R. Kelly’s former girlfriend, Dominique Gardner, spoke out publicly for the first time since leaving the R&B singer. Gardner was featured in Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary fleeing a hotel with her mother, Michelle Kramer.
In a New Yorker interview with Jim DeRogatis, the reporter who has been writing about the Kelly allegations for two decades, Gardner gave a peek into her conflicted and complex feelings towards the R&B singer.
“He is a giver, because when everything between me and him was good—oh, my God, it was, like, perfect,” Gardner shared. “But, as soon as he gets mad, he turns into a person like, oh, what up, the new Rob.”
Although Kelly is currently facing nearly a dozen federal counts of criminal sex abuse, Gardner doesn’t think he deserves jail time. Instead, Kelly should be on “house arrest in a music studio” and a live-in 24-hour “therapist,” said Gardner. She sympathized with Kelly being a victim of child molestation (in an interview with Gayle King last week, Kelly professed his innocence and denied that the abuse that he endured as a child had an effect on him). Gardner didn’t watch his entire interview with King, but doesn’t think that Kelly was being “genuine” during the sit-down.
“That’s the devil talking,” she said. “Talking about ‘I’m not Lucifer.’ Yes, you are.”
Gardner, who has two tattoos of Kelly’s face on her body, rejected the sex “cult” allegations and denied being “brainwashed” by him. That said, the picture that she paints of their relationship is one of control and abuse.
“I am not just about to spread lies about him,” she said while describing their nine years together. “I wouldn’t even say [he played] ‘mind games.’ It was just the fact that he tried to break me. I couldn’t be broken. He wanted that control over me, and I wouldn’t give him that power. So, he figured, like, If I don’t give her food, she’ll come around. Nope. I’d rather die than come around and give you my soul.”
The 27-year-old Chicago native met Kelly in 2009, thanks to her friend Jerhonda Pace. Gardner said that she was 17-year-old (the age of consent in Illinois) when she began a sexual relationship with Kelly. She started seeing him while she lived at home in Chicago, but eventually dropped out of school and moved to Atlanta into a house with five of Kelly’s permanent “girlfriends,” along with other women. According to the interview, Kelly’s behavior “changed” when they got to Atlanta. Gardner also confirmed reports that Kelly made the women ask to do everything from using the bathroom, to getting something to drink. “That’s not living, that’s not normal,” she said.
Gardner added that Kelly’s current girlfriends, Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary, can walk away whenever they want. The final straw for Gardner was Kelly refusing to let her to go to her brother’s graduation. “I’d still be there, but, when he told me ‘No’… I’m, like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ You don’t let people see their families, I guess, because we might realize how much freedom and happiness we have out there with our families.”
Among the group, Gardner saw herself as the rebel who was reprimanded in the form of physical attacks from Kelly, including being beaten with an extension chord and him pulling her hair out because she threw a carrot at him.
“Every time I looked in his eyes, I knew he was sorry. Like, when he hit us, hit me, he was, like, he apologized,” she recalled. “Like, he said, ‘I done did some things, and I apologize for it.’ But enough was enough. Yes, you did say, ‘I’m sorry.’..But, then again, you do it again when s**t don’t go your way.”
Gardner made it clear that she doesn’t wants to remain private and isn’t “playing victim” because she said that she’s not totally innocent. And she hasn’t watched the Lifetime documentary. “What’s the point of seeing it when I lived it?” said Gardner. “People are using it as entertainment, when it wasn’t entertainment for me.”
Read the full interview here.