Randee St. Nicholas/RCA RecordsThe Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly debuts Thursday, and in the first episode, new details of the singer’s relationship with Aaliyah are revealed.
The first episode features an interview with Kelly’s ex-backup singer Jovante Cunningham. Cunningham claims she witnessed Kelly’s sexual encounters with underage girls over the course of his career, including his one-time protégée Aaliyah, who died in a 2001 plane crash.
Cunningham also reveals the moment she discovered that Kelly, then 27, and Aaliyah, then 15, had a sexual relationship.
“We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” she explains. “On a tour bus, there really aren’t many confined spaces. When you get on the bus there are bunks and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping.”
“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” Cunningham continues. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus, [we saw] Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
Cunningham describes what she saw as “things that an adult should not be doing with a child.”
In 1994, it was widely reported that Kelly had secretly wed Aaliyah, and a marriage certificate giving her age as 18 was made public; in reality, she was 15. In the documentary, Kelly’s former personal assistant Demetrius Smith claims not only attended the wedding, but also forged the paperwork.
Smith says Kelly told him that he and Aaliyah had to marry because she was pregnant.
“That broke my heart right there, because I really believed him when he said that he wasn’t messing with Aaliyah,” Smith admits.
So far, R. Kelly has had no comment on Surviving R. Kelly, which airs on Lifetime from January 3 to January 5.
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