On Monday morning, Buzzfeed published an explosive report alleging that R&B star R. Kelly is keeping young women trapped under his control as part of a bizarre, abusive sex ‘cult.’
The parents of multiple women, all using aliases, spoke to Buzzfeed about their efforts to regain contact with young daughters who had taken up with Kelly under the guise of furthering their own music careers.
But the report suggests that Kelly is interested only in maintaining abusive sexual relationships with the women, and preventing them from having nearly any contact with the outside world. And there is little that authorities can do, as all of the women are over the age of consent.
At this time, Kelly reportedly has six women in his live-in entourage, all living at properties owned by the singer in the suburbs of Chicago and Atlanta, and monitored by strict surveillance. According to the account of some of the young women’s parents who spoke to Buzzfeed, Kelly began his relationships with them by appearing to take an interest in the aspiring performers, and inviting the girls and their parents to shows and backstage meetings with the star.
But the parents allege that Kelly will eventually cut the women off from contact with their families. Once the women move into his property and sign a contract, Kelly allegedly confiscates their cell phone and issues a replacement phone that he controls, former associates told Buzzfeed. The women are told they can only communicate with him and people he has given permission for the women to contact.
“My thing was I trusted. I have never been in the music industry before, ever,” said Theresa, the mother of an 18-year-old aspiring singer who is allegedly trapped in the so-called cult.
“We needed to make sure it was about music, because he was going to mentor her,” the mother said. “And then from there he wanted her to travel with him so she could see how the music game really was. … We thought it could be an opportunity, and that she was going to be with a guardian — a female guardian that would keep an eye on her.”
Theresa told Buzzfeed she hasn’t spoken to her daughter in over a year.
“I desperately want my daughter back but I’m not [sure] what will [be] the repercussions if she doesn’t come willingly,” Theresa said. “These girls think this man loves them. Matters of the heart are a touchy subject.”
Kelly was acquitted in 2008 on child pornography charges after he was accused of making a sex tape with an underage girl. The Buzzfeed report points out that potentially supporting evidence showing Kelly’s alleged patterns of sexualizing minors was excluded from testimony.
Sources told Buzzfeed that today, Kelly allegedly records his sexual encounters with his live-in girlfriends and shares them with male friends.
Buzzfeed spoke to some of Kelly’s former associates, including a former personal assistant who went on the record to say that the allegations and rumors are largely true.
Mack Jones, who worked for Kelly for a year and a half beginning in 2013 and maintains contact with some of his current associates, told Buzzfeed that the women initially think, “I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle.”
But the reality is far from luxurious.
“You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom,” Jones said. “[Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”
Kelly allegedly issues violent punishments to any of the women who break his rules. Jones claims that Kelly once held her up against a tree and hit her outside of a Subway shop when she was purportedly too friendly to a male cashier.
A friend of one of the women now in Kelly’s entourage, who had a relationship with him while she was still living on her college campus, said the she once told her Kelly had “whooped her behind” after she laughed at a joke a male cab driver made. Kelly was not with her at the time, but other members of the entourage were, and one of the women reportedly texted Kelly to report what the other had done.
Asante McGee, another former member of Kelly’s inner circle, told Buzzfeed that Kelly had forced a young woman to stay on his tour bus for three days without being allowed outside. Kelly apparently said it was punishment because the teen did not do her homework, but she had already graduated from high school.
Buzzfeed was not able to reach Kelly or any of the women currently in his entourage for comment. But multiple attempts were made, and Kelly’s inner circle was aware that Buzzfeed was working on a story.
Just last week, an 18-year-old girl from Florida, who sources told Buzzfeed was Kelly’s “favorite” in his entourage, contacted her father for the first time in a long time, inviting him to come see Kelly perform at a concert in Indiana this past weekend. The father declined the invitation, reportedly suspicious of Kelly’s intentions.
A lawyer for Kelly gave Buzzfeed a statement after being asked about the allegations.
“We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life,” attorney Linda Mensch wrote.
“He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”
Feature photo: Associated Press