Despite R. Kelly‘s threatening to sue Lifetime, the documentary series Surviving R. Kelly premiered Thursday night, with details shining a disturbing new light on his alleged physical abuse, sexual relations with teenage girls and infamous marriage to Aaliyah.
Kelly’s former backup singer Jovante Cunningham discussed meeting Aaliyah when she was just 12. “We taught her her street thing, we gave her her vibe,” Cunningham said. “She went from wearing fitted clothes to the baggy jeans with the half shirts, with the baseball caps. We taught her how to be an artist in the sense of having a stage presence. We would sneak Aaliyah out of the hotel.”
Cunningham went on to reveal that one night when they were on the road with Aaliyah, then 15, “the door flew open on the bus — Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.” Through tears, she said, “I feel protective of Aaliyah right now, which is why I can’t get my mouth to say … he destroyed a lot of people.”
Kelly’s former tour manager and assistant, Demetrius Smith, said Kelly came to him first when he was worried that he had impregnated Aaliyah. Smith also acknowledged that he was in the room when the two secretly married and that he had forged the paperwork stating that Aaliyah was 18 when in fact she was only 15.
“I was so disappointed in him, ’cause I really believed him when he said … he wasn’t doing and messing with Aaliyah,” said Smith, who admitted that he’s “not proud” of forging the documentation. “Aaliyah looked worried. Scared. Worried and scared. I wanted so much to grab Aaliyah and talk to her. … She gave me a look like she wanted me to talk to her. That’s why I feel like I failed them, both of them. I knew that it had changed the course of everything.”
The jaw-dropping revelations set Twitter ablaze and had Aaliyah’s mother, Diane Haughton, slamming Cunningham’s claims:
ATT: 🚨#TeamAaliyah #Aaliyah ‘s Mom , Diane has made a statement in regards to the lies from the #Lifetime #RKelly documentary coming out. PLEASE RT to make this go viral! We can’t let @lifetimetv lie on @AaliyahHaughton this way! If you need the quote tweet me. Let’s do this! ✊ pic.twitter.com/0sOnGV0g6q
— Aaliyah For MAC (@AaliyahForMac) January 2, 2019
Journalist Jemele Hill posted this tweet:
If you look back at the reporting during the R Kelly-Aaliyah marriage, it was a massive failure. Zero understanding of sexual abuse. Nobody treated this seriously. It was a collective shrug #SurvivingRKelly
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) January 4, 2019
Meanwhile, music producer Bryan-Michael Cox shared his dismay:
bro, this Aaliyah segment is really fucking tough to watch… FUCK man.
so many people failed her.
my heart is breaking all over again….
— Bryan-Michael Cox (@bryanmichaelcox) January 4, 2019
Other reactions on Twitter ranged from outraged to disheartened.
This Aaliyah segment is really, really, really bad. #SurvivingRKelly
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 4, 2019
Aaliyah was sold out by every adult in her life. Including this personal assistant who is grinning about the crimes he helped that man commit, and the absuse he enabled. #SurvivingRKelly
— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) January 4, 2019
The entire industry failed Aaliyah. Real talk, R.Kelly and his entire entourage should be in jail. #SurvivingRKelly
— X (@XLNB) January 4, 2019
— I’m White and I’m Hot (@Blac_Dahliaa) January 4, 2019
Check out Bernie Sanders saying he was unaware of sexual harassment during the 2016 campaign:
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