R. Kelly has faced a series of allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls, and now a former backup singer has a new one — that the then-27-year-old singer had sex with a 15-year-old Aaliyah while on a tour bus filled with entourage members.
The claim was made in a Lifetime docuseries called Surviving R. Kelly, which delves into the decades of claims made against the R&B singer. In the premiere episode this week, backup singer Jovante Cunningham claimed that she witnessed the singer having a number of sexual encounters with underage girls, People magazine reported.
Cunningham descried how R. Kelly took Aaliyah under his wing when she was 12 years old, including writing her breakout hit “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.” But the relationship turned physical after a few years, the former backup singer claimed.
She noted that there was not much privacy on the tour bus, and one day a group of people was hanging out when a door flew open and they could see R. Kelly having sex with the underage singer. Cunningham said the memory was traumatic to her.
“Things that an adult should not be doing with a child,” she said, adding, “I can’t stress to you how people are still suffering behind things that went on 20 years ago.”
Their relationship was not exactly hidden at the time. There were widespread reports that R. Kelly and Aaliyah were secretly married, People magazine noted, and a marriage certificate was later published showing that Aaliyah was listed as 18 years old, though she was only thought to be 15.
The new documentary 'Surviving R. Kelly' on the singer's alleged history of abuse includes more than 50 interviews and appearances by John Legend and Wendy Williams: https://t.co/QTkuRsa9tq pic.twitter.com/OVmwEU2dfv— Complex (@Complex) December 26, 2018
R. Kelly would face other allegations across his career, including a trial for allegedly creating a sex tape with an underage girl — a case that later led to an acquittal. More recently, women have claimed that he held them against their will — and that he had a “cult-like” following of women who he would abuse.
As the Muse noted in a review of the Lifetime series, the allegations of misconduct have always been closely connected to R. Kelly’s music, which explored themes of inappropriate relationships. The report also noted the growing debate of how to handle the allegations, with some calling on radio stations to ban his music — and some defenders sometimes blaming R. Kelly’s accusers. The review noted that the series seems to be aimed at those still defending R. Kelly, delivering “a plea sharply directed at Kelly’s current fanbase and those in his industry who’ve remained shockingly silent on the allegations.”