Making 'Surviving R. Kelly': A Conversation With Executive Producer dream hampton

作者:未知 来源:美国国家公共电台 2019-01-06

NOEL KING, HOST:

Singer, producer and songwriter R. Kelly is one of the bestselling R&B artists. But a new docuseries from Lifetime that debuts tonight called "Surviving R. Kelly" alleges he has a darker side. It features the stories of women who say Kelly abused them, isolated them and had sex with them as underage girls. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans watched the series, and he talked to executive producer Dream Hampton. A warning - this story will talk about allegations of sex with minors and about physical abuse.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Dream Hampton first interviewed Robert Sylvester Kelly back in 2000 for Vibe magazine. She knew the star faced controversy over his rumored marriage to protege and singer Aaliyah, who was only 15 when they wed. But she had no idea even darker allegations about his behavior would emerge.

DREAM HAMPTON: What began to become clear a few months after my story was published was that this was predatory behavior, that he had settled several lawsuits with teenagers. I missed it. I totally missed it.

DEGGANS: Now Hampton gets another crack at the story. "Surviving R. Kelly" features interviews with more than 50 people. They include Kelly's ex-wife, two brothers and former employees. A number of women alleged the singer developed a sexual relationship with them when they were underage and/or physically abused them. R. Kelly's denied such charges in the past and didn't respond to repeated inquiries from the program's producers. Jerhonda Pace, who says she was involved with Kelly at age 16, describes physical abuse which made her decide to leave him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SURVIVING R. KELLY")

JERHONDA PACE: The breaking point for me was when Rob slapped me, and he choked me until I blacked out.

DEGGANS: Kitti Jones was an adult when she says she began dating Kelly in 2011. She notes the singer had a way of indoctrinating women.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SURVIVING R. KELLY")

KITTI JONES: He calls it training you. You definitely had to ask to go to the restroom, stand up when he walks in the room. You had to ask for your food.

DEGGANS: Andrea Kelly was married to the singer for more than a decade. She says his controlling attitude and constant cheating pushed her to consider suicide.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SURVIVING R. KELLY")

ANDREA KELLY: So I just prayed and asked God for a sign, and something said to get my laptop. And I went to the National Domestic Violence Awareness hotline. And there are 17 questions. There was only two things on that list that Robert hadn't done to me.

DEGGANS: Dream Hampton says she centered the docuseries on the voices of these women and many others - average black and brown women too easily ignored by the wider world.

HAMPTON: I thought that they were really brave. And I knew that R. Kelly had been doing this for decades and that if we had 12 or 20 women who were willing to come on camera, there were hundreds more who weren't.

DEGGANS: "Surviving R. Kelly" details decades of disturbing allegations - the infamous leaked video, which allegedly showed the singer having sex and committing degrading acts with a 14-year-old girl in the early 2000s, and recent allegations from parents who say their adult daughters have been isolated by Kelly in something resembling a sex cult. Kelly denies all of it.

Given how allegations of sexual misconduct have derailed the showbiz careers of people like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, you have to wonder, why does R. Kelly still have a career? Although, there is a protest movement out there called #MuteRKelly. Some people in the docuseries suggest it's because Kelly victimized black and brown women. They say there would be more public outcry if Kelly's victims were white. Dream Hampton won't go that far. But she does want his fans, many of whom are black, to feel uncomfortable.

HAMPTON: I want them to be unable to loudly kind of declare their defense of R. Kelly. They can do it quietly. They can live with their little shame and play their R. Kelly records, but they should have some shame attached to that.

DEGGANS: "Surviving R. Kelly" makes that point in the most direct way possible by giving voice to those who say they've been overlooked for decades. I'm Eric Deggans.

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