Multiple women have come forward in a new six-hour Lifetime docuseries accusing R. Kelly of sexual, mental and physical abuse that allegedly took place throughout decades — and R. Kelly's attorneys, as well as his late protégé Aaliyah's family, are firing back at claims made in the series.
The shocking special, titled “Surviving R. Kelly,” features over 50 interviews detailing the R&B singer’s controversial past, beginning in 1970 through the present day. Some of those who have come forward include ex-wife Andrea Kelly, as well as brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly, among others.
People magazine recently reported that the premiere for “Surviving R. Kelly” was abruptly cut short in a New York City theater due to gun threats. A spokesperson for the New York City Police Department told the publication they received a call from NeueHouse management, explaining that someone had made threats to fire shots during the premiere.
When NYPD arrived, the film had already been stopped and attendees had exited the building.
A representative for Kelly, 51, did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment in regards to the Lifetime show or the reported gun threats, but the "I Believe I Can Fly" singer's lawyers slammed the docuseries as a whole in paperwork obtained by TMZ.
Brian Nix, Kelly's lawyer, fired off a letter to Lifetime, alleging that "Surviving R. Kelly" was "packed with lies" and that the subjects lied about the singer to get famous. Kelly and his attorneys threatened to file a federal lawsuit Thursday if the show airs as scheduled.
In response, a rep for Lifetime told Fox News: "Lifetime has always been a brand that champions women’s stories. The documentary will air as scheduled, starting tonight at 9 pm ET/PT."
What's more, singer Aaliyah's mother slammed allegations that Kelly had sex with her daughter on his tour bus when she was a minor — and that members of Kelly's team helped him and Aaliyah to get a marriage license when she was just 15 years old.
"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," Aaliyah's mother, Diane Haughton, said in a statement on Twitter. "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."
"These lies and fabrications cannot be tolerated and allowed to be spewed from the forked tongues of saboteurs of Aaliyah's legacy," the statement continues. "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."
Other accusers told Fox News that they had no incentive, fame or otherwise, to come forward with their allegations against Kelly.
Lizzette Martinez, one of the women who spoke out for "Surviving R. Kelly,” told Fox News that she was initially hesitant. She said she was a 17-year-old high school student when she first met the charismatic entertainer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, which resulted in a relationship where he allegedly physically abused her multiple times.
“It was really difficult,” said Martinez, who is 41 today. “You’re not only revealing all these painful experiences but then you have to relive it. It wasn’t easy. I’m nervous about how I’ll be received. But I spoke from the heart.”
R. Kelly’s former protégé Stephanie Edwards, known as “Sparkle,” told Fox News she initially declined to participate in the docuseries. In 2008, the now-43-year-old testified against Kelly when he was faced with charges of child pornography.
The New York Times previously reported Kelly was accused of making a 27-minute sex tape with an underage female, Sparkle’s niece. However, a high-power defense team convinced the jury that the identity of the girl was not conclusive. Kelly was found not guilty on all 14 counts.
“I had to speak my truth,” Sparkle told Fox News on why she also chose to ultimately come forward. “And my truth hasn’t changed. There were a lot of misconceptions about how I introduced my niece to R. Kelly. How I’m bitter. I wanted to dispel a lot of the rumors. People don’t know everything.”
Martinez alleged she was a cheerleader with dreams of becoming an R&B singer when she was spotted by Kelly in 1995 at a Miami shopping mall. Kelly was 28 at the time.
“I decided to go to the mall with my friends and he walked up to me,” she recalled. “He hugged me and I was completely in shock. Because I knew who he was. I had followed his music. I was just a kid and this famous person was talking to me. And his bodyguard handed me his phone number. I was never going to call, but my best friend thought he could possibly help me as a singer. He said he would help me and mentor me, but that never happened.”
Martinez alleged Kelly was aware of her age when she lost her virginity to him. She insisted Kelly quickly became controlling.
