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A Deeper Look At R. Kelly’s “Sex Cult” Allegations And His Bizarre Personal History

The music news cycle was turned on its head this week thanks to controversial R&B singer R. Kelly being accused of running his own sex cult. The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer is allegedly keeping young women captive at various properties in his hometown of Chicago, and Atlanta. The Young Turks, do a great job breaking down Buzzfeed News’ initial investigation. Get caught up above in case you missed it.  

As it has been widely reported, Buzzfeed broke the news of these intense allegations by telling the personal experiences of the Savage family, and their suspicious dealings with R. Kelly while procuring his assistance to help their 19 year old daughter Joycelyn become a professional singer. Buzzfeed got exclusive details from Joycelyn’s mother about how meeting Kelly backstage at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, on May 23, 2015 evolved into alleged abuse, manipulation, and Stockholm syndrome, which has separated their family since last December.   

“When we got to go backstage with R. Kelly, we stayed there over two hours,” Jonjelyn Savage said.

“One-on-one with just me and my daughter and him. We went back to talk about the music. He listened to her CD. He was going to help her with her CD, and I was really impressed with him at first, because I have always been an R. Kelly fan.”

Before long, 50 year old Kelly was paying for Joycelyn to travel with him. Working as a dedicated stage mom, Jonjelyn initially ignored Kelly’s past accusations of sexual misconduct with underaged girls, confident that she could protect her daughter.

“In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her,” Jonjelyn said. “It didn’t really hit home. Even with the Aaliyah situation, now that I think about it, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number ’ (Written/Produced by R. Kelly) … but you don’t think about that. You grew up with the song, and you like the song.”

Two years after all of this has started, Jonjelyn and her husband Timothy Savage have resorted to making this a publicly known issue through a press conference  earlier this week.  However, Joycelyn, 21, reject’s their now publicly made claims via TMZ.  Joycelyn said that she wants to be in the situation she’s in, and  that although she still gets texts from her parents, she chose to cut communication with her family of her own free will. She was not willing to tell TMZ her current location when they interviewed her about this situation via a video chat.

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Although it may seem like an opened and shut family dispute, this situation is far from simple. Because Joycelyn is of legal age, there are shades of grey about if what Kelly is doing is technically illegal, even though it is clearly unconventional, and highly suspicious. It is important to note a few things about this rapidly evolving story.  Buzzfeed’s investigation goes much deeper than spotlighting a family dispute about their daughter dating an inappropriately aged celebrity.   Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle, Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee, have validated the Savage family’s concerns, by coming forward with specific details about this alleged cult behavior.  According to them, six women  live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, stating that he controls every aspect of their lives. Reports state that Kelly dictates what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters, which they say he records to show his entourage.The women explained  that his celebrity initially influences perception.

“This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle,” said Mack, who worked as Kelly’s personal assistant for a year and a half starting in 2013 and has remained in touch with some members of his inner circle. “No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”

Jones and McGee admitted to living with Kelly and having sexual relationships with him off and on over the past five years before coming forward. Documented proof of this period was limited, but they claim that Kelly controlled their phone and social media usage, and they were not allowed to take photos with him or of the rooms where they were living.

According to Mack, Jones, and McGee, as of last summer, the women living in Kelly’s Duluth, Georgia, “guest house” or his Chicago recording studio are described in Buzzfeed’s bullet points below:

  • A 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually. She had been best friends since high school with the girl in the videotape for which Kelly was tried in 2008. She recently parted ways with Kelly, these sources say.

  • A 25-year-old woman who also has been part of Kelly’s scene for seven years.

  • A recent arrival, a 19-year-old model who has been photographed in public with Kelly and named on music gossip websites — a rarity among the women in his circle.

  • An Atlanta songwriter who began her relationship with Kelly around 2009, when she was 19. (She is now 26.)

  • And an 18-year-old singer from Polk County, Florida. Mack said the Florida singer is Kelly’s “favorite — his number-one girl.”


Mack, Jones, and McGee claim that Kelly, calls these woman “babies,” and they are required to call him “Daddy.” They have to ask his permission to leave the Chicago recording studio, or their assigned rooms in the “guest house” near Kelly’s own rented mansion in suburban Atlanta. They also stated that Kelly confiscates cell phones, so the women can’t contact their friends and family. Instead, he gives them new phones that they are only allowed to use to contact him or people he allows.

As his former personal assistant, Mac gave great detai, stating that Kelly almost always has these women dress in jogging suits to better conceal their figures.

“He doesn’t want them to look appealing.” She said when other men are in the same room, Kelly “would make the girls turn around and face the wall in their jogging suits because he doesn’t want them to be looked at by anyone else.”

