A new Lifetime docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, is set to feature interviews with several women who claim the Chicago crooner abused them either sexually, physically or emotionally. Kelly’s alleged reputation for seeking out underage girls is also addressed, with one former back-up singer claiming she witnessed the 12 Play singer having sex with a then-15-year-old Aaliyah, according to HNHH.
In the episode airing tonight (Jan. 3), backup singer Jovante Cunningham claims she witnessed the inappropriate relationship the-27-year-old Kelly had with the young singer.
“We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” says Cunningham. “On a tour bus, there really aren’t many confined spaces. When you get on the bus there are bunks and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping. So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing. When the door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
When asked what she saw, Cunningham answered, “Things that an adult should not be doing with a child. I can’t stress to you how people are still suffering behind things that went on 20 years ago.”
Aaliyah’s mother, Diane Haughton, has responded to these claims, calling them lies.
“The woman and so-called back-up singer that describes seeing, meeting or ever breathing the same air as my daughter, Aaliyah, is lying and is a liar,” wrote Haughton on Instagram. “My husband and I were always on tour with her and at interviews and every place she went throughout her entire career. Whoever this woman is, I have never seen her before anywhere on planet earth, until now.”
She continued, “My daughter only wanted to realize her dream of sharing her talent with the world, and give her all performing on stage and in front of the camera for the fans she adored so much. She realized that dream, thanks to those true fans who still love and support her legacy unconditionally to this day. Shame on all those involved in this project who thought it kosher to drag Aaliyah’s name into a situation that has nothing to do with her today. Once again, this will not be tolerated.”
Neither Aaliyah nor R. Kelly ever spoke about the nature of their relationship before her 2001 death. E! reports one of Kelly’s former personal assistants, Demetrius Smith, admits in the doc to having “papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underage” so she and Kelly two could get married.
Surviving R. Kelly will air on Lifetime for three days beginning tonight, Jan. 3, at 9 p.m. ET.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.