According to a new investigation by reporter Jim DeRogatis, who first broke the story on singer R. Kelly’s alleged abuse of underage girls in 2000 and was sent the videotape that led the musician to be charged with child porn, Kelly is running an abusive “cult” as it has been labeled by parents and former members of the star’s entourage.
In a new BuzzFeed News investigation, DeRogatis talks to three sets of parents who say that they haven’t heard from their daughters in years, aside from occasional text messages after meeting R. Kelly. Many of these women first met with Kelly in the hopes that he would help their music careers. And while many of these parents were aware of R. Kelly’s history of being a singer who allegedly preys on young women (the 50-year-old was last rumored to be dating a 19-year-old) they didn’t think it would happen to their daughters or assumed there would be guardians looking out for them.
According to three women interviewed who previously worked with him, Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee, the young women who live with R. Kelly must ask for his permission to leave his recording studio or their assigned rooms in the “guest house” he rents near his home in Atlanta. Kelly allegedly confiscates the women’s phones and replaces them with new ones on which they are only allowed to contact him. Two parents, who haven’t seen their daughter since December 2016, only got two text messages from her, including one on Christmas that read “I hate Christmas has to be this way this year.”
The young women who live with R. Kelly, according to DeRogatis, must also wear jogging suits because he “he doesn’t want them to look appealing” and if they are too perceived to be too friendly with men who aren’t Kelly he reportedly hits them. These women must call him “Daddy,” were at one point reportedly coached on how to have sex with him, and have all of their sexual encounters with Kelly filmed.
It isn’t surprising that R. Kelly, who has a long, long history of being accused of having sex with underage women (including his marriage to Aaliyah when she was just 15) is still allegedly abusing women even after being acquitted of child porn charges in 2008. That was a case that, as DeRogatis points out, just focused on the videotape and not the dozens of civil lawsuits that claimed Kelly was regularly abusing his position of fame. Collaborations with artists like Lady Gaga, sets at big festivals, and magazine articles that still ask—even in god damn 2017—if it’s okay to listen to the music of someone who has been accused many times with abusing women, certainly keep Kelly in a troubling spotlight.
But all of the women in BuzzFeed’s story are of legal age and have repeatedly told law enforcement and their parents that they are fine. Parents who have tried to file missing persons reports to get their daughters back have had no luck considering the women are technically not missing people.
Those parents say their daughter met R. Kelly backstage at a show and began talking to him secretly on her cellphone, she lost weight, dyed and cut her hair because that’s reportedly what Kelly liked, and she stopped going to classes at college entirely. Now they have actually turned to the FBI for assistance. “It’s about my daughter, and I understand that,” the woman’s father told the publication. “The abuse that my daughter is actually enduring, nobody should go through.”