“What we’ve seen—in the last year in particular—is the tremendous power of women’s voices when given the opportunity to share their truth,” said Brie Miranda Bryant, SVP, Unscripted Development and Programming at Lifetime in a statement. “But there are important stories still untold, stories of bravery, resilience and defiance that demand to be heard. This is one of those stories.” The network promises that in both the documentary and the series "women are emerging from the shadows and uniting their voices to share their stories."
The documentary series will probe the multiple rumors of abuse and predatory behavior ascribed to the singer, with statements and reports from alleged survivors of Kelly's abuse, as well as members of his inner circle speaking for the first time on camera to provide new allegations about his sexual, mental and physical abuse. "The movie will lift the veil on the secretive inner world of R. Kelly, bringing to light the shocking allegations of abuse and twisted mind games," according to the release.
“Some very brave black women have trusted us with their stories, their truth and their trauma,” said documentary series executive producer dream hampton. “They are survivors and I’m honored to share their stories with the world.” Kreativ Inc. CEO and executive producer Joel Karsberg said the team has been working for over a year to bring the stories of these women to light. In addition to cultural critic and activist hampton, Golden Globe nominee and Emmy-winner Ilene Kahn Power (Gia), serves as executive producer of the movie.
As part of the roll-out, Lifetime is partnering with several organizations to spread awareness, empower women and provide healing tools and support for women in need of assistance, including educational resources and outreach to young women in high schools and colleges to help them address how these issues affect their lives.
Last week, BuzzFeed posted a new exposé from reporter Jim DeRogatis (working with BuzzFeed's Marisa Carroll) in which Lizzette Martinez claimed that a then-28 year-old Kelly began a relationship with her in the winter of 1995 when she was a 17-year-old high school senior after the two met at a shopping mall in Miami. Martinez claims that Kelly, knowing she was underage (the age of consent in Florida is 18), took her virginity and repeatedly pressured her to engage in sexual acts against her will.
The second allegation came from a woman named Michelle (whose last name was withheld to protect her daughter's privacy), a Chicago mother who claimed that her now-27-year-old daughter began a relationship with Kelly when she was 17 (the age of consent in Illinois).
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.
When the Women of Color (WOC) branch of Time's Up announced 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."