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‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Part 2: The Price Of Protecting A Problematic Genius

The Lifetime documentary looks at the tactics Kelly used to manipulate his alleged victims.

Readers note: This recap may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault.

In part two of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary, the R&B singer’s older brother Bruce Kelly makes a startling claim about why his sibling preyed on younger girls. “It’s a preference,” he stated. To him, Kelly just simply likes them younger. But really it's an excuse for Kelly’s alleged predatory behavior and denial of the accusations stacked against him. Kelly also used his music to gain the continued favor of the public, which allowed his behavior to go unchecked since the 1990s. But at what cost? Tearful accounts of physical, mental and verbal abuse from survivors such as Lizzette Martinez, who met him at 17, and his ex-wife Andrea Kelly, detail the long-term trauma that results when the actions of abusers are allowed to fester.

“Sex with him felt not natural," Martinez said, who lost her virginity to Kelly. “I felt like a sex object.” Martinez said Kelly also had people follow her. A year into their relationship, she found out Kelly was already married.

Andrea Kelly met him when she was a 19-year-old dancer who auditioned for his tour. Shortly after joining his team, she grew closer to Kelly as he showed his vulnerable side such as revealing his insecurity about not being able to read.

But what neither could see was that someone like Kelly could use vulnerability to build trust with his victims before gradually establishing control over them.

In the documentary, psychologist Dr. Jody Adewale unpacked that a manipulative person can start controlling someone with small requests, such as demanding someone call them “daddy.” Then more intense demands follow, like making the victim wear certain clothing and saying they can’t move around the house freely. “The first cycle of abuse is called the honeymoon phase,” Adewale said. This is when everything is given freely, financially and emotionally. But this is temporary. Soon the victim will be walking on eggshells.

“You don’t believe in your own sense of judgment,” Andrea Kelly said.

In Martinez's case, she said the singer demanded she calls him “daddy.” She recalled the time he dragged her down a hallway because she talked back to him. He also told her to perform sexual acts while his friends were in the back seat of a vehicle. But when Martinez had a miscarriage, Kelly wrote the popular hit song about her called, “You Are Not Alone,” eventually performed by Michael Jackson.

“In hindsight all of those songs, they’re real stories,” Javonte Cunningham, Kelly’s former background singer, explained in the film. “They’re about different people during those times and different situations that were occurring with him. So 'You’re Body is Calling,' 'Sex Me'; those are real stories. 'Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.' He meant that,” she continued.

Martinez eventually cut Kelly off after she caught Mononucleosis from him. She was in the ICU for two weeks and almost died. “He stole my life from me,” Martinez said.

For Andrea Kelly, once she was involved with the singer, he slowly began to isolate and control her, even on their wedding day.

“My wedding was a surprise wedding,” she said. Andrea Kelly described going to Colorado and entering a hotel room where there was a violinist and a cake. But her family wasn’t present and this wasn’t the way she imagined she’d be married. “He crossed that line from being generous to be controlling,” she said.

Although she noticed Kelly’s control issues, Sparkle, Kelly’s former background singer, still saw him as family. He was behind her most notable song, “Be Careful.” Sparkle thought she had a handle on Kelly until she introduced her 12-year-old rapper niece, to him. Sparkle feared the relationship was getting out of control once she found out her niece was going to his home and studio without her guardianship.

“He’s charismatic and an all-around nice guy, but Robert is a master manipulator,” Sparkle said.

Another alleged victim, Lisa Van Allen was 17 when she met Kelly during a video shoot. After, he asked her to come to Chicago where she would eventually stay. She revealed Kelly would have sex with her in his Chicago Trax Recording Studio, where there were multiple beds. “Robert would also film our sex acts, sometimes,” Van Allen said. “He would never ask if it was okay to film.” Kelly forced her to engage in sexual acts with girls as young as 14 and 16, she revealed.

One insightful point made by journalist Ann Powers was how Kelly used music to hide his behaviors in plain sight. One way is by creating inspirational songs, such as his No. 1 hit, “I Believe I Can Fly” so that fans can see him in a positive light. Another was by creating metaphorical, humorous and outrageous art representative of his real-life experiences, a tactic he used when releasing his 33-chapter opera Trapped in the Closet.

Ultimately, to be shielded from accountability for as long as Kelly has, the flaws of the legal system must also be called into question, which will be explored in the series' next chapter.

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Yara Shahidi Cast As Tinker Bell In Live-Action ‘Peter Pan’

Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi will portray Tinker Bell in Disney's forthcoming live-action version of Peter Pan, Deadline reports. The cast of Peter Pan and Wendy, directed by David Lowery, includes Oscar-nominated actor, Jude Law, as Captain Hook.

The casting of Shahidi, who is Black and Iranian, marks the first time that a person of color has portrayed the character, previously played on the big screen by Julia Roberts in Hook, a 1991 live-action reimagining of the classic fairytale.

Peter Pan & Wendy will be Shahidi’s second major feature film behind 2019’s The Sun is Also a Star. The 20-year-old actress scored her breakout role in ABC's Black-ish prioer to landing the spin-off Grown-ish. Additionally, Shahidi has appeared on several other hits TV shows such as Scandal, Family Guy, and Wizards of Waverly Place.

