As the R&B legend tours the country this summer, parents have told police that R. Kelly is running an abusive “cult” that’s tearing families apart. Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle told BuzzFeed News similar stories.
Backstage at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, on May 23, 2015, J. was thrilled that her 19-year-old daughter’s music career was going to make a major leap forward from recording demos and performing at talent shows to the chance of stardom — thanks to the help of an R&B superstar.
“When we got to go backstage with R. Kelly, we stayed there over two hours,” said J. “One-on-one with just me and my daughter and him. We went back to talk about the music. He listened to her CD. He was going to help her with her CD, and I was really impressed with him at first, because I have always been an R. Kelly fan.”
J. said that Robert “R.” Kelly, who turned 50 in January, met her daughter backstage at a concert in Atlanta earlier that month. Soon enough, he’d invited her to fly out to the Indio concert on his dime. J. said she’d heard about past sexual misconduct accusations against Kelly, but wasn’t overly worried. She is a fiercely devoted stage mom — she and her husband of 22 years, Tim, a car dealer, had moved from Memphis to Atlanta to help their eldest child’s career — and was confident she could protect her daughter.
“In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her,” J. said. “It didn’t really hit home. Even with the Aaliyah situation, now that I think about it, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number’ … but you don’t think about that. You grew up with the song, and you like the song.”
Two years later, J. and Tim are in a desperate fight to bring their daughter home. (BuzzFeed News verified their identities and full names in public records, but is withholding the alleged victim’s full name and her parents’ last name to protect her privacy.)
“It was as if she was brainwashed.”
As part of their efforts, the mother closed her businesses, became a relentless amateur detective, and shared her findings with the FBI and police in two states. But their daughter isn’t a missing person — at least not in the eyes of the law. She still lives with Kelly and says she’s doing fine, despite her parents telling the police that she is “being held against her will” in what they call a “cult.”
Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle — Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee — provided details supporting the parents’ worst fears. They said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.
The last time J. saw her daughter was Dec. 1, 2016.
“It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible,” she said. “I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. 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.”
J. and Tim said they have only heard from their daughter twice since they last saw her. They got a one-sentence text from her on Christmas Day: “I hate Christmas has to be this way this year.”
And J. received another text on May 14: “Happy Mother’s Day from me and Rob.”
According to Mack, Jones, and McGee, the women living in Kelly’s Duluth, Georgia, “guest house” or his Chicago recording studio last summer included:
- A 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually. She had been best friends since high school with the girl in the videotape for which Kelly was tried in 2008. She recently parted ways with Kelly, these sources say.
- A 25-year-old woman who also has been part of Kelly’s scene for seven years.
- A recent arrival, a 19-year-old model who has been photographed in public with Kelly and named on music gossip websites — a rarity among the women in his circle.
- An Atlanta songwriter who began her relationship with Kelly around 2009, when she was 19. (She is now 26.)
- And an 18-year-old singer from Polk County, Florida. Mack said the Florida singer is Kelly’s “favorite — his number-one girl.”
Mack, Jones, and McGee claim that women who live with Kelly, who he calls his “babies,” are required to call him “Daddy” and must ask his permission to leave the Chicago recording studio or their assigned rooms in the “guest house” Kelly rents near his own rented mansion in suburban Atlanta. A black SUV with a burly driver behind the wheel is almost always parked outside both locations. Kelly confiscates the women’s cell phones, they said, so they cannot contact their friends and family; he gives them new phones that they are only allowed to use to contact him or others with his permission. Kelly films his sexual activities, McGee and Jones said, and shows the videos to men in his circle.
Mack, the star’s former personal assistant, said Kelly almost always tells the women to dress in jogging suits because “he doesn’t want their figures to be exposed; he doesn’t want them to look appealing.” She said when other men are in the same room, Kelly “would make the girls turn around and face the wall in their jogging suits because he doesn’t want them to be looked at by anyone else.”
If the women break any of Kelly’s “rules,” Mack and Jones said, he punishes them physically and verbally. For example, 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. McGee said she never saw Kelly hit anybody, but also said he was running a “cult” and manipulated her emotionally and sexually.
“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet,” McGee said. “But Robert is the devil.”
Read more at Buzzfeed
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