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Singer R. Kelly attends the Ovadia & Sons front row during New York Fashion Week: Men's S/S 2016 at Skylight Clarkson Sq on July 14, 2015 in New York City.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ Part 6: Dismantling His Complex System of Alleged Abuse

The Lifetime documentary's final chapter details how survivors and activists are working to assure Black girls' lives matter.

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

In the final chapter of the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series, Azriel Clary’s situation escalated beyond her parents' control. In 2015, A'Iceis Clary went to Chicago to look after her younger sister Azriel while she worked with R. Kelly. A’Iceis felt Kelly was manipulating Azriel and so she tried to leave with her. But Kelly allegedly pulled Azriel back. A'Iceis called the police but they were unable to verify Azriel was being held against her will. After this, Kelly allegedly told his security to make her disappear. After carrying her out and dropping her off, his security allegedly threatened to kill Azriel and Clary's family if she were to say anything, she shared. The next day her parents flew to Chicago to meet with Kelly, who promised them he would bring a female guardian from his record label to look after Azriel until she finished her senior year of high school.

Presently, it’s been two years since they’ve seen Azriel. The documentary shows the parents recent attempt to find Azriel at Kelly’s studio in May 2018. When police said they didn’t have a legal reason to bust open the studio door, her parents stayed outside in hopes she’d come out. Azriel never appeared. Azriel’s father, Angelo Clary compared R. Kelly’s operation to that of a pimp. And given the freedom Kelly has had to allegedly behave in this way for decades, it becomes clear that more must be done to protect black girls and assure that their lives matter.

“Go look at Superfly and all those old ‘60s movies,” said Angelo Clary. “R. Kelly’s blueprint is the same as a pimp. And what he is doing is showing you, ‘I don't care how much you cry, ‘I want my daughter, I want my daughter,’ your daughter gon’ be whatever he want her to be until he's finished with her and give her back.”

After Azriel turned 18, the Clarys received an anonymous message connecting them with Joycelyn Savage’s parents. The Clarys were able to confide in them the emotional toll Kelly’s behaviors had on their families.

In 2017, they both requested the police in Chicago and Atlanta do wellness checks on Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary. But according to Kelly’s former employee, who appeared anonymously in the documentary, Kelly allegedly knew about the wellness checks before they happened because he had friends at the Chicago Police Department. After the wellness checks, police told the Clarys and Savages that their daughters were okay and appeared healthy.

Asante McGee, a former Kelly superfan, is another survivor who spoke about Kelly’s alleged sex cult. They met in 2013 when she was 35.

“He goes for the younger girls because they are weak minded, but if you’re older and he feels like you’re weak-minded he’s going to go for you too,” said McGee. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 40, if he could control you, that’s all he wants.”

Two years into the relationship he brought McGee to his rental property in Atlanta to live. McGee said other women were living in the house, too. When visiting the now vacant property for the film (Kelly was evicted in February 2018), McGee walked in a room that Kelly called “The Black Room,” a place where she said the most “degrading” things happened to her.

“Being in that house and witnessing [the abuse] with my own eyes, I regret not listening and believing the allegations that happened,” said McGee.

In May 2018, Faith Rodgers filed a lawsuit against Kelly, accusing him of infecting her with herpes and “mentally, sexually and verbally” abusing her. Rodgers met Kelly when she was 19 in March 2017. She said in May 2017, she was intimidated into having sex with Kelly. “I felt it was something I had to do,” Rodgers said. Kelly has not responded to Rodgers lawsuit.

By the end of 2017, Rodgers said she met Joycelyn Savage, who she described as robotic around Kelly. After walking away from the relationship in 2018, Rodgers connected with the Savages, who advised her to take a blood test, after they told her Joycelyn had an incurable sexually transmitted infection.

The stories of the Clarys, McGee, Rodgers, Savages and other victims were kept in the national conversation thanks to #MuteRKelly, a movement to end financial support for Kelly. Co-founders Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye launched the campaign in summer 2017 to stress the importance that Black women and girls are to no longer be ignored. #MuteRKelly supporters protested Kelly’s concerts nationally and called on Spotify to remove Kelly’s music from sponsored playlists.

“We still socially don’t perceive young black women as innocent and as deserving of protection,” said writer Mikki Kendall. “Somehow it’s their fault. When the reality is that the problem isn’t the girls, the problem is the predators.”

