Surviving R. Kelly
Appearing in a documentary that denounces the actions of accused rapist and alleged sex cult leader R. Kelly, John Legend is among the music industry’s minority when it comes to condemning the actions of the Ignition (Remix), Bump n Grind and I Believe I Can Fly singer.
Taking part in the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, Legend is joined by singer, Stephanie ‘Sparkle’ Edwards, Kelly’s ex-wife, Andrea Kelly and several of his victims who shared their encounters and experiences with the 51-year-old.
In the film, Legend shares his insight on how Kelly became such a prominent figure in the music industry and gives us context as to how he used his influence to allegedly groom young victims.
However, when he was praised for his involvement in the documentary, Legend’s tweet deferred the attention to the brave survivors who came forward with their stories, while publicly and openly vilifying Kelly’s alleged crimes, of which the oldest allegations date back to 1996.
The 40-year-old also praised the work of the team behind Surviving R. Kelly and further highlighted the importance of bringing justice to his victims and survivors.
Although in June 2002, Kelly was charged (and later acquitted) for making child pornography, he’s never actually gone to court on charges for statutory rape (sex with a minor), despite the testimony of several women who have come forward with their accounts.
In an interview with music journalist Jim DeRogatis in The Village Voice in 2013, DeRogatis describes the affidavit of a woman who was in a relationship with Kelly when she was 14 or 15.
A sexual relationship that began at Kenwood Academy: He would go back in the early years of his success and go to Lina McLin’s gospel choir class. She’s a legend in Chicago, gospel royalty. He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio. She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together. A level of specificity that was pretty disgusting.
More recently, in 2013, Buzzfeed also published an investigation by DeRogatis which alleged Kelly had trapped six women in a sex cult in his homes in Chicago and Atlanta, using testimony from his former employees and the parents of the women.
Speaking about their lives, the journalists says Kelly dictates, "how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”
His former personal assistant Cheryl Mack also called him a “puppet master” and described how the singer maintains his control.
“You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. [Kelly] is a master at mind control,” she said.
However, returning to Legend's tweets, although he describes his appearance in the film as an "easy decision," the father-of-two was still the only major performing artist who agreed to appear in the documentary, says Surviving R. Kelly's producer Dream Hampton.
Speaking to the Detroit Free Press and Shadow and Act, Hampton said other artists like Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige and Lil’ Kim all declined to be interviewed despite having had worked with the singer.
"That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me," she said to Shadow and Act.
"Most people just don’t want to touch it,” she continued, sharing her thinking behind why some artists have tried to avoid the topic.
"It’s not because they support him, it’s because it’s so messy and muddy. It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”
In our post #metoo era where victims are bravely sharing their experiences of sexual assault, the question often comes to how the rest of us can stand up for, support and elevate their stories, and in this case Legend has done so brilliantly.
In his words: "I believe these women and don't give a f**k about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision."
I am only two episodes in on Surviving R. Kelly, but am really disgusted at it so far. It’s a great program/documentary series to watch, but to realize that this is happening in “real life” is beyond frightening.