R. Kelly is in a storm of controversy once again. The 50-year-old R&B singer, who’s long faced questions about sexual misconduct, is being accused of physically and verbally abusing women in a “cult.” Former members of his inner circle are corroborating stories of the alleged abuse, as parents plead for their daughters to come home.
Jim DeRogatis, a journalist who’s covered Kelly for 17 years, details these new accusations in a BuzzFeed News report. In it, the parents of an aspiring Georgia singer, whose name was excluded for protection, speak about their beliefs after they say that their daughter ran away to live with Kelly.
“I don’t know what to do,” said the Georgia singer’s mother. “I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee, former members of Kelly’s inner circle, speak on the record about these and other allegations for the story. Mack, who worked as Kelly’s personal assistant, reveals that women who live with the R&B star “have to ask for food” and “have to ask to go use the bathroom.” “[Kelly] is a master of mind control,” she said. “He is a puppet master.”
He is also abusive, according to Mack and Jones (who said she lived with and had a sexual relationship with Kelly). They say that he physically and verbally punishes women who break his “rules.” In one instance, “Jones claimed that Kelly held her against a tree and slapped her outside of a Subway sandwich shop in spring 2013 because she had been too friendly with the male cashier there,” writes DeRogatis.
Jones and McGee (who also said she lived with and had a sexual relationship with Kelly) claim that the R&B star films his sexual acts and shows the footage to men in his circle.
Mack, Jones, and McGee claim that there were several women living in Kelly’s Duluth, Georgia “guest house” or his Chicago recording studio as of last summer, including a 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” new girls on Kelly’s sexual pleasures; a 25-year-old woman; a 19-year-old model; a 26-year-old songwriter; and an 18-year-old singer from Florida. According to Mack, Jones, and McGee, Kelly calls these women his “babies” and demands that they call him “daddy.” McGee also likened Kelly to a “cult” leader who emotionally and sexually manipulated the women in his circle.
Law enforcement authorities have stepped in, but no charges have been filed. When the aforementioned Georgia singer was contacted by police, she said that she was “fine” and that she “did not want to be bothered.” But the parents of a Florida singer also spoke to BuzzFeed News, saying that their daughter has faced a similar path. She reportedly began speaking with Kelly as a potential “mentor” before private calls, text messages, and meetings took place.
According to the report, all of the women said to be living with Kelly are above the age of consent, which is 17 in Illinois and 16 in Georgia.
Kelly has a long history of being accused of inappropriate acts with women, including minors. In August 1994, when he was 27, he reportedly married a then-15-year-old Aaliyah. The marriage license, which had reportedly been falsified to reflect her age as 18, was later revealed. The marriage was annulled in September of that year.
Throughout the years, several women have sued or accused him of using his position as a celebrity to engage in sexual relationships, including Patrice Jones, Tracy Sampson, Tiffany “Tia” Hawkins, and Montina Woods.
In 2008, he was acquitted on 14 charges of making child pornography. A video tape that allegedly showed him having sex with a 14-year-old girl was the focus of that case.
Kelly’s lawyer Linda Mensch addressed these new accusations in a statement to BuzzFeed. “We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life,” said Mensch. “He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”