Hiding in plain sight, artist’s crimes revealed

Isa Ferris , Reporter

Surviving R. Kelly docuseries debuted on Lifetime Jan. 2, 2019. The six-part series unpacked 30+ years of pedophilia and sexual assault claims which Kelly continues to deny.
This well-known R&B singer created such hits as “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Ignition.” Immediately following the premiere, celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith, John Legend, and Lady Gaga publically denounced Kelly.

Producers conducted over 50 interviews of victims and associates of Kelly. Most victims were under 18 when they were in a relationship with him. The interviewees don’t hold back from exposing his crimes against them and other women.“Robert is a master manipulator,” the R&B singer Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards said in the second episode of Lifetime’s new docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly. “Everybody knows it now. They didn’t know it back then.”

One of the accounts is of 14-year-old Aaliyah, a rising R&B star. Kelly encouraged her to work with him promising that he would make her famous.
He developed her sound, her style, and produced a song called “Age is Nothing But a Number” that concerns a young girl who wants an older man to go all the way with her. The song put Kelly and Aaliyah in the spotlight and people became suspicious of the relationship.

They denied the allegations but later revealed that he thought she was pregnant, so they had to get married when she was 15 and he 27.
Annulled two months later, the marriage established a systematic pattern of abuse of young women of color. He would hang around his old high school and try to pick up girls.
His abuse of women continues today. Child pornography charges filed against Kelly in 2008 by the Cook County States attorney resulted in his dismissal. Resurgence of claims that Kelly held seven women hostage in a sex cult also resurfaced in 2017.

The series tackles complex issues such as race, economic background, male domination, mental health and helps dissect Kelly’s behavior and his ability to persist for years.
Powerful and important to watch, the series shines a light on the young women whose stories and experiences were silenced.