Surviving R. Kelly documentary on Lifetime: Everything you need to know

Drea Kelly interviewed for Surviving R. Kelly
Drea Kelly was married to R. Kelly but now she counts herself among his survivors. Pic credit: Lifetime

One of the most highly anticipated and controversial Lifetime documentaries is about to premiere and even then, not without the threat of a lawsuit. Surviving R. Kelly is the story of the women who accuse R. Kelly of a host of abuses and when their stories air, it’ll ignite a war between the network and the singer.

While many women were interviewed for Surviving R. Kelly, including his ex-wife Drea Kelly, it turns out that many of his peers turned down interview requests. Prior to premiere day, executive producer Dream Hampton spoke to the Detroit Free Press and revealed a number of artists who were contacted and asked to talk about accusations against R. Kelly but they didn’t have much luck getting anyone to talk.

Other artists don’t want to talk about R. Kelly

Celine Dion, Erykah Badu, Dave Chappelle, Jay Z and Lady Gaga have all collaborated with the Ignition singer but when asked to speak about him, turned the opportunity down. In another interview, this time with Shadow and Act, Hampton revealed that Lil Kim, Questlove and Mary J. Blige also were contacted about interviews and declined.

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Surviving R. Kelly: Official Series Preview | Lifetime

The only artist that Dream Hampton could get to talk about R. Kelly for an interview was John Legend. She explained that it’s not about whether they support the R&B star or not but because of the possible repercussions they may face for speaking up.

Hampton went on to discuss how that factor, where others in power turn their heads and don’t speak out, is what is reportedly allowing R. Kelly to continue on his path.

Not just lawsuits

Considering the litigation threats against Lifetime if they dare to air the series as planned, it’s not surprising that top celebrities don’t want to go on record about R. Kelly. And lawsuits aren’t the only threat behind bringing this project to fruition.

On the night Surviving R. Kelly debuted in New York City, the NeueHouse Madison Square was evacuated after a threat was made to shoot up the theater if the docu-series continued to run. Some involved with the project commented on whether they thought R. Kelly might be behind the gun threats, which he denied and was never proved either way.

Who will be interviewed?

Surviving R. Kelly is a 6-hour docuseries featuring interviews with many women who have accused him of varying abuses. They include his ex-wife Drea Kelly and others like Lizzette Martinez, who spoke to Rolling Stone ahead of the Lifetime premiere.

Surviving R. Kelly: Lisa VanAllen Speaks Out (Episode 2) | Lifetime

“It doesn’t go away – you always live with it because it’s the person that you see on TV,” says Lizzette Martinez. “You hear the music, so getting over it doesn’t really happen. You just live with it … I was 17. I was a child. He took away my innocence. He took my off the path that I was on. He changed my life forever.”

Surviving R. Kelly: Lizzette Martinez (Episode 1) | Lifetime

Asante McGee also spoke out about the alleged abuse the suffered at the hands of the R&B singer. “R. Kelly is this loving, fun guy that everybody sees, but Robert – he’s the devil. You pretty much had to have permission to do whatever, from eating to bathing.”

Even more women are slated to speak out against R. Kelly including Sparkle, who previously recorded music with the singer.

Surviving R. Kelly: Sparkle Speaks Out (Episode 2) | Lifetime

Aaliyah’s family speaks out

It’s no secret that Aaliyah married R. Kelly when she was just 15 years old. The marriage happened in 1994 and was annulled just a year later. Aaliyah’s age was fabricated on the marriage license published by Vibe that same year.

Despite denying the marriage, Aaliyah released her Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number album just months after marrying Kelly.

Ahead of the Surviving R. Kelly premiere, former backup singer, Jovanna Cunningham, claimed that she saw Aaliyah and R. Kelly having sex when she was just 15 years old.

Over the years, it is rare that Aaliyah’s mother Diane Haughton speaks at all about her daughter and R. Kelly but after Cunningham’s claims, she made a rare exception and released a statement.

“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,” Haughton blasted. “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.”

Surviving R. Kelly is 6 hours long and will be featured in three parts beginning on Thursday, January 3 at 9/8c on Lifetime. 

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