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Who Is Sparkle And How Is She Connected To R. Kelly?

Recording artist Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards accused R. Kelly of having sex with her 14-year-old niece at his 2008 trial. What is the relationship between the two singers?

By Eric Shorey

"Surviving R.Kelly," a Lifetime docu-series that's airing in six parts on three nights about musician R. Kelly, has reinvigorated the public's interest in the long list of accusations made against the controversial singer. Among the issues covered in the investigatory program were allegations made by a former Kelly protege, Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards. What, exactly, is the relationship between Kelly and Sparkle, and what are the claims being made against the infamous artist?

Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards, a recording artist as well, was born on May 13, 1975. Best known by her stage name, Sparkle rose to prominence as a member of R. Kelly's Rockland Records and was the first artist to release a single on the label. She would go on to release a successful self-titled album in 1998, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts. "Sparkle" featured a duet with Kelly, titled "Be Careful."

The partnership between the two dissipated over creative differences, leading her to amicably ask for release from the label, according to MTV. Sparkle went on to sign with Motown Records and released a second album, titled "Told You So," in 2000.

In "Surviving R. Kelly," Edwards discusses Kelly's behavior toward her while they worked together.

“Robert didn’t allow pretty much anyone to speak to me,” Edwards alleges in the new show. “When I learned that, I would go out of my way to speak to people just to tick him off. [He] can’t tell me what I can and can’t do. I’m not that girl. You can’t stifle me. But I didn’t know that a bomb was coming.”

In 2002, Kelly re-entered Sparkle's life when a video that appeared to depict sex between Kelly and a 14-year-old came to the attention of police. At the time, Sparkle identified the child in the video as her niece. In a contentious court battle, Edwards testified against Kelly in 2008, according to ET Online.

"Sir, it's Robert and [my niece] on the tape," she said during the emotional trial, according to MTV. "I know my family. I know them. Trust me."

This encounter disheartened Sparkle and caused her to step back from her career in entertainment.

"I had a nasty taste in my mouth after seeing what I saw, and after many people, you know, didn't want me to speak out," Edwards told ET. "I just shied away from the industry. I didn't want any part of it anymore ... I went at it alone. I'm happy to see the #MeToo movement and Time's Up movement are backing these women. I wish they were backing [me] when I was coming up and had a story to tell, but nobody believed. But now people are seeing."

Kelly would ultimately be acquitted on charges pertaining to the tape.

Sparkle has since thanked "Surviving R. Kelly" producer Dream Hampton for once again bringing attention to the alleged crimes.

"Hampton spoke to me and spoke to my management," Edwards continued. "She shared how she didn't see me as a survivor but she wanted to celebrate me for being the first one to stand up… and bring to light what was going [on]."

[Photo: Lifetime via YouTube]

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