In the 2001 cinematic masterpiece, Shrek
, the titular character states that "Onions have layers. Ogres have layers... You get it? We both have layers." Which leads me to believe that R. Kelly
is either an onion or an ogre, because there are so many layers to this man, each one crazier and creepier than the last. Let's peel them back together, shall we?
R. Kelly was born Robert Kelly in Chicago, in 1967. That currently makes him 50 years old. Growing up, Kelly was very poor, and he found comfort in basketball and girls, with his first girlfriend at eight years old. Robert was encouraged to pursue music by a high school music teacher who noticed his potential. In 1989, Kelly and two boys from school entered a talent competition, and ended up winning. Two years later, Kelly was signed to Jive Records.
Over the next few years, R. Kelly and his music started to really gain traction. It was the early 90s, and Kelly's sexually charged R&B was exactly what the world wanted to hear. "Bump ‘N' Grind" was at the top of the charts for 12 weeks. And then 1994 came around. Stick with me, this is where things with R. Kelly start to take a very strange turn.
In 1994, the late Aaliyah released her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number
, produced by the man of the hour, R. Kelly. A few months later, Aaliyah and Kelly were married in a secret ceremony when Kelly was 27 and Aaliyah was only 14, despite the marriage certificate saying she was 18. Aaliyah's family had the marriage annulled in the beginning of 1995. R. Kelly and Aaliyah both denied that they were ever married, and denied that they were anything more than friends. Still with me?
In 1997, a then 20-year old Tiffany Hawkins sued R. Kelly for $10 million on claims that the two were having sexual relations when she was 15 and Kelly was 24. While this was going on, Aaliyah tried to have all records of her marriage expunged as she found out that Hawkins could use the public marriage records in her case against Kelly. The same marriage the not-so-happy couple denied had ever even taken place. A year later, the lawsuit was settled for $25,000.
By 2002, it seemed like R. Kelly had turned things around. He was releasing music, and was even set to perform at the 2002 Summer Olympic Ceremony. And then a video surfaced of Mr. Kelly involved in some very explicit relations with (yet another) underaged girl. Kelly denied he was the man in the video, but a few months later he was found with 12 images from the aforementioned video. Somehow, he was found not guilty of all of the charges.
For the past 15 years, R. Kelly has been relatively dormant. He's released music in that time, including a Christmas album in 2016, but there was nothing particularly groundbreaking. Before today, if I were to ask my 16 year old sister (my personal source of all things pop culture) who R. Kelly was, she would probably have no clue. That would have been a great situation for all parties involved: my sister, R. Kelly, and I. But unfortunately, that is not the case. "Alleged Cult Leader" is the newest of Mr. Kelly's layers.
An article originally published on Buzzfeed News
has accused R. Kelly of holding women hostage in a "cult." According to the article, Kelly has 6 women living in houses that he pays for around Chicago and Atlanta. The lives of those women are entirely dictated by R. Kelly. He tells them what to wear, when they can eat, when they can bathe, and even when they can go to the bathroom. Mr. Kelly's lawyer has denied the claims, but three former members of his "entourage," as well as the parents' of one of the girls still living with Kelly, say otherwise.
Kelly's former entourage members disclosed to Jim DeRogatis, the Chicago-based reporter who wrote the Buzzfeed piece, some of what goes on in Kelly's "cult". They claim there was a "den-mother" who broke the girls in and informed them of Kelly's ~sexual preferences~ as well as a 26-year-old aspiring singer, a 25-year old woman, a 19-year old model, and an 18-year old singer. The former entourage members called Kelly a "master at mind control" and a "puppet master."
The parents of one of the girls living with Kelly have been trying to get their daughter to come home for nearly two years. The mother, named only as "J" in the Buzzfeed article, said she took her daughter, an aspiring musician, to meet R. Kelly in the hopes of him helping to launch her career. Their wish came true, and he flew the daughter out to Atlanta, but the girl never came home. J has only seen her daughter twice since then, and said when she did see her, "She looked like a prisoner," and it seemed as though her daughter had been "brainwashed". Yet according to law enforcement, there is not any legal action J can take to get her daughter back, as she is of legal age and claims to be there of her own free will. A few hours ago, the daughter sent a video to TMZ claiming that she was fine and "happy," but when asked about her living conditions, like if she has a roommate or if she is free to leave, she would only say "I wouldn't want to speak on that." She also never once mentioned R. Kelly.
In all honesty, it is really hard to tell what is currently happening with the "cult" situation. These women very well could be happily living with Mr. Kelly, and cut off all communication with the people they left behind of their own free will. But at the same time, why would women as young as 18 move into the home of a 50 year old man, and then completely cut themselves off from the outside world? From their parents, friends, social media, the careers they were both pursuing? And without any laws being broken, police and the FBI cannot take any further action. It kind of seems like R. Kelly learned from his previous mistakes, and has set his sights on 18 year old girls; girls that in the eyes of the law are willing, consenting adults.
The more pieces of this puzzle that are released, the less it seems to all fit together. I don't know if R. Kelly is really a cult leader, but I do
know I don't want anymore layers peeled off this onion, because there is a very creepy man underneath.