Robert Kelly, known as “R. Kelly,” who has sold some 60 million records worldwide, is back in the spotlight for his interactions with young women.
The media outlet BuzzFeed published a story on Monday based on interviews with two families and three former associates of Kelly accusing the singer, songwriter and producer of keeping young women (though of legal age) at his homes against their will. One mother is saying the set-up is a “cult.”
Kitti Jones, Cheryl Mack and Asante McGee, three former members of Kelly’s inner circle, said that six women, including 18 and 19-year-old women, “live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records,” BuzzFeed reports.
Parents going by the names J. and Tim say that two years after allowing their daughter to work with Kelly after meeting him backstage at a concert, she now lives with him, and the family has had limited communication with their daughter. The parents say they are now in a desperate fight to bring her home.
According to BuzzFeed, their daughter “says she’s doing fine, despite her parents telling the police that she is ‘being held against her will’ in what they call a ‘cult.'”
The article said all of the women were over the age of consent.
Kelly’s lawyer Linda Mensch said the following in a statement on Monday:
“Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed by the recent revelations attributed to him. Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such accusations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name.”
Kelly has not been charged with any crime.
BuzzFeed said in an emailed statement to Reuters, “We stand fully behind the story, which was based on nine months of interviews and old-fashioned investigative reporting.”
Kelly, 50, divides his time between his suburban Atlanta home and Trump Tower in Chicago when he’s not performing. Two families had sought help from police but the women have rebuffed attempts by authorities or their parents to investigate or to bring them home.
TMZ reports that cops in Georgia and Illinois confirm that welfare checks were conducted for one of the women at her parents’ request. The woman told deputies she was fine and “did not want to be bothered with her parents because her father was threatening people,” according to documents obtained by TMZ.
If the young woman is being emotionally or mentally abused, per accusations in BuzzFeed’s article, why then would she remain
“People stay in abusive circumstances for a variety of reasons,” Nikol G. Alexander-Floyd,an associate professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, told DiversityInc.
“People fear the emotional abandonment or physical abuse that may result from leaving.They also may be financially dependent and lack resources or support.
“Often a complicating factor is that individuals suffering from abuse are isolated from friends and families as a tactical measure by the abuser.”
Alexander-Floyd, who is also an attorney, said that typically, people leave abusive situations “when they are able to gain critical insight about what is happening, when individuals or circumstances bring them out of denial, or other defenses they may have developed, or they fear for their lives or the lives of others.”
Jones, Mack and McGee told BuzzFeed that women who live with Kelly are required to call him “Daddy” and he calls them his “babies.”
Mack worked as Kelly’s personal assistant for a year and a half beginning in 2013. She said she has kept in touch with members of the singer’s inner circle.
Mack said Kelly offers women the illusion of a life of luxury.
“This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle,” Mack said the women often think.
But she said that it’s more of a nightmare.
“No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”
The three women said that a 31-year-old “den mother” trained newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually.
“Relationships of all types can involve coercive control where emotional and psychological domination and manipulation occur, particularly when there is an imbalance of power and/or life experience,” Alexander-Floyd told DiversityInc.
“Young women can be susceptible to coercive control when their desire and/or admiration are not set within the bounds of an affirming, equitable relationship, but, rather, are used as a basis for extracting submission to another’s will.”
McGee told BuzzFeed that Kelly has two different personas.
“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet,” McGee said. “But Robert is the devil.”
Kelly is one of the most successful R&B artists of the last two decades, with three Grammy awards and 12 studio albums. His legal battles and past exploits seems not to deter his fans, including past allegations that he had sex with teenage girls.
One of the teenagers, Tiffany Hawkins, sued Kelly for $10 million when she turned age 20. In 1996, Hawkins accused Kelly of having sexual relations with her when he was 24 and she was 15. Kelly settled the lawsuit for $250,000 in 1998.
In 1994, Kelly secretly married the late R&B singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old in Rosemont, Ill.
“Aaliyah never admitted being married, though Vibe published a copy of the marriage certificate,” according to The Source. “Unfortunately, she was only 15 at the time, so consequently the marriage was quickly annulled.”