Updated at 9:30 p.m., January 6, 2019.
"Surviving R. Kelly" is a six-part look inside sexual abuse allegations of R. Kelly over his career.
The Lifetime docu-series shows how the singer from humble beginnings in Chicago became an international superstar and arguably, the King of R&B. But while his professional life featured hits like "I Believe I Can Fly" and "Ignition (Remix)," his personal life was reportedly a murky string of relationships with teenage girls, abuse towards his then-wife and multiple instances of paying off his victims not to speak.
How did he pull this alleged behavior off for nearly 30 years?
According to ex-wife Andrea Kelly, there was a tightly-knit network of handlers, associates and friends who helped hide R. Kelly's demons.
"You look at the people around somebody," says TV personality Wendy Williams in the docu-series, "And it's very upsetting that he really didn't have to do much to get these young girls."
Here's a look inside R. Kelly's complex inner circle.
Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards was once a promising protege of R. Kelly. She was signed to his Rockland Records and released a duet called "Be Careful" in 1998. According to Sparkle in the docu-series, Kelly was domineering, controlling her music and even who she was allowed to speak to in the industry. Still, she saw Kelly as a star-maker and introduced him to her 14-year-old niece, a budding rapper. Sparkle was horrified when she discovered that it was her niece at the center of Kelly's 2002 child pornography indictment. Sparkle explains that she testified against Kelly in court, although he allegedly tried to bribe her. She ended up estranged from her own family as a result of speaking out and says that her brother, the victim's own father, continued to play in Kelly's backup band.
Greg Landfair Sr
One of the most shocking parts of R. Kelly's child pornography trial was that the victim and her parents denied the charges. Greg Landfair, the father, allegedly continued to work with Kelly after the acquittal. Sparkle isn't sure if money was his motive. “I really don’t know if my family was paid off," she says in the docu-series. "I know the family was still hanging out with him, that my brother-in-law (Greg Landfair) was still playing guitar on a number of his songs. And that’s what it is.”
While R. Kelly portrayed the image of a playboy in his music, he was actually married for years. Andrea Kelly was a 19-year-old dancer when she met the singer. She says that they quickly fell in love, with him showing her his vulnerabilities like being unable to read and write with much proficency. Andrea says that the relationship turned abusive and Kelly was extremely controlling, to the point that he gave her a "surprise" wedding in 1996 that she didn't ask for. Ultimately, his child pornography indictment caused Andrea to become suicidal and she wanted out. The two officially divorced in 2009 and she claims that he has not consistently paid child support for their three children.
Celebrities often hire their family members as part of their teams. R. Kelly was no exception. Bruce Kelly, the singer's older brother, appears to have known about his interest in younger women and didn't have issues with it.
"Robert likes younger women. You have people who have fetishes about different things. I like older women. Go figure, you know. But that’s just a preference. ... Everyone has preferences,” Bruce says during the show. “So what is the big deal? What's the big issue with my brother?”
Bruce is currently incarcerated at Chicago’s Cook County jail for theft, burglary, possession of a controlled substance and an outstanding arrest warrant, according to Sam Randall, Communications Director at the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
R. Kelly's younger brother was a part of his entourage that enabled his interactions with teens. He says that his brother often asked handlers to procure victims, saying "Go get some girls" from the mall.
As children, they both alleged to have been abuse victims. When Carey confided this, he claims the singer silenced him.
“When I told him what happened to me he didn’t really respond to it like I felt that he should.
Years later, Carey found himself in the eye of the storm. Kelly's attorneys alleged it was Carey, and not the superstar who appeared on the child sex tape. Carey lashed out and went on Wendy Williams' radio show.
“My opinion is this, what is done in the dark shall come to the light," Carey told Williams. "Everybody on this earth has got to pay for what they’ve done.”
Bruce Kelly alleges in the docu-series that Kelly's lawyers tried to bribe his brother Carey with $100k and a record deal to sit down for a deposition and say it the things he said on Williams' show were not true. Carey did not accept the deal, and Kelly's representatives have denied it was offered.