“He would say, ‘I’m going to help you with your career, but I don’t want you to wear this,’” she claimed. “‘I don’t want you to speak to these people. I don’t want you to talk to your family. When we sit at a table, you have to look directly to me. Don’t look at anyone else.’ Even if there were 20 people with us, I was never allowed to speak to anyone who was a male. It felt like he owned me.”
Martinez also alleged Kelly smacked her after he spotted her speaking to someone from his entourage. She claimed Kelly would go to hit her a total of five times. Kelly would also allegedly pressure her to perform certain sexual acts against her will. Martinez said the relationship finally came to an end in early 1999 when she was 21.
In a previous interview with Buzzfeed, Martinez shared she ended the relationship after recovering from mononucleosis, which she claimed to have contracted from Kelly. The disease led to serious complications that required hospitalization.
“I got sick and I was with my family at this point,” she explained. “I almost died. Was in the ICU until my father prepared for a funeral. It was a miracle I got better. I just looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I’ve become. I didn’t like I had allowed someone to strip me of who I was.”
Sparkle, who comes from a musical family, said she introduced Kelly to her sister, brother-in-law and their 12-year-old daughter who was an aspiring rapper.
“She was very talented,” said Sparkle. “She had It. And as a matter of fact, I introduced most of my family. I wanted to bless them just like how he blessed me. I didn’t want to be selfish and just have it for myself. I wanted to bring my family along for the ride. If he could make me a superstar, by all means. I wanted to do the same for them. I wanted my family to be in the business like I was professionally.”
At the time, Sparkle considered Kelly to be a dear friend, someone with astonishing success in the music industry who seemed willing to help her family achieve their own musical dreams.
“Robert and I were such great friends,” she said. “He was like a girlfriend. A girlfriend I could talk to. We talked about our relationships. We were together every day, like brother and sister. He was my brother, my friend, my good girlfriend if you will.”
MTV reported that in December 2001, Sparkle received a phone call from an attorney telling her that a relative of hers may have been on a sex tape with Kelly. An associate of the attorney came to Sparkle’s home and played her the tape in question to verify the claim. Within the first couple of minutes, Sparkle said she recognized her niece, who was 14 at the time.
“I didn’t want to see any more of it,” she reflected. “I was absolutely horrified. I think my heart was beating a gazillion times per minute. I was furious. I called my family immediately. My older brother said, ‘I knew something was going on.’ Those were his words. I was floored. You can’t even imagine how floored I was.”
Sparkle said it wasn’t difficult for her to testify against Kelly. However, her involvement led her to being estranged from her family for the next 10 years.
“The reason why I spoke in court was that I had to,” explained Sparkle. “She is my niece. I love her. I didn’t want to see this done to her. And how dare he tried to get away with this. You sat there. You taped like a f——- idiot. Why would you violate her and then film it? I was just disgusted with him. I am still disgusted with him. … My niece lost her innocence. She lost her childhood.
“[Kelly] took away my family because sides were taken. I had one brother who stood by my side. He was the only one who backed me up. Everybody else wanted me to shut up, go away and not taint the family’s name.”
Sparkle said she was stunned when Kelly was acquitted and felt the court “got it wrong.” And while she has since reconnected with her niece, the two haven’t spoken about the tape.
“… I don’t know if she’s sat down and spoke with anybody about it,” said Sparkle. “I try to handle her with kid gloves, so to speak. I didn’t want to force the conversation. I want her to bring it to me.”
Both Martinez and Sparkle chose to move forward with their lives beyond Kelly. Buzzfeed added Martinez married and had twins in 2000. Martinez wouldn’t tell Fox News if she has considered pursuing any kind of legal action against Kelly. Sparkle said she’s still pursuing music and even released a song that resonates with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements titled “We Are Ready.”
Both women say they do hope Kelly gets help.
“I pray for Robert because he’s got some demons in him,” said Sparkle. “And in the end, God has the last say. And God will have the last say.”
“Surviving R. Kelly” airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.