The pressure has been building on Kelly since 2000, when DeRogatis first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times on allegations that Kelly used his position as an R&B star to meet and have sex with girls as young as 15. And now, with the rise of the #MeToo movement and the raft of allegations that have exposed reported sexual misconduct and abuse by Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons and dozens of other major media and political figures, the singer is seemingly feeling the pressure.
After a show at the University of Illinois in Chicago was canceled earlier this week, Kelly struck out at the accusations he said were the result of "rumors" against him. “I don’t know why they canceled the show. I never heard of a show being canceled because of rumors, but I guess there’s a first time for everything," he said in a video on Twitter. "So I apologize to you guys and in the meantime, I’m going to try to get to the bottom line of it, you know, as far as my lawyers are concerned, and see exactly what happened and why I was canceled.
When the Women of Color (WOC) branch of Time's Up announced Monday that they were joining forces with #MuteRKelly, Kelly's management issued a statement claiming he'd been unfairly targeted. "Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals -- and in this case, it is unjust and off-target," read the statement. "We fully support the rights of women to be empowered to make their own choices. Time’s Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly’s support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts. Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time."
Despite the singer's disavowals of the multiple claims -- which include an earlier report from DeRogatis purporting that he is the ringleader of a "sex cult" -- the two new allegations fit a familiar pattern.
BuzzFeed reports that two of the six women in Kelly's alleged "sex cult" -- one a model, the other a longtime personal assistant -- have reportedly left in recent months. Their split comes as two sets of parents continue to publicly plead for help to reach their daughters, 19 and 17, who they say have been prevented by Kelly from contacting friends and family while living with him at rented properties in Chicago and Atlanta. Michelle says her daughter "N," has been "brainwashed" as part of the Kelly "cult," using similar language as the two other sets of parents; the report claims that "N" could not be reached for comment, but that her presence in Kelly's orbit was confirmed by seven independent sources.
Representatives for Kelly issued a statement to BuzzFeed following the latest story's publication, denying the "many dark descriptions put forth by instigators and liars who have their own agenda for seeking profit and fame." The statement stressed that the women who are living with Kelly are adults who can make their own choices, and that law enforcement wellness checks determined that the women were safe, accusing the parents of not returning their daughters' calls because they are "angling for a financial windfall."
"I don't know what hold he has on her, but her last words to me was, 'Don't ever give up on me,'" Michelle says of her daughter, whom she hasn't spoken to in three months. BuzzFeed reported that despite its numerous interviews with parents and other sources since July 2017 about the allegations, local authorities in Georgia and Illinois have taken no legal action and the FBI will not say whether it has opened an investigation.
Jerhonda Pace broke a nondisclosure agreement with Kelly last August when she made sexual abuse allegations against the singer, because, she said, of her concern for former friend "N." Pace began her sexual relationship with Kelly in June 2009 when she was 16, passing the singer's number on to then-17-year-old "N," who also reportedly began a sexual relationship with Kelly at that time. Michelle says her daughter kept the relationship a secret from her; a month later Michelle called suburban Chicago police in an effort to find out if her daughter was at Kelly's mansion, with Pace saying the singer told the two teenagers to hide as he barred officers from entering his home.
"If they'd done their jobs, none of this would have happened," Michelle says. Despite her mother's misgivings, "N" took a job as Kelly's personal assistant a few months later, assuring Michelle that all the lurid allegations were "in his past." By mid-2014, "N" moved to Atlanta with Kelly, staying in contact with her mother and coming home for the holidays at first, then dropping off the map around August 2016. Michelle says she now has to go through Kelly if she wants to contact her daughter, with the singer often saying "N" is unavailable; the FBI reportedly interviewed Michelle in September, but she has heard nothing about the case since.
Martinez's story of being groomed by Kelly -- who showed an interest in her musical abilities -- includes her claim that their relationship became sexual within the first month, even after she told him her age the first time they met. In keeping with similar previous accounts, she says Kelly controlled many aspects of her life, "what I wore, how I spoke, who my friends were, who I could bring around," in addition to pressuring her to perform sexual acts against her will and that he hit her five times during their relationship. "He has a way with people, with women," she said. "He's just so controlling, so abusive."
While Kelly was married to former dancer Andrea Lee, Martinez said she became pregnant by him and because of her Catholic background she resisted his request that she have an abortion; she had a miscarriage while staying alone in a Chicago hotel room, unable to reach the singer during the harrowing experience. Martinez split with Kelly in 1999 and decided not to take legal action against him. "I wasn't in it ever for money," she said. "And I didn't want ot go through that... I was hurt by him. But I couldn't rehash it again."
She said her purpose in coming forward now is to work with the other alleged victims. "This is not new, this 'cult' thing," she said. "I feel like things happen for a reason... Maybe I can be an example that you don't have to go down the tubes. I've been through hell and back in my life, but I've always picked myself up."
To read the full BuzzFeed report, click here.