If anyone break Kelly’s “rules,” Mack and Jones said, he punishes them physically and verbally. Jones even claims that Kelly held her against a tree and slapped her outside of a Subway sandwich shop in spring 2013 because she had been too friendly with the male cashier. While McGee said she never saw Kelly hit anybody, she did say he was running a “cult” and manipulated her emotionally and sexually.

“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet,” McGee said. “But Robert is the devil.”

The Savage family’s requested welfare checks by police in both the Illinois and Georgia locations didn’t lead to anything technically illegal. The age of consent is 17 in Illinois and 16 in Georgia.  That said, numerous sources, including women who left his inner circle, made on-the-record allegations that suggest ongoing mental and physical abuse of several women in his entourage.  An unnamed source confirmed these allegations to Jezebel, claiming that Kelly has five or six women that he subjects to bizarre cult like behavior. She said that there is constant physical, sexual, and psychological control, with all sexual encounters being recorded routinely.  

“They’re all above the age of consent,” the woman told us. Two of the women are 18 and 19, while others are in their early to mid-20s. Technically, she said, “they can leave. But it was like witnessing Stockholm Syndrome. All these girls are so nice and trusting and young.”

This unnamed woman, provided a variety of different kinds of proof about her involvement with Kelly, which was as recent as this summer. This included a photo of him, receipts, hotel information, screenshots of text messages with Kelly, and his manager, Diana Copeland, and  Copeland’s confirmed phone number. The unnamed source said that she enjoyed partying with Kelly and his crew.

“I knew what I was getting myself into,” she said. She then went on to acknowledge and indirectly validating the Savage family’s concerns, saying that other girls around him seemed more star-struck and dependant on the singer’s approval.

“All these girls just dote on him,” she said. “It’s so f***ed up. They’re completely manipulated and brainwashed.”

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All of this is very significant because Kelly has a clear history of allegations against him regarding sexual misconduct with women. He was most recently tried in 2008 on 14 charges of making child pornography.  The case, which took a record six and a half years to go to trial,  focused on a now infamous videotape that was given anonymously to the Chicago Sun Times. On it,  prosecutors alleged he’s shown having sex with a then 14-year-old girl. In the past Kelly was regularly accused by girls or their parents of abusing his fame and influence to pursue, often illegal, sexual relationships with underage girls.  He has been the subject of at least  a dozen civil lawsuits against him related to this topic, and had a publicly known, but illegally suspicious marriage to the late R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994,  when she was just 15 years old. However, those unnamed girls signed nondisclosure agreements after being paid, and Aaliyah’s marriage was annulled privately with the help of her family, so all of these details were excluded from the evidence in that trial and he was acquitted.

That said, his suspicious legal issues appear to have continued.  Although she declined to be specific about the amount of times, Chicago attorney Susan E. Loggans told Buzzfeed News that she has negotiated “numerous” times with Kelly before lawsuits were ever filed. Loggans  even said that one recent negotiation was on behalf of a 17-year old former member of Kelly’s inner circle from the west side of Chicago, who was an aspiring singer. No other details were given due to attorney-client privilege and the terms of the settlement.

Kelly’s track record of legal issues with woman aren’t limited age of consent. In 2002, an Illinois lawsuit was filed by Montina Woods, a dancer who toured with Kelly’s friend Ronald Isley.  Woods claimed she was unknowingly recorded by Kelly during sex. He settled the suit by paying her an undisclosed amount of money. Also, on April 21st, a Mississippi lawsuit was filed by Hinds County sheriff’s deputy Kenny Bryant over an alleged affair between Kelly and Bryant’s wife.

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Therefore, while this may be the most attention payed to R. Kelly’s alleged behavior in a while, this effort from Buzzfeed reminds everyone, in great detail, that this pattern of accusations has been following him for 20 years now. Kelly himself even implied having a  complicated relationship with sex during an in depth interview in 2012. In an exclusive for BET sister network Centric, the singer told Tavis Smiley that he was molested by a family member between the ages of 7-14 years old, and it awakened sexual feelings inside him earlier than normal.  He even went on to say that he views molestation as a generational curse, implying that it is a problem that repeats itself.   

However, because he was acquittal of the infamous child-porn charges in 2008, and has nondisclosure agreements for his numerous civil cases, these accusations can and have been argued as speculation and gossip.   That why he’s maintained his status as a major label recording artist, now for RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment.  Diehard fans have often dismissed this controversy, supporting him in recent efforts like a 2013 duet with Lady Gaga, “Do What U Want”, a star studded 2015 album called The Buffet, and an appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon on NBC in December.

Will these newer claim’s be the straw that broke the camel’s back for the self proclaimed “pied piper of R&B?”  Linda Mensch, a civil lawyer in Chicago who represents Kelly, released the following statement in response to all of this:

“We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life. He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”


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