October 27, 2021

How R. Kelly Preyed on and Managed an Underage Aaliyah

9 min read

Days earlier than R. Kelly’s trial formally will get underway, his relationship with Aaliyah is already poised to take heart stage. This week, his protection lawyer appeared to let slip that the R&B singer had a sexual relationship with the underage teenager earlier than attempting to backtrack on the admission.

It looks as if a fruitless argument to try to defend, because it’s publicly documented that in Aug. 1994, the 27-year-old Kelly married rising celebrity Aaliyah, then 15 years previous, in a hush-hush ceremony in a Chicago resort room. Among the many stack of felony fees towards Kelly, prosecutors allege he bribed an Illinois official in order to secure a fake I.D. for 15-year-old Aaliyah that will checklist her age as 18 so they may marry.

It’s an odd accident that the beginning of Kelly’s sex-trafficking trial in New York Metropolis, in which the late singer is listed as a Jane Doe in the case, additionally coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the 22-year-old’s tragic aircraft crash dying on Aug. 25, 2001. It could be why, after two decades, her uncle and former manager Barry Hankerson is finally releasing her entire music catalog, with Spotify and his record label Blackground Records confirming the news on Thursday.

However nonetheless, because the trial is about to get underway and each point out of Aaliyah is bound to turn into the main focus of headlines, it’s time the media reckoned with how they disregarded the alleged abuse {the teenager} was enduring.

It’s one thing that’s all the time caught with acclaimed music journalist and writer Kathy Iandoli, whose e-book Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah fis set for launch on Aug. 17 from Atria Books.

“It began to essentially trouble me as a result of I spotted, we by no means give Aaliyah the credit score for being a survivor,” Iandoli tells The Each day Beast. “All we keep in mind, when it comes to her life on the finish, is that she didn’t survive a aircraft crash. However she survived one thing far better that we by no means gave her credit score for as a result of we misrepresented it, we mistitled it. We determined they have been a ‘couple.’ I’d be doing a disservice to her title of survivor if I didn’t at the least focus on what occurred.”

On the time, whereas Kelly and Aaliyah’s marriage was thought of scandalous, there was no actual

outrage directed at Kelly. A Vibe magazine cover story addressing the controversial marriage labeled Kelly as merely a “superfreak,” because the journalist puzzled if Aaliyah’s attraction to Kelly was as a result of he was “lame and unable to cope with the thoughts of a grown-up lady.”

There was no actual concern for Aaliyah aside from snarkily questioning how her dad and mom allowed this to occur. As a substitute, the wedding was portrayed as simply one other superstar scandal—a mentor falling for his mentee, a repetitive Hollywood pattern of older males courting a lot youthful girls. It additionally didn’t assist that Aaliyah’s debut album, which Kelly’s fingerprints have been throughout, was titled, Age Ain’t Nothing however a Quantity.

Wanting again, Iandoli feels that Aaliyah was failed at the same time as an adolescent, getting booed on stage and primarily blacklisted by the music business over the annulled marriage, whereas Kelly confronted no repercussions.

Now, because the proof mounts towards Kelly, who has been trailed by allegations of statutory raping minors since 1996, was charged with the manufacturing of kid pornography in 2002, accused of running a sex cult in 2017, and now faces federal fees of intercourse trafficking and racketeering, Iandoli calls for to know why Aaliyah hasn’t been given an apology and correct recognition as a survivor?

The primary two chapters element how Kelly infiltrated each side of Aaliyah’s life…

Iandoli says when she first started writing her e-book about Aaliyah’s life, music, and lasting legacy, she had zero intention of mentioning Kelly, feeling the dialog had been exhausted and never wanting to present him credit score for Aaliyah’s success. However after watching Lifetime’s bombshell documentary Surviving R. Kelly, she knew she needed to deal with it.

And so, she does. The primary two chapters element how Kelly infiltrated each side of Aaliyah’s life, first launched by means of Aaliyah’s uncle Barry Hankerson, who found Kelly. The 2 spent hours collectively, each contained in the studio and out over the course of 9 months whereas creating Aaliyah’s first album. Iandoli famous that lyrics have been clearly from Kelly’s signature bump ‘n’ grind playbook, however this time “sung by just a little lady.”

Throughout promotion for the report, they performed coy. Aaliyah would solely reveal they have been “very shut” and that Kelly was her “greatest pal in all the world.”

Kelly even dictated how Aaliyah would gown, steamrolling stylists for the album cowl photoshoot, insisting she can be wearing saggy garments, put on darkish shades, and even have an Illinois license plate—his residence state—connected to the again of her jacket, regardless of Aaliyah hailing from Detroit and New York.

Whereas Kelly’s conduct was dismissed as being pushy, it now serves as disturbing foreshadowing. A damning expose by journalist Jim DeRogatis, who’s lined Kelly’s alleged intercourse crimes for plenty of years, had involved dad and mom and former members of Kelly’s group accusing the singer of working a intercourse cult.

They claimed that Kelly would have the younger girls in his entourage conceal their figures in saggy garments or jogging fits as a result of he didn’t “need them to look interesting.” When males entered the room, the ladies have been allegedly made to show round and face the wall with a purpose to forestall males from them.

Followers of R&B singer Aaliyah watch a horse-drawn carriage carry her coffin in the direction of St. Ignatius Loyola Church August 31, 2001, throughout her funeral in New York Metropolis.

