.
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Two months before The Village Voice piece was published, Lady Gaga and R. Kelly shot a video for their song, "Do What U Want." Just as a refresher, the song includes the lyrics, "You can't have my heart / And you won't use my mind but / Do what you want with my body." According to Page Six, the video was directed by Terry Richardson, who at the time was fighting his own accusations of sexual misconduct, and featured Kelly playing a doctor who tells his patient (Gaga), "I'm putting you under, and when you wake up, you're going to be pregnant." Not surprisingly, that video was never released.
Obviously, it was going to be problematic to have to promote such a sexually explicit video while one of its performers was being publicly accused of sex crimes. According to Gaga, who is a survivor of sexual assault, that wasn't ever a consideration. She blamed the video's demise on mismanagement by her team, which was a cop-out pretty much no one believed. Gaga and Kelly did perform the song on both SNL and at the 2013 American Music Awards, although neither showing featured the pervy doctor routine. At the AMAs, President R. Kelly squatted over Lady Gaga on a fake oval office desk instead, so go ahead and interpret that artistic impression however you'd like.Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie may call off divorce
His problematic tell-all article for GQ
In January of 2016, R. Kelly decided to do a no-holds-barred interview with GQ. Presumably with the intention of finally clearing his name, Kelly only muddied the waters of his public perception further by issuing his usual blanket denials, making contradictory statements, and getting caught in a giant lie.
When asked why so many women have made so many similar accusations that he had sex with them when they were underage, he trotted out the same defense he's been using for years. He claims they were all liars and extortionists and he only settled with them on the advice of his lawyers, which he now regrets.The untold truth about Martha Stewart
When expanding on the disturbing stories of the abuse he suffered as a child, Kelly tripped himself up by confessing that some of his abusers were family members, and he doesn't blame them for their actions, because he recognizes that sexual abuse is cyclical, and he assumes that his abusers had themselves been abused at one time. It's an astounding admission to make, since by his own logic, it would stand to reason that he would then become a sexual assailant at some point. He explains this away by saying that poverty is also a cycle, and he was able to break free from that, so ditto for the sexual abuse stuff.
Then there was the outright lie: In an emotional video confession filmed to accompany the article, Kelly claims to have been at his beloved mother's bedside, holding her hand when she died. However, he told this story differently in both his book and a Vibe interview, previously saying he received a phone call notifying him that she had passed. Call us crazy, but lying about your mom's death is not a good look, and especially if you do it in the middle of your soul-bearing attempt to set the record straight on your shady past.
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In 2015, Vulture profiled R. Kelly and talked to some of his fans. At one point, the journalist asks fans attending a concert what they thought of Kelly's scandals. A 38-year-old female says, "I don't think about what people say R. Kelly did do or he didn't do. He don't do anything lots of other men don't do, but because it's R. Kelly, I'm supposed to be mad about it? There's a lot of fast girls out there looking for a come-up. That's reality." Another fan said, "I've never heard any of that stuff, so I guess it doesn't bother me." And Kelly is aware of the mindsets that keep his pockets lined. "I feel like I got a million people hating me, I've got maybe 8 million loving me. So I've got 9 million talking about me, and in a strange, magical way, it keeps me in the game," he says. He's not wrong.
Kelly is aware of the type of mindset that keeps his pockets lined. "I feel like I got a million people hating me, I've got maybe 8 million loving me. So I've got 9 million talking about me, and in a strange, magical way, it keeps me in the game," he told Vulture. He's not wrong.
In 2016, he embarked on the tour for his album The Buffet, which boasted a 40-city schedule. And we're not talking about intimate venues here. He performed at arenas. He's also hasn't dial back his lewd stage act. At his Detroit show, he encouraged a fan to "wipe him down" which ended with her rubbing his crotch for a solid 20 seconds before he feigned offense. At his Miami show, he declared, "I'm looking for someone to come home with me. All you gotta do is be 21 and over," while others onstage held a banner that read "21 + Over," according to the Miami New Times. Get it? It's a joke about being accused of statutory rape more than a dozen times? That's comedy gold right there.Kate stuns in ‘paper plate’ hat
He might be dating a 19-year-old
In 2016, the Daily Beast reported that R. Kelly was allegedly dating another teenager (Kelly celebrated his 50th birthday in 2017.) He reportedly met 19-year-old model Halle Calhoun at a show in North Carolina. He popped up several times in since-deleted posts on Instagram, including in a picture where she's in a hot tub in a bikini with him, so at this point, it's at least fair to assume they're hanging out socially. They were also spotted holding hands at an Atlanta nightclub, but again, their relationship status is pure speculation.
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And look, while we know it is perfectly legal for a 19-year-old to date a man 31 years her senior, it is kind of disturbing when that man happens to be R. Kelly, right? Given his history, whether you believe it or not, the controversy factor here is through the roof. But hey, maybe we just don't understand that there's actually a classy way for a 50-year-old to date someone who's barely out of high school. Speaking with AJC.com, Kelly said, "I just believe in class. You can be a beast but you can have class, too. You can be sexy but you can be classy at the same time. I feel that everything I do, you should add class to it because class is part of longevity." Okay, yeah, that's out of context, but come on, man!
He's accused of leading a 'cult' of women
In July 2017, BuzzFeed reported that three sets of parents claimed Kelly was holding their daughters in a "cult" in his Atlanta and Chicago homes, controlling everything from how they communicate to what they eat, as well as videotaping their sexual encounters. In the report, Kelly's former personal assistant, Cheryl Mack, described Kelly as "a master at mind control" and "a puppet master."What Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child is doing today
Two former lovers of Kelly corroborated the parents' claims, alleging Kelly also physically abused the women if they dared to be too polite to any male in their presence, be it a cashier or a cab driver. The young women were reportedly brought to Kelly by their parents who wanted to help their children find success in the music industry. Kelly then allegedly "brainwashed" them.
Kelly is accused of confiscating the women's cell phones and replacing them with new ones to be used strictly for communication with him. They are allegedly forbidden from contacting family or friends without his blessing or leaving Kelly's property without permission. Kelly allegedly also controls the way the females dress and even makes them receive permission to use the restroom.
At least one of the women spoke out and denied she was being held hostage, but wouldn't say where she was or whether she was allowed to leave the premises.The shady side of Tiger Woods
Kelly has vehemently denied all of the allegations. His lawyer told People, "Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him. Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."