The release date for Peter Pan and Wendy is unclear but the film will reportedly debut in movies theaters versus an on-demand release.

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Chris Rock, Megan Thee Stallion Sign On For ‘SNL’ Season Premiere

Chris Rock is returning to Saturday Night Live as host of the upcoming 46th season. The 55-year-old comedian will helm the season premiere next week with Meghan Thee Stallion as the musical guest, NBC announced on Thursday (Sept. 24).

Airing on Oct. 3, the season premiere marks SNL’s return to its headquarters at Rockefeller Center since March. The long-running sketch comedy show went virtual last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The show will also be Megan’s first time performing solo on the SNL stage (she previously made a guest appearance with Chance the Rapper last November).

October. [email protected] @theestallion pic.twitter.com/J8KUYWngaL

— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) September 24, 2020

Rock, who has hosted the SNL three times, was a cast member from 1990 until 1993. After SNL, Rock joined the cast of In Living Color, and embarked on a successful career in stand-up comedy.

But he's not  the only In Living Color alum heading back to SNL this season. Jim Carrey has signed on to play former Vice President and presidential hopeful, Joe Biden, on the show.

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‘Antebellum’ Star Janelle Monáe: ‘This World Owes Black Women So Much’

For us Black folk, the fight for social justice in America continues to be a long and arduous fight. Since the day our African ancestors set foot on this land, we’ve endured the chains and whips of systemic oppression and marched arm in arm for our civil and economic rights. Along the way, we’ve witnessed the senseless killing of our Black brothers and sisters at the hands of police brutality and white supremacy.

Let’s face it. Today, 400 odd years later and in the midst of an anxiety-inducing pandemic, being Black in America is still exhausting. Our Black brothers can’t go for an afternoon jog without running into the armed, confrontational, and self-appointed neighborhood watch. Or question their arrest before being handcuffed and forced to lie face-down, while gasping for air under the pressure of a police officer’s knee on their neck. The most disheartening of all is that our Black sisters can’t rest peacefully in their beds without trigger-happy police officers raiding their homes with a fatal shower of bullets.

The gut-punch of it all? Justice for Black bodies is far and in between. And the group less likely to see any form of justice? Black women. The women who’ve carried and birthed nations. The women who’ve fearlessly aided and led historic uprisings while fighting on the front lines to spark social change. In the upsetting case of Breonna Taylor, one of the officers responsible for her death has been indicted on “three counts of wanton endangerment” for endangering the lives of those in a neighboring apartment.

One activist who has been vocal about the lives of Black people in America is eight-time Grammy award-nominated artist Janelle Monáe.

“I feel like this world owes Black women so much. At the very least, it owes us peace...I have to actively fight for my own peace,” shared the actress in a recent sit-down with VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle. “It's tough, especially when you see your brothers and sisters, that look like you being murdered and killed, all you can really feel is rage. And when that festers in you, it's hard to shake it. It's hard for me to unwatch the videos I watched of Sandra Bland, of Trayvon Martin, of Jacob Blake, thinking about Breonna Taylor, it's difficult. So, you have to actively fight. I have to actively fight for my own peace.”

In the newly released thriller Antebellum, Monáe plays Veronica Henley, a best-selling author and outspoken sociologist. After speaking on the marginalization of Black people in America at an event in New Orleans, Veronica wakes up as Eden, an enslaved woman working on a Louisiana plantation in a Civil War era. As Veronica experiences the past life of slavery, she (Eden) finds her strength and voice to plan and lead fellow slaves to freedom. Even if she fails over and over again.

“I used to say, ‘Black women are superheroes.’ That's not what I say at all. It's not our job to be superhuman. It's not our job to clean up systemic racism or dismantle them,” pointed out Monáe.

“This film [Antebellum] is a look at what it is like for a Black woman to carry the burden of dismantling and deconstructing white supremacy every single day. We persevere through it. We are triumphant, but we shouldn't have to carry that emotional labor and that heaviness every single day.”

This same weight of responsibility can be seen in today’s oftentimes women-led social movements and calls to action in the streets of America. You can see how it’s cinematically embedded as a theme in the twisted Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz co-directed film. But there’s one thing that must take precedence during any physically and mentally demanding mission for change: rest. And those of us protesting for equality should have loved ones around to serve as a reminder of joy and lightheartedness. For self-care is an underrated superpower.

“I think that it's important to surround yourself around people that if you are doing heavy lifting, if you're out there on the front line, if you’re just having a difficult time, [you can] go watch some comedy films,” encouraged Monáe. “Just be around people that make you laugh. That's really important. I think laughter is something that we can do a lot more of together.”

Watch the full interview with Janelle Monáe above. Also, catch our chat with Antebellum's co-directors Bush and Renz where they talk about how one nightmare inspired the film’s premise.

Antebellum, co-starring Gabourey Sidibe, Kiersey Clemons, and more, is available now on premium video-on-demand platforms.

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