Parents and former members of R. Kelly’s reported “inner circle” have accused the R&B superstar of brainwashing women and keeping them in a “cult” where he controls their every move, according to a new report.
In an explosive BuzzFeed News article written by Jim DeRogatis, parents of at least two women say they’ve been in a battle to get their daughters back from Kelly and reported “sources,” including women in his close circle, have made allegations suggesting mental and physical abuse of several women by the artist.
"Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him," attorney Linda Mensch told NBC 5 in a statement. "Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."
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In the article, the parents of Georgia and Florida singers say their daughters each met Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, at concerts when they were in their late-teens, but what they claim was supposed to be a professional relationship, eventually transformed into a sexual one.
One couple, identified only as J. and Tim, said they haven’t seen their daughter since December.
“It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible,” J. told BuzzFeed. “I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
Buzzfeed said it verified the full names of both the parents and their daughter using public record, but was not reporting the victims' name and her parents' last name to protect her privacy. NBC Chicago also obtained the names of the family in a police report, but is withholding them for the same reasons.
The article also named three former members of Kelly’s inner circle – Cheryl Mack, Kelly’s former personal assistant, and Kitti Jones and Asante McGee, who both said they had sexual relationships and lived with Kelly during the past five years, though there is little documentation of their relationships with the artist. The insiders claim as many as six women, whom the artist calls his “babies,” live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and suburban Atlanta, with Kelly dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they sleep and their sexual encounters. He also allegedly confiscates their personal phones and makes them use a phone he gives them for contacting him only, unless they are given permission to call someone else.
“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet, but Robert is the devil,” McGee told BuzzFeed, adding that the women are "punished" if they fail to follow his rules.
The parents of the Florida singer, identified only as Theresa and Angelo for similar privacy concerns, said they first learned of their daughter’s relationship with Kelly when she didn’t come home from school and later texted them saying she was at his hotel.
In August 2015, the family said they sent their oldest daughter to Chicago to check on her sister, but once at his recording studio, the woman was involved in an altercation with men at the location while she tried to take her younger sister away.
Multiple attempts to reach the woman were also unsuccessful, according to BuzzFeed, but after she and Kelly were asked for comment, the woman reportedly reached out to her father and invited him to Kelly’s Indiana performance on Saturday.
The father declined, however, saying he was wary of Kelly’s motivations.
DeRogatis, who has reported on previous allegations surrounding Kelly, said he was first contacted by the parents of the Georgia singer in November and worked on the story for nine months.
Kelly’s Chicago-based attorney told the publication the allegations made are “the price of fame” and “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.”
Kelly himself has not addressed the allegations on social media, simply posting on Twitter Saturday about his performance in Merrillville, Indiana.
All of the women involved in the allegations are, by law, consenting adults, and welfare checks done by police have not led to any charges. A Cook County Sheriff’s police report obtained by NBC Chicago states officers performed a well-being check at Kelly’s music studio at the request of the parents of the Georgia singer, who told authorities their daughter was “being held against her will along with another young lady.” The woman, who authorities said had no visible injuries or markings, told officers she was “fine and did not want to be bothered with her parents because her father was threatening people.” She also said she did not know the other woman mentioned by her family.
Numerous attempts by both the parents and BuzzFeed to contact the Georgia woman went unanswered, but the woman’s grandmother, who has maintained some contact, told Buzzfeed her granddaughter told her she is in a consensual relationship with Kelly and thought her parents were trying to ruin the artist’s career.
The Grammy winner’s shows and lyrics often focus on sex and infidelity — such as his Trapped in the Closet series.
Kelly, who is known for his hits including, "I Believe I Can Fly," ''Bump N' Grind" and "Ignition," has in the past denied allegations he had sexual relationships with underage girls, although he has settled a number of lawsuits. In 2008, a Chicago jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges after he was accused of having sex with an underage girl and videotaping it. He has also previously been accused of marrying his manager’s teen niece, singer Aaliyah.
In a recent interview, Kelly declined to address allegations he married the then-15-year-old singer. Kelly said the two were “best friends, deep friends,” and admitted that he was in love with her “just like I was in love with anybody else.” But when it came to addressing the questions surrounding the pair’s rumored marriage, which reports claim was quickly annulled, Kelly said that, out of respect for Aaliyah's family and because of her passing, “I will never have that conversation with anyone.”
NBC Chicago's request for comment from RCA Records was not immediately responded to. NBC has not independently verified the allegations made.