R Kelly’s life, career and scandals are featured extensively in Lifetime’s new docu-series Surviving R. Kelly, which aired Thursday night, January 3 and continues through Saturday evening. The full Surviving R. Kelly documentary covers Kelly’s life, including his childhood, his rise to fame and his sex scandals.
Several big names such as John Legend and Wendy Williams appear in the series, and dozens of women, including Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Lee and former backup singer Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, are filmed talking about their relationship with Kelly over his career.
Kitti Jones is among the women speaking out about Kelly, both in the Lifetime documentary and to other media outlets such as The Root. Jones told The Root that she finally felt confident enough to speak out against Kelly and his alleged abuse because she felt like her silence, after all these years, was helping enable him to victimize other women.
“What drove me to want to keep sharing my story was the fact that my silence made him more arrogant,” Jones told The Root. “We were all kind of afraid to come forward and talk about our stories. He knew that, so it kind of made his ego a little bigger to keep it going and going and going and going. And that’s the reason he’s gotten away with it, because we were all afraid.”
She told The Root that while the two were dating, Kelly was extremely controlling; he would constantly tell her that she “shouldn’t wear that,” ask her who she spoke to throughout the day, and tell her that she wasn’t allowed to “look guys in the eye or speak to them.” She was also told she had to look down or turn away if somebody spoke to her. You can listen to the full interview with Jones and several more of Kelly’s accusers below.
The documentary covers most of Kelly’s life, but focuses heavily on his sex scandals and abuse accusations from dozens of women and parents who accuse Kelly of separating their children from their families. R. Kelly has faced numerous allegations of being involved with underage girls throughout his long career. In 2002, a sex tape emerged showing Kelly engaging in sexual intercourse and urinating on an underage girl. Shortly after the tape leaked, police raided his home in Davenport, Florida and found 12 images on a digital camera depicting Kelly “involved in sexual conduct with the female minor.”
Kelly often prayed on young women in their early to mid teens, according to many of his accusers. However, Jones was not one of Kelly’s teenage victims. She already had a child, a career, a house and an ex-husband when the two started dating. Jones, a former radio personality in 2011, met Kelly at an after party following one of his concerts in Dallas, Texas. After exchanging phone numbers, the two began to keep in regular contact via phone and text and Jones eventually met Kelly in person once again two months later at a hotel in Denver. Kelly had already informed Jones that she was only to address him by “daddy,” and not Rob or Robert.
According to an interview with Rolling Stone, when Jones met Kelly at the hotel, he walked right past her, sat down on the couch and started masturbating in front of her.
“I’m thinking we’re going to hug or peck each other,” Jones told Rolling Stone. “But he plopped down on the couch and pulled out his penis and started pleasuring himself.”
Jones didn’t think much of the incident because she was physically attracted to Kelly and wanted to be with him, so she passed the incident off as Kelly possibly having a “weird way of getting off.”
The two had oral sex that weekend, Jones told the Rolling Stone, with Kelly saying things like, “I gotta teach you how to be with me” and “I gotta train you.” “He was like a drill sergeant even when he was pleasuring me,” Jones says. “He was telling me how to bend my back or move my leg here. I’m like, ‘Why is he directing it like this?’ It was very uncomfortable.”
The relationship quickly spiraled out of control from there, according to Jones. Kelly convinced Jones to leave her job and move with him to Chicago, where Kelly’s darker side became evident, including a life rife with alleged physical abuse, manipulation, sexual coercion and controlling rules that dictated every aspect of her life. On top of being told who she could and couldn’t talk to, she was told how to dress, when to eat, when she was “allowed” to use the bathroom, and was trained “how to perform sexually” for the singer, a way of life that was first described by writer Jim DeRogatis’ bombshell BuzzFeed feature on Kelly last July.
She told Rolling Stone that it wasn’t long until she realized that Kelly was “raising” other women. She said she wasn’t sure exactly what he meant at first when he told her he had “girls that he’s raised” waiting for him in Chicago. “He said, ‘I eventually want you to meet them, but I want to make sure you’re mentally ready for that,'” she told Rolling Stone.
Emotional manipulation quickly turned to physical abuse, and Jones claims that Kelly used to regularly slap, kick and scream at her when she questioned him about something he didn’t want to talk about. She says she never made the abuse public because she wanted to protect Kelly’s image, and blamed herself for the abuse.
Shortly after one of Kelly’s tour ended, he moved Jones into a house with two of his other “girlfriends,” and wouldn’t allow any of them to associate with each other. Jones said she wasn’t even aware there were other women living in the house for months after moving in. He would punish Jones for breaking his draconian “rules” by taking her phone away and eventually starving her, she told the Rolling Stone.
Any woman living in the studio, she says, was obligated to look down when walking down the hallway or toward the bathroom to avoid looking at other men. “When I was on tour, it was just clear [that] people knew not to be in my path,” Jones told the Rolling Stone. “I don’t know what he would think would happen if you’re looking at somebody. I think he’s looking at it like that’s letting a guy know it’s OK to speak to you.”
Jones told the Rolling Stone that in March 2013, she was introduced to another one of Kelly’s girlfriends. The singer brought the woman in naked and told her to crawl toward Jones and perform oral sex on her. “He told me, ‘I raised her. I’ve trained this bitch. This is my pet,'” she says. This specific night took Jones down an even darker path with Kelly, according to the Rolling Stone. He started to force Jones to be intimate with other women or risk being “punished.”
“You can’t say no because you’re going to get punished,” she says. “You just become numb to what’s happening. It’s so traumatic the things that he makes you do to other people and to him.”
As the sexual coercion and abuse continued to escalate, Jones says she began to contemplate suicide. She even considered killing Kelly when she was at her lowest point emotionally. She eventually decided that she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing she took her own life because of him, convinced him to let her fly back to Dallas to “buy school supplies for her son,” and never returned.
Rolling Stone reached out to Kelly and provided a detailed list of the allegations Jones made against him, but Kelly categorically denied all of them. Kelly’s representative released a statement regarding the accusations, which you can read below:
“Mr. Kelly is aware of the repeated and now evolving claims of [Ms. Jones]. It is unfortunate that Ms. Jones, after public statements to the contrary, is now attempting to portray a relationship history with Mr. Kelly as anything other than consensual involvement between two adults. As stated previously, Mr. Kelly does not control the decision-making or force the actions of any other human being, including Ms. Jones, by her own admission. Any claim of wrongdoing of any kind or of mistreatment of any woman by him is false, ill-motived and defamatory.”
Jones is among more than 50 other people who interviewed for Lifetime’s documentary Surviving R. Kelly, and is only one of many who accused the singer of years’ worth of abuse and misconduct.
Following its two-episode premiere Thursday night, the six-part Surviving R. Kelly documentary resumes Saturday night with the final two episodes of the series – All the Missing Girls” and “Black Girls Matter.” Check out the conclusion of the documentary tonight at 8 p.m. ET.