During episode three of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly: The Final Chapter, Nakia Vestal—Kelly’s former backup dancer who met him in November 1994—stated that Hankerson lied about what he knew during a 2021 interview with Dr. Oz.
Hankerson stated that he cut ties with the Chicago singer after he discovered that he was having an intimate relationship with Aaliyah, which Vestal labeled a lie because when she met Kelly, Hankerson was still working on business-related ventures with the crooner that year.
“I just remember hearing [him] on the radio,” Vestal said. “I was in Houston driving to work, and Barry Hankerson, his former manager, was saying, ‘Oh when I found out about him messing with my niece Aaliyah, I stopped working with him.’ Nov. of 1994, when I met him, Barry was still his manager. Barry ate breakfast with us.”
Jovante Cunningham, one of Robert’s former backup singers/dancers, also chimed in with additional disdain for Haughton’s uncle. She claimed that Barry was going to cut ties with Robert over the relationship but apparently decided to keep quiet on the matter and continue working and managing the 12 Play artist.
“Barry’s full of sh*t,” Cunningham said. “Barry knew exactly what was going on…I remember coming off tour and Robert saying that he wasn’t gonna renew his management contract with Barry,” she explained. “Barry said, ‘If you don’t renew my management contract, I’m gonna pull the plug on you and Aaliyah.’ And Robert didn’t, or so I thought. And maybe two or three days later is when we found out about the marriage. I didn’t know anything about it.”
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘You dirty motherf**ker.’ You would do this to your niece? You’re OK with this type of behavior? Wow.”
Lizzette Martinez, one of R. Kelly’s victims, began to analyze what they deemed to be a faulty narrative woven together by Hankerson. “I met Barry Hankerson in 1995 in January when I was 17 years old after the annulment of the marriage between Aaliyah and Robert,” she said. “For him to be sitting there with underage girls knowing what he had just done to his niece, I don’t know if I really have a lot of respect for this person.”
Later in the episode, Eboné Doyle, who met the “I Believe I Can Fly” artist when she was 16, talked about discovering a home video of Aaliyah and Kelly. She stated that he violently pushed her down the stairs when he returned to the house and realized she had been snooping in his belongings.
However, she was finally able to walk away from his controlling and grooming behavior once the musician began looking at her 12-year-old daughter in the same predatory manner.