Ahead of the debut of Lifetime’s docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” accusations from one of R. Kelly’s former backup performers emerged. She alleged she caught the singer having sex with a then-15-year-old Aaliyah. Now, the “Try Again” singer’s mother is slamming the allegations as “lies and fabrications.”
Jovante Cunningham claims in the six-part series debuting Thursday that while on tour with Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, in the 1990s, the then-27-year-old R&B star had a sexual relationship with his protégée.
“We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” Cunningham said a preview clip from the first episode. “On a tour bus, there really aren’t many confined spaces. When you get on the bus there are bunks and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping.
“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” she went on. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus, Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
She added that she saw “things that an adult should not be doing with a child.”
On Jan. 2, Aaliyah’s mother denied Cunningham’s allegations issuing a statement to obtained by various publications.
“My daughter only wanted to realize her dream of sharing her talent with the world, and give her all performing on stage and in front of the camera for the fans she adored so much,” Haughton added. “She realized that dream, thanks to those true fans who still love and support her legacy unconditionally to this day. Shame on all those involved in this project who thought it kosher to drag Aaliyah’s name into a situation that has nothing to do with her today. Once again, this will not be tolerated.”
It’s been widely reported that Aaliyah and Kelly wed in a secret ceremony in 1994, but the pair never commented on the nature of their relationship. Despite a public marriage certificate listing the “One In a Million” singer’s age as 18, since she was born in 1979, she would have been 15 at the time.
Demetrius Smith, who is one of Kelly’s former personal assistants, said in the doc that he went to the wedding and helped get the fake documents in order.
“I was in the room when they got married. I’m not proud of that. I had papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underaged. It was just a quick little ceremony, she didn’t have on a white dress he didn’t have on a tux. Just every day wear,” Smith claimed, adding the young star “looked worried and scared.”
As Aaliyah’s parents apparently “had the last say,” the marriage was annulled by 1995.
Cunningham’s allegations are just some of the many that R. Kelly’s accusers have hurled against him in the docu-series, which debuts less than two years after the bombshell BuzzFeed News piece from long-time Kelly reporter Jim DeRogatis. In it, women claimed that the star was running an abusive sex cult and held them in a brainwashed, captive state at his home in Chicago. The youngest woman there was said to be 18.
Since then, more women have stepped forward to share similar stories about the singer. He has continuously denied the allegations, however. Last summer, Kelly addressed the accusations head-on in a 19-minute song called “I Admit.”
Reportedly, R. Kelly’s attorney is threatening a lawsuit against Lifetime for the series, TMZ said Thursday. He claims the women involved made up lies to achieve stardom and if the network airs the show tonight, he’ll take them to federal court.