Former tour manager and personal assistant Demetrius Smith was another person who helped Kelly connect with young girls. He explains that they would go to places like the mall where teens would frequent. "We going to the mall in every city," he says.
He also was someone who would make travel arrangements for Kelly's girlfriends.
"Robert dated a lot of women from a lot of different cities, and we’d fly them in and we’d fly them out," he said.
Smith also admitted to forging paperwork for R. Kelly's marriage to a then 15-year-old Aaliyah to make it look like she was 18, a decision he was "not proud" of.
Additionally, Smith was aware of Kelly filming his sexual exploits.
Smith said Kelly came to him asking for help and that they "had to pray" because Kelly could not quit taping himself and knew the tapes would someday get him into trouble, according to the docu-series.
Lizzette Martinez was a teenage girl with stars in her eyes when she met R. Kelly at the mall. He took her under his wing, promising a singing career, and an alleged illicit relationship began. Lizzette says the relationship turned sour, and details his controlling and abusive behavior, including making her perform sexual activity in front of his friends. She claims that R. Kelly penned Michael Jackson's hit "You Are Not Alone" about her after she miscarried their child. She said the singer gave her mono which lead to an extended and serious hospital stay.
Lisa Van Allen
Lisa Van Allen was one of the two teenagers featured in the child sex video during R. Kelly's 2008 trial. "I actually thought I was his girlfriend," she says. She reveals a long relationship marked by sexual torment and domination, including being coerced to have sex with other young girls. VanAllen says that she was 17 at the time of the tape and she did not know the other victim was just 14 years old. She initially stole the sex tape from Kelly's possession and believes that the singer and his team wanted to have her killed as a result.
R. Kelly mentored and married 15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994. Many wondered how the teen was able to keep close contact with the 27-year-old Kelly. One man that may explain this connection is Barry Hankerson. The music exec, who was once married to Gladys Knight, was Aaliyah's manager (and uncle). He also managed Kelly at the time. It was not uncommon then that the two singers would spend time together without a chaperone. Backup singer Jovante Cunningham alleges in the docu-series that she saw Aaliyah and Kelly having sex on a tour bus. Aaliyah's mother, Diane Haughton, dismissed those claims.
Another member of R. Kelly's entourage who seemed aware of the alleged abuse was producer Craig Williams.
"There are girls there that look young, it becomes very questionable to me. I didn’t check IDs. I didn’t ask for IDs, but you could clearly see these were babies in my eyes. And that was something I didn’t want to be around." That may have been enough to clear his conscience but Kelly's alleged behavior persisted. Craig recounts seeing Kelly having several young girls around, seemingly waiting for him. It was so disturbing that he told his business manager but didn't actually do anything to intervene. "There were girls everywhere, young girl sitting, didn’t check ID, didn’t know, 15-17 or 18. She was young, you can tell what’s young."
Note: On January 6, 2019, Williams reached out to Oxygen.com to dispute that he was a part of Kelly's entourage.
"Because how the show was edited, people are getting the idea that I was around Rob and in his inner circle throughout his entire career, which is not the case," he wrote, as part of a longer statement. He asserts that he wasn't associated with the singer from 1994 to 2003.
"The Rob that I knew at the start of his career in the late 80s early 90s transformed into a completely different person that I briefly encountered again in 2003. Lastly to make it very clear, I do not condone nor do I support anything that Rob (R. Kelly) has done or doing in his personal life, musically or otherwise."
Jerhonda Pace was a super fan when she met R. Kelly during his child porn trial. She came to court every day, hoping for an autograph. What she got was a relationship with Kelly that followed when she was just a teenager. She broke the NDA he gave her and went public about their relationship in 2017. She has tweeted leading up to the docu-series that she has been mentally broken and hints at contemplating suicidal thoughts.
[Photos: Getty Images]
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