R. Kelly’s mother was Joanne Kelly; she died in 1993 of cancer. The identify of Kelly’s father has always been unknown to the public. Kelly’s daughter, Joann AKA Buku Abi, is named after his mother.
Kelly has talked about his love for his mother on numerous occasions. However, a book on Kelly by journalist Jim DeRogatis has disputed that portrayal of a loving relationship between mother and son.
There are very few photos of Joanne Kelly available on the internet. However, you can see some family photos on Surviving R. Kelly, in the first episode.
Here’s what you need to know about Kelly’s mother, Joanne Kelly:
1. Kelly’s Mother, Joanne, Was a Schoolteacher & Devout Baptist
Kelly’s mother was a single parent for her four children: Robert, Carey, Theresa, and Bruce. Kelly was particularly close with his mother, and even said he had a “crush” on his mother in an interview with GQ.
He said, “In a son/mother way, I had a serious, serious crush on my mom. I just looked up and down to her. I looked around. I looked everything about my mother. Y’know, I loved her. And I even asked her to marry me on day–she said ‘no,’ but I understood.”
You can watch the clip above.
2. The Identity of Kelly’s Biological Father Isn’t Known Publicly
Kelly’s father’s identity has never been shared publicly. Per The Chicago Sun Times, his father was “missing through most of his youth.” In an interview with GQ, he said his father was gone before he was even born.
Kelly grew up on the South Side of Chicago. His siblings talked about their childhood in Surviving R. Kelly. Carey said, “It was a struggle [living in a single parent household], but we never went hungry.”
3. Joann Died in 1993 of Cancer; Kelly’s Allegedly Close Relationship to Her at the Time of Her Death Has Been Challenged by Family Friends
In 1993, Joanne Kelly died of cancer. After her death, Kelly started making more gospel-related music. In his interiew with GQ, Kelly said he stayed by his mother’s bedside until she died, and said he promised he would make her proud with his music career.
However, an investigative book on Kelly called Soulless: the Case Against R. Kelly, by journalist Jim DeRogatis, tells a different story. In the book, DeRogatis alleges that Kelly was not close with his mother at the time of her death. DeRogatis wrote, “Several sources told me that once his career began to take off, Kelly actually shunned the mother he claims he worshipped.” He added, “He refused to deal with her medical bills — she checked into the office under a false name — although he had the money.”
According to The Chicago Sun Times, Joann told an “associate” on her deathbed that Kelly had fabricated a story about being shot by gang members when he was 13. Rather, she argued that this was an attempt by Kelly to cover up what was, in fact, a suicide attempt.
4. Kelly Named His Daughter, Joann, After His Mother
Kelly’s firstborn daughter, Joann Kelly aka “Buku Abi,” shares his mother’s namesake. Kelly and Abi do not appear to be on speaking terms.
In a lengthy Instagram post in January 2019, following the airing of Surviving R. Kelly, Buku Abi revealed that she was “devastated” by the show, though not necessarily surprised by the allegations leveled against her father.
She wrote in part, “[That] same monster you all are confronting me about is my father. I am well aware of who and what he is. I grew up in that house. My choice not to speak on him and what he does is for my peace of mind. My emotional state. And for my healing.” You can read her full response to the series here.
5. Kelly Has Said He Was Sexually Abused by a Female Relative, & a Male Family Friend During His Childhood
Kelly has spoken out publicly on many occasions about being a survivor of sexual abuse, himself. In Soulless, DeRogatis argues that one of the people who abused him was his half-sister, Theresa, who allegedly also abused his half-brother, Carey.
Carey told DeRogatis, “Theresa is the cause of everything happening in the way that it did.” What’s more, Kelly’s former manager told DeRogatis, “[Kelly] was hypersexual, not because he chose to be, but because of his sister.” Neither Kelly nor his sister have confirmed or acknowledged these allegations.