In 2018, more high-profile names in music began speaking out against R. Kelly, such as rapper Vince Staples in April and Chance the Rapper in May).

In May 2018, the Women of Color of #TimesUp, which included Ava Duvernay and Viola Davis, supported the cause. When #MeToo founder Tarana Burke asked veteran radio host Tom Joyner to stop playing his music, he complied. That was a big deal as much of his audience is the demographic supporting Kelly, Burke explained.

In response to the growing mainstream criticism, Kelly dropped a 19-minute track, I Admit” in May 2018.

As critics pointed out throughout the documentary, Kelly again used music to conceal his true nature in plain sight.

“It’s not like he’s hidden. But we have been afraid to look,” music critic Nelson George concluded.

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Don Cheadle as Mo in 'Black Monday,' Episode 4 ("295")
Erin Simkin/SHOWTIME

'Black Monday' Recap: Mo Feels The Weight Of Playing God

Another week, another dive into Black Monday. In this week's episode, “295,” Mo tries to salvage his plan to get the Georgina company’s shares after Blair and Tiffany Georgina’s surprise breakup in the previous episode threw a wrench in that plan. By the end of this week’s episode, Mo gets what he wants but it doesn’t go as planned. Don Cheadle told VIBE that Black Monday was “insane...in a good way,” and this episode shows just that, starting with Mo’s God complex.

Stop Trying To Be God

You need a certain cocktail of self-aggrandization and delusions of grandeur to walk around with a God complex. Mo has that cocktail coursing through his veins. The entire episode revolves around Mo’s attempt to control the actions of humans by placing them in certain situations he is sure will yield his desired results. Only someone blinded by their obsession with being right wouldn’t see having to fix a “foolproof” plan makes him a fool.

The writing expertly showed that when you play God your creation is your reflection, especially in the tense scene at Mo’s dining room table with Blair and Dawn. He turned Blair into a cocaine-addicted party animal to show him how empty life is without having someone you love. Then, in one scene, Dawn exposed how all Mo did was build Blair in his image without realizing that part of his plan was to inadvertently show Blair just how miserable Mo really lives.

Even ostensibly innocuous details carry a huge emotional weight thanks to Black Monday’s writing and Cheadle’s consistently engaging performance. The writers literally had Mo on the outside looking in at forces out of his control at the end of the episode when he’s looking into the bar. It’s at this climactic moment of the show that Mo realizes his own mortality by getting what he wants but missing out on what he knows he needs.

It’s also at this moment that the show’s most boring lead character grew into someone worth watching.

Blair Is Here

For the first three episodes, Blair was as interesting as paint on the wall; always in front of your face but in the back of your mind. Before a single character utters a word in this episode, Blair is chain-smoking cigarettes, snorting coke and dressed like a Saturday Night Fever extra. He died “for a song and a half” and was electroshocked back to life, all in the first minute of the new episode. Blair has finally joined the Black Monday party and the show is better for it.

Mo molding Blair into his image allowed Blair to tap into a new level of confidence.  Blair’s exchange with Dawn about the implicit racism and sexism in 1980s films like Teen Wolf was rewind-worthy hilarious and ends with Blair remarking, “My favorite line from the movie is, ‘I’m not a f*g, I’m a werewolf. Oh, Michael J,” easily one of the funniest 1980s critiques on a show full of them.

The episode also entangled Blair in the show’s first love triangle, ensuring that Blair’s character growth is probably not done. With Blair now being compelling, following Dawn and Keith’s character-defining performances in the previous episode, Black Monday has set up its four most accomplished actors to be able to carry entire story arcs without relying on each other. But, the Black Monday world got bigger than those four in this week’s episode.

The Wall Street Mythology

There’s not enough time in a 30-minute episode to flesh out every character’s backstory and fully formed personality. The most surprisingly funny part of episode “295” was the story arc of Jammer Group traders Keith and Yassir (Yassir Lester) trying to stop Wayne (Horatio Sanz) from completing a “The LaGuardia Spread”. The arc showed that Black Monday has an ingenious way of speeding up character development: mythologize Wall Street.

