On Monday, Buzzfeed published an extensive investigated feature on R. Kelly written by veteran Chicago journalist Jim DeRogatis. The article alleges that R. Kelly has been imprisoning women in what is described as a “cult,” and it focuses on two young women whose families have lost contact with them during the time since they went to live with Kelly. They believe their daughters to be “brainwashed,” though Kelly has denied the allegations. His attorney Linda Mensch provided a statement to several outlets: “Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed by the recent revelations attributed to him,” she wrote. “Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such accusations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name.” DeRogatis has been investigating Kelly for years; he reported on a video of Kelly having sex with a minor that led to Kelly’s child-porn trial in the early 2000s. Kelly was found not guilty, but DeRogatis’ reporting didn’t stop there, and now a bigger and more disturbing portrait of the R&B singer’s alleged behavior has surfaced.
Soon after Buzzfeed ran the story, one of Kelly’s alleged captives spoke out to TMZ. She denied that Kelly was housing her against her will. “I am in a happy place in my life, and I’m not being brainwashed or anything like that,” she said. “I just want everybody to know, my parents and everybody in the world, that I am totally fine. I’m happy where I’m at, and everything is okay with me… I’ve never been held hostage or anything of that nature.” Still, when asked about where she was currently living or whether or not she was free to leave, the young woman did not respond. “I wouldn’t want to speak on that,” she said.
Now Jezebel has spoken to a woman in R. Kelly’s inner circle, who describes Kelly’s behavior as “so fucked up.” The woman, whom Jezebel calls “Kim” in an effort to protect her privacy, said that she met Kelly at an after party for one of his concerts. Kim told Jezebel that Kelly asked her age in the middle of sex the next day. Kim says Kelly then took down her number and programmed it into all three of his phones.
Kim says she is in her mid-20s, and she told Jezebel, “I knew what I was getting myself into.” However, she says that other women she met around Kelly seemed “completely manipulated and brainwashed.” Per Jezebel:
Kim wasn’t aware that the other women lived with [Kelly], she said, and until reading the BuzzFeed story had been under the impression that all of them were free to come and go the way she was. She would go back to her hotel after her trysts with Kelly and his crew, then fly home to her life and career. Her phone was never taken, and she was never asked to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement. She was different in other ways too: She wasn’t in the music business (and so wasn’t reliant on promises of career help from Kelly), she declined the MDMA that she says was constantly on offer, she was a few years older than most of the women, and she was white, where the other women were mostly black.
Kim describes Kelly as “very controlling,” stating that when the women would go out together they were not allowed to look at anyone and were expected to keep their heads down. She claims they were also told to tattle on one another in certain situations.
“If we’re in an Uber and we chat up the driver we’re supposed to tell him this girl did this or that. He’s very controlling and manipulative. He likes to be in control.” The women are all instructed to call Kelly “Daddy” at all times, she said, while he refers to them as his “babies.” The women can’t enter a room without knocking three times and waiting for permission to enter; they also have to ask permission to leave, she said.
As Kim describes, the women in Kelly’s circle are not supposed to interact with one another in any way that is not superficial. “We’re not allowed to talk about anything. We can compliment shoes or nail polish or make small talk about the weather but we can’t talk about any personal details,” Kim said. She added that she’d never seen Kelly act violently toward any of the women, but she described other abusive behavior.
“He never makes threats,” she said. “But the girls are so eager to do whatever he wants. He’ll wake us out of a dead sleep and say to this girl, ‘Suck my dick,’ or to these two girls, ‘Kiss on each other,’ and immediately without thought they jump right to it. It’s just bizarre. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before honestly.”
“It’s not non-consensual, I guess,” she added. “But I don’t know if they even realize the situation they’re in is wrong.”
Read the full report here.