Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly, a three-part documentary series profiling the women who have survived sexual abuse and violence from Robert “R. Kelly” Kelly. The series which was produced by journalist Dream Hampton has caused a ton of buzz on the internet. It’s also proven that Hollywood and the world has turned a blind eye to the decades-long abuse R. Kelly was inflicting on numerous under-aged brown and black girls. So many people were complicit, from his producers and managers to the police, and a number of celebrities. Thanks to the series, investigations have finally opened in Georgia and celebs are finally speaking out against him, including Lady Gaga.
Only two music artists agreed to be featured in the documentary series: John Legend and Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards. Hampton said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press that she had reached out to many artists for interviews but all but Legend and Edwards declined. How sad is that?
“When it comes to celebrities, it was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated with Kelly to come forward. We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle,” she said.
I was especially disappointed in Lady Gaga for not taking the interview but also for taking so long to disavow R. Kelly. I’m pretty sure it had a lot to do with the fact that the two collaborated on “Do What U Want (With My Body)” in 2013. But for someone who has been a victim of sexual assault herself and an advocate of the #MeToo movement, it was upsetting to me that she didn’t speak out against him sooner.
After weeks of controversy and criticism, Lady Gaga has finally apologized for working with R. Kelly. She took to Twitter this week to apologize for ever collaborating with him. She also vowed to never work with him again. Gaga even plans on removing their 2013 song “Do What U Want (With My Body)” from iTunes and other streaming services and has voiced her support for all of the women who endured R. Kelly’s abuse and have come forward with their stories.
“I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously,” she wrote in her statement. “What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible.”
I stand by anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual assault: pic.twitter.com/67sz4WpV3i
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) January 10, 2019
I personally always found the “Do What U Want (With My Body) song to be kinda sick, especially because by the time that single came out allegations against R. Kelly had already been made and his obsession with underaged women was common knowledge at that point. The song itself isn’t just horrifying but the fact that Gaga, who is a rape survivor, chose to collaborate on a song like that seemed beyond twisted to me and apparently she now agrees.
She shared that looking back she does think the collaboration was “explicitly twisted” and that she did it during “a dark time” in her life. Listen, I’m not here to judge Gaga or rip her apart. I just think it’s important to point out that when we remain silent about abuses we know are happening, we are not only being complicit but we are allowing them to continue.
A countless amount of celebrities were aware of the sexual violence R. Kelly was inflicting on so many young women and girls. The same way so many were aware of the abuses caused by Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. These men are clearly monsters but society allowed them to continue on with their monstrous behaviors for decades by turning a blind eye to what was happening and silencing or blacklisting the women that were being abused. And while I understand that psychologically people like to disconnect villains likes these from the parts they don’t like and only associate them as just artists, that is by no means an excuse to go along with this kind of heinous behavior. We have been separating artists from their sick acts for years and it’s done us no good — only literal harm. It has only continued to deeply oppress us as women and as a society overall.
We shouldn’t be waiting for shit to wind up on a documentary series or hit mainstream news to finally call out and denounce these criminals — because that’s what they are, criminals. R. Kelly should have been called out since day one when he chose to marry the late R&B singer Aaliyah when she was just an underaged teen. Celebrities need to do better. We need to do better. Posting about being in support of the #MeToo movement on social doesn’t mean squat when you’re doing and saying nothing about a man you know damn well is abusing women, whether it’s a music artist, a friend or a male relative. I’m not saying it’s not hard but take a second to think about how hard one woman’s life could become just by your silence. Your silence essentially contributes to violence against women and it needs to stop right now in 2019.
Let this be a lesson to all of us to call shit like this out the moment we see it so more women don’t fall victim to decades of abuse.