Mario Tama/Getty

“The patterns of the diabolical conduct snowballs with each piece that somebody can get away with, it grows in depth from sufferer to sufferer,” Iandoli explains. “We wrote off Aaliyah sporting these darkish glasses, proper? It’s provided that you set the items collectively. Aaliyah wore darkish glasses and R. Kelly’s later victims face a wall when males are within the room. He was hiding her eyes. His different victims, he would put in extraordinarily saggy clothes. He began that when he was styling [Aaliyah]. It’s all textbook, it’s all simply very a lot a part of a protracted [pattern].” (Kelly didn’t reply to requests for remark.)

It’s nonetheless unclear precisely what occasions led to their hush-hush wedding ceremony on Aug. 31, 1994. Neither Kelly nor Aaliyah’s household speak in plain phrases when referring to the wedding, which they annulled in Feb. 1995. Aaliyah wouldn’t discuss it both, telling Vibe in 1996, “I don’t prefer to get into the small print on it, as a result of it was a really… scandalous factor. I had a number of drama again then, and I don’t really need any extra. And out of respect for my household and what I went although, I simply reply, I’m not married. In any respect.”

However Iandoli brings up a Sept. 1994 doc found by DeRogatis in his e-book Soulless that was signed by Kelly, Aaliyah, and each of her dad and mom that primarily was a non-disclosure settlement. Kelly paid $100 (rumored to truly be $3 million) to Aaliyah in “change for slicing ties altogether and by no means mentioning their relationship once more.” In return, Aaliyah would even be restricted from speaking about Kelly.

Nonetheless, it didn’t forestall some members of Kelly’s camp from speaking about what they witnessed between the 2. Lisa Van Allen, who beforehand got here ahead to say she was trapped in an abusive relationship with Kelly when she was 17, has been adamant that Aaliyah was pregnant once they married, and a panicked Kelly organized the sham marriage to allegedly defend himself if phrase acquired out earlier than Aaliyah had an abortion. In a harebrained scheme, Kelly allegedly believed he’d keep away from any prison fees as a result of Aaliyah being underage as a result of they have been married.

Lisa Van Allen, who beforehand got here ahead to say she was trapped in an abusive relationship with Kelly when she was 17, has been adamant that Aaliyah was pregnant once they married, and a panicked Kelly organized the sham marriage to allegedly defend himself if phrase acquired out earlier than Aaliyah had an abortion.

The declare was additionally made by one other Kelly affiliate, Demetrius Smith, who admits he helped forge paperwork to tug off the stunt in his 2011 e-book The Man Behind the Man: Wanting from the Inside Out.

Iandoli’s e-book factors to Kelly’s alleged sample of conduct of getting minors pregnant and urging them to get an abortion. In 1996, Tiffany “Tia” Hawkins was the primary teen to say she had a sexual relationship with Kelly when she was 15 and he was 24, alleging she was pushed to “deal with” her personal being pregnant and never communicate of it once more.

Over time, different girls detailed related experiences. In 2019, a Patreon account claiming to be his former live-in girlfriend, Joycelyn Savage, claimed that Kelly had forced her to get two abortions. Patreon ended up eradicating the account over issues of “impersonation” however Savage’s family indicated that they believed the account belonged to her.

Iandoli personally believes that Aaliyah was pregnant and Kelly was attempting to save lots of his personal pores and skin, though she says she stored her opinion out of the e-book, ensuring to permit the reader to attract their very own conclusions.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not,” Iandoli says. “We’re solely going with what we’ve been advised and the way in which the occasions unfolded. However once more, you take a look at the sample… a number of lacking items. All we are able to do is lay them out and type of resolve for ourselves.”

“I don’t suppose she can be in a rush to marry this man; I don’t suppose she was in a rush to marry him in any respect,” Iandoli causes. “If the story that was advised is appropriate, she came upon she was pregnant and frantically hit him like, ‘What will we do?’ Not like, ‘Come marry me as a result of by the way in which, I’m pregnant.’ I don’t suppose a being pregnant was the bargaining chip to turn into Mrs. Kelly.”

It frustrates Iandoli that the lone Aaliyah album accessible on streaming platforms is Age Ain’t Nothing however a Quantity—which was written and produced by Kelly, who nonetheless makes cash off it. Days after this interview, Hankerson’s revived Blackground Data 2.0 introduced it could be releasing her whole discography within the coming months. However, Aaliyah’s estate and her immediate family have torched the news, calling it an “unscrupulous endeavor.”

Iandoli says she might perceive the household’s reluctance. How do you appease a demanding public who really feel they should have this small a part of a beloved artist with a purpose to honor their reminiscence, versus being respectful of the grieving household who won’t need to open previous wounds, or just want to maintain one thing to themselves?

“It’s a really harmful floor, since you’re messing with folks’s emotions right here,” Iandoli concedes. “So once more, I simply haven’t any selection however to respect their selections. That being stated, I actually hope that the music hits the platforms sooner or later as a result of I’m simply sick and bored with solely seeing that one album.”

Iandoli hopes that her e-book invitations a youthful era to find not solely Aaliyah the actress and gifted dancer, however primarily Aaliyah the gifted musician who dazzled her friends with opera vocal warmups and wrote lots of her later songs.

“Within the absence of Aaliyah’s music, we don’t get to deal with that,” Iandoli says. “Even after we do deal with it, we speak in regards to the genius of the producers. Not the genius of the individual whose voice is blanketed over that manufacturing. The e-book honors Aaliyah as a musician simply as a lot because it does Aaliyah as an all-around icon.”

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