The lurid allegations of sexual misconduct dogging R. Kelly will becoming the subject of two new projects at Lifetime. The network announced on Monday (May 7) that the decades-long list of allegations against the controversial singer will be probed in a documentary series and a feature-length movie, both currently untitled.
The projects are part of the network’s reboot of its Emmy-winning Violence Against Women public affairs campaign, which will feature programming meant to spotlight abusive behaviors. “Partnering with advocacy groups and influential thought leaders, Lifetime will provide a platform to give women a voice where they have previously been unheard,” the network said in a statement. The announcement comes in the wake of the Women of Color of the #TimesUp movement joining up with the online #MuteRKelly campaign in a call to corporations to cut ties with the 51 year-old R&B star who has been accused of running a so-called “sex-cult.” There have been numerous reports detailing allegations that Kelly sexually abused women over the years. He was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.
“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.”