Surviving R. Kelly, a docuseries about R. Kelly’s 25 years of alleged sexual abuse, hit screens on Thursday despite his threats of litigation. As people absorb the shocking details, the show’s producer revealed that it was difficult to find people who were willing to discuss the allegations – even if they had been critical of the rapper in the past, the BBC reports.
“When it comes to celebrities, it was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated with Kelly to come forward. We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle,” producer Dream Hampton said. “[They’re] people who have been critical of him.”
Surviving R. Kelly takes a look at decades of sexual allegations, some of which were reportedly with underage girls, throughout the singer’s career. It covers the relationship between Kelly and the late singer Aaliyah, who married him when she was 15. At the time, Kelly was 27.
It also takes a look at the singer’s second wife Andrea Kelly, who claims that Kelly hog-tied to her a bed at one time and physically abused her during the length of their marriage.
Despite the decades of rampant rumors, many celebrities refused to speak to the show’s producers.
“Most people just don’t want [to] touch it,” Hampton said. “It’s not because they support him [Kelly], it’s because it’s so messy and muddy. It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”
Hampton said that she had also reached out to Mary J. Blige, Lil Kim, and Questlove, only to be turned down.
Two celebrities did agree to appear in the film. R&B singer Sparkle spoke to producers about her experiences. The former Kelly protege testified against him in 2008 when he faced a trial for child pornography charges. The other celebrity is John Legend.
“That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me,” Hampton said.
We should all thank my friend @dreamhampton for her very necessary work to create #SurvivingRKelly. These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard. I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 4, 2019
Questlove responded to the critics who said that he should have spoken to producers in a now-deleted tweet saying that he thought “Kels” was “trash,” but he decided not to be in the docuseries because he was asked to talk about Kelly’s “genius” and he didn’t want to be seen as supporting him.
Kelly has consistently denied all of the allegations, even going so far as to release a song in 2018 called “I Admit” in which he cops to infidelity but denies all other allegations of non-consensual sex and sexual abuse.
The series is currently airing on Lifetime.