Surviving R. Kelly: The Final Nail In Kelly’s Coffin

By Rogan Smith |
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Rogan Smith - R Kelly

If R. Kelly isn’t a serial child rapist, he’s going to have one hell of a time trying to explain his way out of some of the allegations.   

The highly-watched docuseries, Surviving R. Kellydebuted on Lifetime Thursday night. In it, a string of women allege that Kelly not only had sex with them while they were underage, but was mentally and physically abusive towards them at the time. 

One-by-one, his teary-eyed accusers looked into the camera to share their frightening encounters with the R&B crooner. Viewers heard tales of Kelly holding young girls against their will; having a penchant for recording his sexual escapades and ordering some of his alleged victims to refer to him as ‘daddy.’ 

The Accusers Speak Out

One of his accusers, Jerhonda Pace, whom Kelly first spotted outside his court trial while she was there to support him, said she was invited to come to Kelly’s house and bring a bikini. She went. She alleges that he started kissing her, fondling her breasts and eventually bent her over a couch and took her virginity. She said when she admitted to Kelly that she was 16 he was unperturbed. He allegedly told her to tell others she was 19 and act like she was 21. 

Jerhonda Pace, one of R. Kelly’s alleged victims.

She said prior to their sexual encounter she felt a connection with Kelly, who had admitted to her that he had been sexually molested as a child. The alleged victim had similar experiences when she was a little girl. 

R. Kelly’s Former Protégé Has Regrets

R&B singer, Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, who was once Kelly’s protégé, expressed deep regrets for having introduced him to her then 12-year-old niece. Her niece was the alleged victim of Kelly’s 2002 child pornography case in which he was accused of not only having sex with her, but urinating on her. 

Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards.

There was also mention of late R&B singer, Aaliyah, who was also Kelly’s protégé. A former backup dancer alleges that she saw Kelly doing things to the then 15-year-old that no adult should do to a child. 

A Culture Of Complicity

There appears to be a lot of abuse. Sadly, there also appears to be a lot of complicity. There were a lot of adults present during the time and many of them knew what was going on. But, because an international superstar was involved, no one did anything to stop him.

In fact, during some of the interviews, it was revealed that executives at Kelly’s record label knew of the serious allegations, but did not want to do anything because he was a huge record-seller and thus, moneymaker. As a result, the wall of protection formed around him remained intact.  

Meantime, his alleged victims were left in a pile of emotional rubble with few people believing their claims. The few who did, did nothing. 

Director Publicly Shames Celebrities

Journalist and Executive Producer of Surviving R. Kelly, dream hampton (her name is stylized in lower cases) has gotten a lot of backlash for exposing many of the people who have refused to be interviewed for her docuseries. She recently said that rappers, Jay-Z and Lil’ Kim, Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige and many others have refused to go on record about Kelly. 

While I applaud hampton for creating this docuseries, I am not a fan of shaming people into telling their stories. I’m sure all of those people are sickened by Kelly’s alleged actions. I don’t know many A-listers who still work with him. But, exposing people in this manner is not the way to go. She could have stated that she had asked a number of celebrities to comment and they refused. I have a problem with her naming and shaming them. These people are not the accused. 

She interviewed 50 people for the docuseries, that’s a lot of people. As a matter of fact, I am happy they refused. That way, the focus can be on the alleged victims and not the A-listers bashing Kelly. Celebrities get enough attention. It’s time the alleged victims’ voices be heard.

R. Kelly’s Rise

Robert Kelly took the music industry by storm in 1992 when he burst on the scene with the group, Public Announcement. His impressive vocal stylings, sexual persona and ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy quickly cemented his status as a breakout star. A year later, he released his debut album, 12 Play album, which immediately became a classic and skyrocketed the Chicago native to superstardom. 

This is a man who has successfully navigated the industry for nearly three decades with chart-topping hits and constant reinvention. 

Yet, it is his behavior off stage that looks like it could become his undoing. S

R. Kelly’s Visit To The Bahamas

In February 2013, Kelly was in The Bahamas for a concert – his first in The Bahamas. I, and several other journalists, had the privilege of interviewing this musical prodigy hours before he took the stage. We were cautioned beforehand that Kelly not to ask him certain questions. The one that stood out the most was an admonition not to ask him about any “deceased celebrities.” We were warned that if we did, the interview would be immediately shut down. The journalists obliged.

However, when one journalist stood up and asked Kelly who were some of his favorite artists to work with, that’s when I noticed a change. He mentioned Michael Jackson (a deceased celebrity), Jay-Z and as he went to name a final artist, I noticed major hesitation. Kelly fell extremely quiet, looked down at the microphone and finally offered up a third, whose name I do not remember. I pulled a colleague closer and simultaneously we said, “he wanted to say Aaliyah.” I think the room could feel it. But, I believe he knew that had he mentioned her name, that would have opened up a can of worms that he didn’t feel like ingesting at the time. But, there’s no doubt in my mind that he wanted to say Aaliyah. 

Following the interview, my two colleagues and I were leaving and we spotted Kelly and two bodyguards outside of the Breezes Hotel where his news conference was being held. They must have been waiting on their ride. One of my coworkers was and remains the biggest R. Kelly fan ever, but she was shy about asking for a photo. So, I did. 

“Mr. Kelly, would you mind taking a quick picture with some of the Bahamian media,” I asked. He turned around in a weird way and said, “sure.” We walked around to his side. My friend aka his biggest fan, quickly ran to be in the middle. His bodyguard snapped two photos – one with a cell phone and the other with my tiny camera. 

Earlier I said he turned around in a weird way because he wasn’t rude, but it seemed a bit fake. Almost creepy. I don’t say this in hindsight. I said that at the time. It was so incredibly creepy. But, he could have said ‘no.’ So, I appreciated the opportunity.

A group of other journalists saw that he had given us a photo and immediately asked him to take a picture, but his bodyguards shut that down and they quickly moved on. 

Hurt People Hurt People

After watching a few of the episodes in the docuseries, I am convinced now more than ever that Kelly needs serious mental counselling. Something is incredibly off about him. My heart goes out to the many women, including his ex-wife, who endured some difficult times with him.

I remain a fan of his music. He is talented and I am not going to stop listening to it because many of his old songs are tied to pivotal moments in my life. They literally were the soundtrack to my life.

However, I am not a fan of the man. He needs help. More than that, he deserves to pay for his transgressions. It is not fair for him to go on living his life without interference after having destroyed so many lives. These women need justice.

His victims also need serious counselling. I hope they continue speaking their truths. I am happy to see women finally saying enough is enough. We have to learn to listen to our women when they say they have been hurt and we must stop seeking to protect the people who hurt them. 

Thank you, dream hampton for this docuseries. It’s about time. 

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Rogan Smith

The Final Nail In R. Kelly’s Coffin

Rogan Smith is Bahamas-based lifestyle blogger, humorist and pop culture critic. She is the creative director for This Bahamian Gyal, a journalist and columnist for The Bahamas’ leading newspaper, The Punch. Her blog shines a humorous spotlight on the Bahamian way of life.
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