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R. Kelly performs onstage during R. Kelly, New Edition and The Jacksons at the 2013 BET Experience at Staples Center on June 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for BET

‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ Part 5: The Parents of R. Kelly’s Alleged Victims Speak Out

The Lifetime documentary unpacks how Kelly’s system of hiding his alleged behaviors unraveled.

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

R. Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008. Post-trial, he remained a cult-like figure in Black music. His catalog was the soundtrack to family reunions, graduations, and weddings. He also performed at major events, such as Whitney Houston’s funeral in 2012. It seemed the culture absolved him for good.

“If an individual is providing something to the society, such as music, cinema, politics, we are more likely to compartmentalize the negative behavior and minimize it as a way of accepting what they are contributing,” psychologist Dr. Jody Adewale, explained.

But accusations of sexual assault, domestic violence, and sex trafficking mounted against the singer. Within the past two years especially, Kelly’s efforts to keep his behaviors secret unraveled as survivors and their families spoke up, as outlined in part five of Surviving R. Kelly documentary.

For instance, Jerhonda Pace, who was involved with Kelly when she was 16 left him after he choked her until she blacked out. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Pace. After she left, she turned over evidence about the abuse to the Illinois Bureau of Investigation.

Her friend Dominique Gardner, who met Kelly in summer 2009, at the age of 17, continued to see him unbeknownst to her mother. The singer isolated Gardner and allegedly “molded” her into a “boy toy,” according to an anonymous former employee of Kelly. “He had her shave all her hair off and she carries herself like a boy,” they said. “He’s even had her dressed in boy clothes and a beard and a mustache to look like a boy.”

In 2017, the parents of another alleged victim, Joycelyn Savage, spoke out in a Buzzfeed report on Kelly's alleged sex cult.

Joycelyn Savage, an aspiring singer, met Kelly when she was 19 when he came to the Savages' Atlanta boutique in spring 2015. Timothy Savage said they had heard about Kelly's trial but because he was found not guilty, there was no alarm. When Kelly began mentoring Joycelyn during her freshman year of college in fall 2016, the disconnect began. Timothy and Joycelyn Savage haven’t seen their daughter in two years. They say she is “severely brainwashed.”

After the Savages came forward, Kelly began to strategize a way to push back. “The first thing was to put Joycelyn in front of the camera on TMZ,” his former employee said. “Which is something he ordinarily would have not done, but because they said that Joycelyn was being held against her will he had to clean it up.”

In the July 2017 video interview, Joycelyn Savage denied her parents claims. Kelly’s former employee said Kelly scripted her response.

In a later May 2018 TMZ report, Joycelyn Savage and Dominique Gardner were spotted together in Beverly Hills, California. Kramer, who was also in Los Angeles filming the documentary, took this as an opportunity to track down her daughter.

Kramer went to the hotel she thought Gardner would be staying. The hotel manager agreed to take Kramer to her daughter’s room. When her daughter opened the door, they spoke briefly and Gardner told her mother to come back in the evening.

When Kramer returned, she was ordered to leave the premises because Gardner called 911 and claimed Kramer was not her mother. Kramer didn’t believe this and was able to reach her daughter on the phone. By the end of the ordeal, Gardner grabbed a bag and left with her mother.

“We ran out of there like the master was coming for us,” said Kramer.

Viewers also heard an account from Kitti Jones, a former Dallas radio station DJ. She met Kelly when she was 33 at a party in 2011. Soon she quit her job and moved to Chicago to be with him. One day, Jones' friend asked her if she knew about Kelly’s alleged sex tape. “When I saw the images, the images were of the same girl that he introduced me to a couple weeks before,” said Jones.

When she confronted Kelly about the tape, he beat her. More abuse ensued. She had to ask permission to use the restroom and to eat. When Kitti finally left Kelly, she felt ashamed of her experiences.

Another alleged victim, Azriel Clary met Kelly at a concert she attended with her parents in Orlando, when she was 17. Kelly had picked her out of the crowd to come on stage. Her parents didn’t feel threatened, although they knew of Kelly’s reputation. “Me being a protective father I’m okay with it because I don't think none of this can happen to me,” said Angelo Clary. After the show, Azriel sang for Kelly backstage and he gave her his number.

Days later, Azriel Clary’s parents found out she was at a hotel in Kissimmee, Florida meeting with Kelly by herself. Her parents traveled to the hotel to get their daughter. The Clarys did attempt to work with Kelly on their daughter’s music career. But instead, he isolated Azriel, too.

The final installment of Surviving R. Kelly features more survivor accounts and details how the narrative around R. Kelly is finally shifting with the help of activism and social media.