On Black Monday, “The LaGuardia Spread” is when a trader takes a huge position on a stock, goes to LaGuardia Airport and waits to see if they made a huge profit or debilitating loss. If you guess right, you come home. If you guess wrong, “you don’t come home ever. You get on a plane and you f**king disappear,” according to a frantic Keith. Wayne was nothing more than a bumbling joke punchline of a trader before this episode. In only a few minutes of screentime we find out Wayne slept with his wife’s sister, has some weird dislike for The Howard Stern Show’s weekly guest Jackie Martling, and is so money hungry that he’d be giddy at the news of a mad cows disease epidemic and it’s positive effect on his “LaGuardia Spread” trade.

A similar result happened before on Black Monday. In the series premiere, the Lehman twins (Ken Marino) laid out the Georgina Play, the foundation of Mo’s plans to get all the shares from the Georgina company from Blair after he marries Tiffany. That Wall Street myth led to their grandfather setting himself on fire. That myth also showed that at any moment any person you see on screen become valuable because of what they about know how this fictionalized world works. As long as Black Monday continues to use the inherent absurdity of Wall Street as a machine for character development, this show could begin entering the conversation for one of the best ensemble casts on television.

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Actor Kel Mitchell and actor Kenan Thompson attend the 50th Annual Writers Guild of America Awards on February 21, 1998 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd/WireImage)

Kenan Thompson Says Kel Mitchell Will Appear In Revamped 'All That' Series

Pretty much everyone who was a fan of 90s Nickelodeon staple All That was thrilled to hear Kenan Thompson's role of executive producer in the revamped series. Now more great news has arrived as the comedian shared that Kel Michell will also return to the sketch comedy show.

Speaking with Page Six at the Writers Guild Awards Sunday (Feb. 16), Thompson shared his hopes to bridge the gap between the original cast and new members.

“Whoever’s down to [come to] do it, we would love to have them in my opinion,” Thompson said. “I know Kel [Mitchell’s] coming back, and I remember working close [sic] with Josh Server as well. I think all the old cast members should come support the new cast members. That’s just how it should go.”

Before their spinoff Kenan and Kel, the two were golden on All That with skits joint skits like Good Burger and solo characters Pierre Escargot and Repairman.

So far, things seemed to be going Thompson's way. Former All That alum  Danny Tamberelli also told Page Six he was thrilled to hear about the revival.

“I think it’s awesome!” Tamberelli said."All That was a show that reached out to so many kids from all different backgrounds and brought them all together through laughter.”

Tamberelli was apart of seasons four through six and was also one of the main character's on Nick's other enjoyable series, Pete and Pete.

Check out some memorable skits from All That below.

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Alberto E. Rodriguez

Jussie Smollett's Attorneys Deny Actor Paid $3,500 To Orchestrate Attack

Sources close to the Jussie Smollett investigation have spoken with several media outlets and allege new evidence shows the Empire actor may have orchestrated the attack, and even paid men $3,500 to go through with it.

The two men who are brothers were arrested Wednesday and released Friday (Feb. 15) without charges. Both men are cooperating fully with Chicago police, and authorities found records they purchased a rope at a local hardware store, which was used during the attack.

Smollett's attorneys, Todd S. Pugh, and Victor P. Henderson, quickly denied the claim made by authorities.

"As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," the statement read. "He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

On Jan. 29, Smollett was leaving a Subway fast-food restaurant when the actor alleges to have been attacked by two men who beat him, poured bleach on him and tried to hang a rope around his neck. The 35-year-old entertainer, who identifies as gay, said one of the men shouted "This is MAGA country" as well as other racial and homophobic slurs.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said one of the men appeared on Empire and have past affiliation with Smollett.

During his interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Thursday (Feb. 14), Smollett expressed frustration about not being believed. Sunday morning (Feb. 17) the hashtag 'JussieSmollettHoax' trended on Twitter. The Internet was split with many offering a digital "I told you so" due to the reports, while others, particularly members of the black LGBTQ community, questioning why many were quick to believe the word of law enforcement.

Us straight men waiting on the LGBT community to apologize after Jussie lied pic.twitter.com/0PDmNX4ykZ

— Flickens McCray (@Mickens__) February 17, 2019

https://twitter.com/angryblkhoemo/status/1096967004517515266

No idea what actually happened w/ Jussie Smollett. But do know that 4 years ago, Chicago PD spent 13 months justifying Laquan McDonald’s murder before releasing dashcam video showing he was walking away before being shot at 16x by an officer. Why are we just accepting their word?

— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) February 17, 2019

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