A Buzzfeed News investigative piece details how the R&B singer controls all aspects of six young women’s lives “from what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”
Disturbing allegations have arisen about R. Kelly, with a number of insiders claiming that the secretive singer is allegedly housing half a dozen young women in properties in Chicago and Atlanta as part of a sex “cult.”
The latest bombshell against the singer comes via a lengthy Buzzfeed News report titled “Inside the Pied Piper of R&B’s ‘Cult'” written by longtime Chicago music journalist Jim DeRogatis. The story, based on interviews with a trio of alleged former Kelly inner circle members — Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones and Asante McGee — as well as reviews of legal documents, claims that six women recruited by Kelly live in his rented properties where he is in control of all aspects of their lives “from what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”
Mack and Jones told DeRogatis that Kelly has a strict set of “rules” the women must follow, which result in physical and verbal punishments if they don’t comply.
According to Mack and Jones, breaking the singer’s rules results in punishments, with Mack claiming that “you have to ask to use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.” Mack, Jones and McGee listed the women who allegedly lived in Kelly’s Duluth, Georgia, “guest house” and his Chicago recording studio last summer.
They described them as including a 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually. That unnamed woman was reportedly best friends since high school with the girl at the center of a 2008 trial in Chicago in which a jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges after he was accused of having sex with a then-14-year-old girl and videotaping it. The Grammy winner has denied allegations he had sexual relationships with underage girls in the past, although he has settled a number of lawsuits; he also claimed in a 2016 interview with GQ magazine that he’d been sexually abused as a child.
The victims also reportedly include: a 25-year-old woman who’s been part of Kelly’s entourage for seven years, a recently arrived 19-year-old model who’s been photographed with Kelly in public and named on music gossip sites, a 26-year-old Atlanta songwriter who began her relationship with Kelly around 2009 when she was 19, and an 18-year-old singer from Polk County, Florida, who Mack said was 50-year-old Kelly’s “favorite — his number one girl.”
One mother, who thought Kelly was interested in helping her then-19-year-old daughter’s music career when they met the singer in 2015, was aware of the numerous allegations against the singer over the years. She and her husband thought they could protect their daughter, though two years later they are reportedly in a “desperate fight” to bring her home.
The mom has shuttered her business, turned into an amateur detective and reached out to the FBI and police in two states with her concerns, though officials say their daughter is not a missing person in the eyes of the law because she says she’s living with Kelly and doing fine. Her parents, however, have told police she’s being “held against her will” in what they’ve deemed a “cult.”
Police reportedly performed welfare checks in both Illinois and Georgia over the past year and no charges were filed after the aspiring singer allegedly told Cook County police she was “fine and did not want to be bothered.” The mom, though, had a different story about the last time she saw her daughter on Dec. 1, 2016. “It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible,” she said. “I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
The woman’s parents have only heard from her twice since then. Spokespeople for the Duluth Police Department and Cook County Sheriff’s Department could not be reached for comment on the report at press time.
Jones and McGee, who both said they lived with Kelly and had sexual relationships with him over the past five years before leaving his orbit, claimed they had limited control over their phones and social media feeds during that time, with no photos allowed with Kelly or any of the rooms in his homes. Mack added that Kelly often insists the women wear jogging outfits because “he doesn’t want their figures to be exposed; he doesn’t want them to look appealing. In addition, Mack said that when 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.”
The three former staffers claim Kelly calls the women who live with him his “babies,” that they are required to call him “Daddy” and that they must ask permission to leave the Chicago recording studio or their assigned rooms in the guest house near his rented mansion in suburban Atlanta. The singer allegedly confiscated their cell hones and gave them new ones that they are only allowed to use to call him or others with his permission. McGee and Jones also claim that Kelly films his sexual activities with the women and shares the videos with men in his inner circle.
DeRogatis noted that the law allows consenting adults to take part in any relationship they like, no matter how “nontraditional,” and that all the women allegedly in Kelly’s circle are of legal age. The reporter, who has written extensively on Kelly in the past, said the singer has settled more than a dozen civil lawsuits out of court with cash payments, including a recent one for a 17-year-old aspiring singer who was said to have been part of Kelly’s inner circle.
BuzzFeed also said it had obtained recordings made by Kelly that DeRogatis said proves a pattern of behavior with women in which he changes the subject from music to sex, though the two snippets included in the story involve small-talk about music.
Multiple attempts by BuzzFeed News to reach Kelly were unsuccessful. Linda Mensch, a civil lawyer in Chicago who represents Kelly, responded to the report via email: “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.”
A spokesperson for Kelly could not be reached by Billboard for comment at press time.
Click here to read the full BuzzFeed report.
A version of this story originally appeared on Billboard.