The music world was shaken to its core on Monday morning, when Buzzfeed posted an article about R&B singer R. Kelly. The article touched on Kelly’s controversial past with underage women, but the biggest bombshell was the accusation that he’s been running an abusive “cult” of young women in Georgia and Illinois.
The article paints him as “a puppet master” who’s been controlling every aspect of these women over the past few years.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kelly is Said to Operate His ‘Cult’ in Georgia
According to Buzzfeed, Kelly splits his time between his home in Trump Tower in Chicago and his suburban house in Atlanta. The latter is said to be where he keeps his cult of young women. Two people who formerly worked for Kelly, Asante McGhee and Kitti Jones revealed that they’ve had sexual relations with the singer, during which time he controlled every aspect of their lives– from their phone use to their social media accounts.
“They were not allowed to take photos with Kelly or of the rooms where they were living,” writes author Jim DeRogatis. Both McGhee and Jones subsequently left their position within the last five years. Jones also revealed that if she or any of the other women broke Kelly’s “rules,” they would be verbally and physically punished.
This included one incident in 2013 when Kelly held Jones against a tree and slapped her outside of a Subway sandwich shop because she had “been too friendly” with a male cashier. “I got trapped,” Jones admitted, “I had people telling me I was an idiot. But it took me a long time to realize they were right, and I’m talking now because I hope I can help some of these other girls.”
In her interview, McGee added that “R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet, but Robert is the devil.”
2. Several Women Are Believed to Be Living in Kelly’s ‘Guest House’
Among the women that have reportedly lived in Kelly’s “guest house” are:
– 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.
– A 25-year-old woman who also has been part of Kelly’s entourage 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. Cheryl Mack said the Florida singer is the Kelly’s “favorite– his number-one girl.”
The age of consent is 17 in Illinois and 16 in Georgia, meaning each of these women are of legal age.
3. Kelly’s Former Assistant Cheryl Mack Says He’s a ‘Master at Mind Control’
Cheryl Mack, who previously worked as Kelly’s personal assistant, provided even more testimony as to how the singer runs his cult. She claims that Kelly calls the women his “babies,” and they are required to call him “daddy” in return. They are also required to ask permission to leave their assigned rooms in Georgia, where they have no phones or contact with the outside world. DeRogitas writes that Kelly gave them new phones that are only activated to contact him.
“This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle,” explains Mack, “No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go to the bathroom… [Kelly] is a master at mind control. He is a puppet master.” Mack adds that Kelly constantly tells the women to dress in jogging suits because “he doesn’t want their figures to be exposed” and he “doesn’t want them to look appealing.”
When other men entered the room, Kelly would reportedly “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.”
4. Some Concerned Parents Have to Recover Their Daughters
Several parents have come forward to voice their concern over Kelly’s influence. One such couple, Timothy and Jonjelyn Savage, recount how their singer daughter Jocelyn Savage landed a huge break working with Kelly. “In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her, it didn’t really hit home.”
Buzzfeed reports that the last time they saw Jocelyn was in December 2016. “It was as if she was brainwashed,” her mother recalled, “She looked like a prisoner– it was horrible. I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her.”
UPDATE: According to Billboard, Cook County police went to Kelly’s studio to check on Jocelyn. “The parents related that they were concerned that their daughter was being held against her will along with another young lady,” says the report, “She appeared to be in good health with no visible injuries or markings.” Jocelyn stated that she had been in touch with her maternal grandmother three days prior.
5. A Representative for Kelly Has Denies These Accusations
A representative for Kelly has denied these accusations, telling TMZ “Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed by the recent revelations attributed to him. Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such accusations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name.”
This isn’t the first time he’s dealt with sexual controversy. According to CBS Local, he married a fifteen-year old Aaliyah in 1994, which was illegal in the state of Illinois. The marriage was eventually annulled by her parents the following year. Nearly a decade later, in 2002, a tape of Kelly having sex with, and urinating on, an underage girl was released to The Chicago Sun-Times. In June of that same year, he was arrested and charged with 21 counts of child pornography.
It took nearly seven years for the case to go to trial, and when it finally did, in 2008, Kelly was acquitted. A key witness in the trial, Lisa Van Allen, told E! Online that the singer’s celebrity status was a major factor in his acquittal. “Star power. Definitely,” she said, “I came forward. I told the truth. That’s basically it. That’s all I could do. I’m disappointed.”