Nothing seems to stick to R. Kelly — until now.
The 51-year-old R&B star has been trailed for decades by accusations of sexual misconduct, which have barely dented his career. He even performed at the 2002 Olympics after a tape surfaced of him allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
But the new Lifetime docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” might change that.
“I didn’t want to do the documentary, I initially stated ‘no,’ ” says singer Sparkle (nee Stephanie Edwards), who began her career as Kelly’s protege in 1998. “But Dream Hampton, one of the [‘Surviving R. Kelly’] exec producers … said that I was heroic in a sense, that I was the only person that stood up and spoke up about what he had done to my niece.”
Sparkle herself wasn’t victimized by Kelly, but her niece was the 14-year old girl in the tape.
When Sparkle alerted the police, it led to a 2008 child pornography trial for Kelly, who was acquitted.
That’s just one of the topics covered in “Surviving R. Kelly,” which continues Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m.
The docuseries covers Kelly’s entire life, from his childhood to his career to his alleged sexual history with underage girls.
Famous faces such as John Legend and Wendy Williams appear in the series — “ ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ is one of those songs that inspired a lot of people, it was massive,” Legend says onscreen — along with Sparkle, Kelly’s brothers, his ex-wife Andrea and several women who describe past relationships they had with the singer.
Lisa Van Allen, 38, who dated Kelly in 1998 when she was 17, is one of these women. “I spoke out in 2008. I testified against R. Kelly [at his child pornography trial],” she says. “Back then, I don’t think people were so open to the idea of change. But now with this MeToo movement and Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby — all these different cases about abuse, it’s the right time now.”
Van Allen thinks that Kelly has been able to operate scot-free for so long in part because of who he victimizes.
“He dates minority races,” she says. “I think that has a lot to do with it. If you look at Cosby, Weinstein — [their victims] weren’t a lot of ethnic women. We have to tell our stories to be heard. It’s sad that we have to go harder but if that’s what has to be done, we have to do it.”
Sparkle says she’s glad that speaking up has become more prevalent, since she felt alone when the tapes first came to light.
“I spoke up when I first learned of the tape and the situation. I didn’t hesitate. As soon as I saw it, I was on the phone with the authorities,” she says. “That’s where the trial came about.
“I’m happy the young girls and women who are speaking up now are speaking up, but I wish someone had my back then. Social media is great now — all these movements are here now. But there was a ‘me’ before there was ‘Me Too.’
“Nobody had my back.”
While the subject matter of “Surviving R. Kelly” is dark, Van Allen has been able to move on to a happy life. She lives in Atlanta with her fiancee, and she’s an advocate for abuse victims, NY Post reports.