Surviving R. Kelly, a new six-hour Lifetime docuseries, premieres tonight to chronicle the rise and fall of R&B superstar R. Kelly. The series will track Kelly’s rise from a young artist at Chicago’s Kenwood Academy to the hitmaker he became with singles like “Bump N’ Grind,” “I Believe I Can Fly,” and “Down Low (Nobody Has to Know).”
The series will focus largely on his 2008 trial where he was found not guilty of 14 child pornography charges, as well as his troubled relationships with many different women, including the most recent accusations in the media that he’s running a “sex cult.”
Ahead of Lifetime’s three-night event, here’s everything you need to know about R. Kelly’s net worth, including how his many legal troubles affected his financial well-being and future.
1. R. Kelly’s Current Net Worth is Surprisingly Only $1 Million
Robert Sylvester Kelly, better known by his stage name R. Kelly, is a singer, rapper, and record producer with 14 studio albums to his name. He grew up on the south side of Chicago where he dropped out of school to be a subway musician. Shortly after, he won $100,000 on the TV talent show Big Break and signed with Jive Records in 1991.
His solo debut 12 Play was certified six times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. He began a production career simultaneously, producing records for other artists including Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, the debut album of teen pop star Aaliyah. He also produced some of the biggest singles of the ’90s, including songs by Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers, Maxwell, and K-Ci & JoJo. In 1995, his album R. Kelly sold four million copies.
Despite his many successes, Kelly’s net worth is shockingly low at a mere $1 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. So what went wrong?
2. R. Kelly’s Many Financial and Legal Troubles Cost Him A Lot of Money
Since 1994, Kelly has faced a slew of sexual misconduct allegations, which Vox has done a thorough job collecting. Many of these accusations stem from Kelly’s contact with minors and also the many women who claimed abuse. While he seems to consistently be in the hot seat, the singer has frequently settled these issues out of court, reportedly paying tens of millions of dollars to make these problems disappear.
If Kelly never had any legal problems, his net worth could easily be between $150 and 200 million.
3. The Allegations Against Him Impacted Kelly’s Career in Major Ways
While Kelly has remained untried for most of the allegations legally, his career understandably suffered. In 2012, Forbes reported that Kelly owed $5 million in unpaid taxes dating back seven years. The very next year, he lost a house to foreclosure. Just two years ago, new allegations yet again forced Kelly to cancel an entire tour after the news put a dead stop to ticket sales.
In July of 2018, Kelly released a 19-minute song called “I Admit” where he addressed many of his allegations. On the track, Kelly claimed to be broke and sings that he needs to tour “just to pay rent.” He also admitted that at one point, he owed the IRS as much as $20 million forcing him to accept handouts from his record label in order to pay his bills.
Kelly continues to struggle financially. As a result of his snowballing controversies, he isn’t allowed to tour in many countries overseas. Spotify and other streaming services have even stopped adding his songs to public playlists, also heavily affecting his bottom line.
4. Kelly Also Lost A Large Portion of His Wealth When He Divorced Andrea Lee, His Wife from 1996-2009
Kelly was married to Andrea Lee from 1996-2009, arguably the most profitable years of his career. “The parties have reached an amicable resolution concerning all issues related to their marriage, and will share joint custody of their three children,” their Chicago-based lawyers said in a joint statement.
Despite this “amicable” split, his now ex-wife, a former backup dancer for the star, went to court to obtain a restraining order claiming physical abuse, harassment, stalking, and interfering with her personal liberty. R. Kelly released a statement saying, “My wife and I had a heated argument, and we are now in the process of working it out.” The order was later recalled.
According to MTV, “The initial split came less than a year after Kelly saw charges dropped against him in Florida for having sex with an underage girl, but amid a long-running court case in Chicago in which Kelly was accused of child pornography based on a widely-distributed videotape that allegedly showed the singer having sex with an underage girl.” He was, however, acquitted of those charges.
Before his marriage to Andrea, Kelly was also briefly married to a 15-year-old Aaliyah for five months. That union was annulled in February of 1995.
5. Kelly Has Won Dozens of Awards for His Songwriting, Performing, and Producing
Thanks to his triple-threat talent of singing, writing, and producing, the R&B star has a plethora of awards under his belt. He won three Grammy Awards for his ballad “I Believe I Can Fly” including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media. He also has two American Music Awards, a BET Award, 11 Soul Train Awards, and a number of Billboard Music Awards.
Kelly is even featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. He won for the First Song to Debut the US Single Chart at Number One—that song being “You Are Not Alone,” a track he wrote for Michael Jackson.