Jezebel has a new interview with a woman who claims, convincingly, to have been an on-again off-again member of the R. Kelly entourage. The woman, anonymized as “Kim” in the Jezebel story, says that she maintained distance in her relationship with the R&B star, but that other women involved with him are “completely manipulated and brainwashed,” a situation she described as “horrific.”
On Monday, BuzzFeed published a lengthy article by veteran Chicago music reporter Jim DeRogatis, which outlined the stories of two young women who’d left their homes to live with Kelly. Though both women are above the age of consent–they are 18, and 19, respectively–their parents believe they were manipulated into joining what they described as a “cult.” Sources told DeRogatis that Kelly controls a group of young women, restricting their contact with the outside world, dictating when and how much they eat and sleep, and having sexual encounters with them which he frequently records. Since the publication of the story, one of the two women–whom TMZ identified as Joyceln Savage (DeRogatis anonymized the women and their parents in his story)–has given multiple statements alleging that she is fine and that her parents are meddling in her personal affairs. When TMZ asked Savage where she was, and whether she was able to leave the house where she was living on her own free will, she declined to answer.
By the letter of the law, there’s nothing wrong happening here. Both sets of parents in DeRogatis’s story have attempted to get help from the police in bringing their daughters back, and both were unsuccessful. All of the young women allegedly involved with Kelly are above the age of consent. Savage is emphatic that she isn’t being harmed. But considered in the context of the multiple lawsuits that have been filed against Kelly for sexual misconduct with underage girls (he was tried and found not guilty of manufacturing child porn in 2008), and the statements that women who have since left Kelly’s inner circle gave to DeRogatis, a disturbing picture emerges. The allegations from Kim serve to add to that picture’s vividness.
Kim told Jezebel that her experiences with Kelly differed from those of the women in the BuzzFeed story in several key respects: she is older, she has an established career, and she has no professional aspirations in the music industry. According to the women in the first story, and those who have sued Kelly in the past, he used promises of stardom to lure girls and women in to his web. Also, Jezebel’s Anna Merlan trenchantly notes, Kim is white, while most of the other women close to Kelly are black.
Those differences added up to a freer life for Kim. According to her account, she came and went from Kelly’s properties as she pleased, and wasn’t aware that the other women lived with him. Still, she described his tactics for controlling the women close to him in terms similar to those laid out in DeRogatis’s story: forbidding them to look at other men or talk to each other about their personal histories, encouraging them to “tell on each other” for breaking the rules. She said that he regularly films his ordinary life and sexual encounters, and described one such encounter with a 19-year-old in chilling detail. From Jezebel:
Kim said that she and the girl were instructed by Kelly to “take off your clothes and act like you miss each other.” He got out his iPad and started filming, she said, but was dissatisfied by the 19-year-old’s performance. He told Kim to sit on the couch and took the 19-year-old into another room. Twenty minutes later, he called Kim in. Kim knocked in the proper way, then walked in to find the younger girl nude except for one of Kelly’s bigger pieces of jewelry, a heavy chain.
“He had his iPad recording and she was naked except for a big chain and she was running laps from one end of the room to the other,” Kim remembers. “She was running laps around the room and apologizing. She kept saying, ‘I’ve been bad, I’m sorry Daddy,’ shit like that. And I’m standing there and she starts apologizing to me.”
Kim said she told her it was all right, but Kelly cut her off. The younger girl continued in tears, she said, telling her, “I know I have to do what Daddy says, I have to act like I miss you more, I wasn’t getting into it.”
Kelly’s representatives denied to Jezebel that he keeps women against their will, as they did in response to the BuzzFeed article.
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