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Jussie Smollett attends the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit at New York City Center on November 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

'Empire' Camp Says Jussie Smollett Never Complained About Salary

The accusations made towards Jussie Smollett in the alleged staged assault has those close to the actor-musician scratching their heads–including his Empire family.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter Thursday (Feb. 21), sources close Empire were surprised to hear a salary increase was the motive behind the actor's reported staged attack in January. The Illinois state prosecutor stated in a press conference Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate a homophobic racist attack in an effort to get his star rising and his pockets heavier. But those close to the Empire set believe that can't be the case since as he was most recently paid $125,000 per episode.

"I don't think it's true that he was unhappy with what he was being paid," the source told THR. "His representatives never once called and there was no effort to renegotiate. He's never expressed any dissatisfaction."

Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, Smollett's base pay was in the $40,000 to $50,000 region but after setting record-breaking ratings in the first season, the main characters received a big increase with Smollett receiving $125,000 per episode and esteemed actors Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard moving from $110,000-$120,000 per-episode to the  $225,000-$250,000 range. Aside from season one, there are 18 episodes from season two to season five.

The actor has officially been cut from the last two episodes of the fifth season to avoid "disruption on set."

"While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out, a statement from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer reads. "We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season."

Smollett has also maintained his innocence throughout the entire case. Alternative motives have pointed to a boost to his music career but the actor also seemed to be pleased with that as well.

Speaking to VIBE just after the release of his debut album Sum of My Music, the actor was pleased with his journey outside of Empire.

"Here’s the thing, I’m not ashamed of Empire songs. I wrote a lot of them," he said. Empire's soundtrack was a hit with fans as it climbed to the top of the Billboard charts in 2015.  "I’m proud of the work I’ve done with Empire. I just can’t be only Empire, that’s not all I am."

His project moved 7,000 units and views on his YouTube channel views have been modest with "Catch Your Eye" feature Swizz Beatz reaching 620,000 views and audio of "F.U.W." reaching 1.1 million spins. His most popular song on Spotify isn't an Empire-related track, it's "Ha Ha (I Love You)" from Sum of My Music.

As the case might to go trial, one can only hope the full truth will be revealed.

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Big Boi To Play Motown Founder Berry Gordy In DeBarge Biopic

Big Boi has reportedly been cast as Motown's legendary founder Berry Gordy in the upcoming biopic about Bobby DeBarge. The rapper confirmed the news on Instagram on Thursday (Feb. 21).

"Just finished playing Berry Gordy in the Debarge movie. Coming Soon," Big Boi announced on Instagram. The photo showed an acting chair with his name and Gordy's printed on the backrest.

Bobby DeBarge was the lead singer of R&B group Switch, an act signed to Gordy’s Motown Records imprint Gordy Records. Known for his  impressive falsetto, DeBarge quickly shot up to stardom during the late 70s. He later co-produced for his siblings' band, also named DeBarge, before joining the group himself.

Amidst his success in music, he struggled with substance abuse and legal issues. He died in Aug. 1995 of AIDS complications at the age of 39.

The Bobby DeBarge Story is slated to premiere on TV One sometime this year.

 

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Just finished playing Berry Gordy in the “ Debarge “ movie @swirlfilmsig 🎬🎥🔥 coming Soon ! 🆙

A post shared by Big Boi (@bigboi) on Feb 21, 2019 at 8:21pm PST

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Welcome To The Jam: 'Space Jam 2' Gets 2021 Release Date

It looks like we've got a real jam going down, and it will all happen in a few short years. According to Springhill Entertainment's Twitter page, the official release date for Space Jam 2 will be on July 16, 2021.

The follow-up to the 1996 Looney Tunes-heavy film starring Michael Jordan will star LeBron James this time around. Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler will produce it, and Terence Nance is directing, which were revealed in summer 2018 with a pretty cute promotional photo.

Filming will reportedly begin this summer, and we're certain we'll find out more high-profile cast members within the next year. James' production partner discussed the possibility of Michael Jordan appearing in the second film, but only time will tell.

"Michael Jordan is Michael F**kin' Jordan," said Maverick Carter. "It doesn't matter [if James] calls him, he's gonna do whatever the hell he wants, which he has earned that right to do."

The first film features basketball stars Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Larry Bird and more, and features a pretty memorable cameo by Bill Murray. Danny DeVito voices Swackhammer, the owner of outer space theme park Moron Mountain. He and his tiny group of aliens steal the talent of NBA players to win a basketball game against the Looney Tunes, which could determine the cartoons' fate.

July 16, 2021 🎥🏀🥕 #SaveTheDate pic.twitter.com/qV1Tnxuksd

— SpringHill Ent. (@SpringHillEnt) February 22, 2019

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