“I paid for this name with blood, sweat, and tears” R. Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly on why she’s involved with new Lifetime docu-series

The upcoming Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly, will allow viewers to hear directly from women who say the Grammy-winning singger abused them.

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A New York screening of the upcoming Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly was evacuated recently because of a bomb threat, but organizers are not backing down from sharing their work. If anything, the incident has increased their resolve to make sure women and girls are heard.

Brie Miranda Bryant, Lifetime’s senior vice president of unscripted programming, held a press call with Black Women’s Blue Print, the NAACP, Color of Change and three women featured in the documentary—Lizette Martinez, Andrea Kelly, and Lisa Van Allen.

“This is a story about resilience,” Bryant said, “and about people standing together.”

Due to privacy concerns and heightened security after the bomb threat, future screenings will not be announced in advance.

For Lizette Martinez, who says she had an abusive sexual relationship with R. Kelly that began when she was a teenager, the threat was disheartening and scary. “The fact that someone felt the need to call in the threat was a sign that there are people trying to silence this story.”

R. Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly was even more adamant. “We won’t be silenced,” she said. As if speaking directly to those responsible, “You don’t put out a fire with gasoline. You have only heightened curiosity and brought us closer together.”

Kelly maintains that she stands with not just survivors of R. Kelly but for all survivors of abuse from anyone. “Abuse is abuse,” she said, “and it’s wrong.” Kelly hopes that her name helps add legitimacy to the project, “I paid for this name with blood, sweat, and tears. I’m now using this name to bring and shed light on domestic abuse.”

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Surviving R Kelly thegrio.com

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 04: (L-R) Lizzette Martinez, Andrea Kelly, Lisa Van Allen, Tarana Burke, Kitti Jones, Jerhonda Pace, Asante McGee and Gretchen Carlson attend Lifetime / NeueHouse Luminaries series ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ documentary screening and conversation at Neuehouse NY on December 04, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images for A+E)

A Reckoning

The allegations against R. Kelly go back more than 20 years. Yet, for the majority of that time, he consistently sold out shows and his music topped Billboard charts. As of late though, R. Kelly has encountered pushback at his performances. Since the #MuteRKelly campaign kicked off in 2017, R. Kelly concerts all over the country have been heavily protested and even cancelled in some instances. The platinum-selling singer’s ex-wife thinks that hitting his pockets is a good strategy.

“No one is doubting that the music is good, we all know and love the music,” she says, “but his financial backing is what is allowing him to be able to do this. It’s the money behind the music that makes what he does possible. It pays for the security, transportation, and the apartments where he is able to keep these women.”

Since the numerous accusations against R. Kelly have become mainstream, fans and non-fans alike are trying to understand how the singer could have gotten away with such horrific crimes for decades. Surviving R. Kelly details the extensive list of abuse allegations lodged against him and offers a platform for the women to directly share their stories.

In addition to conversations with those who say they survived R. Kelly’s abuse, the documentary also features interviews with the parents who believe their daughters are currently in “captivity” by the singer. “These are parents who haven’t spoken to their kids in some cases for years,” Kelly said, “They don’t know their welfare. They don’t know if their daughters are dead or alive.”

The #MeToo movement was recently criticized by its founder, Tarana Burke for not  addressing the concerns of lower income women and girls. This docu-series does just that by tackling sexual violence specific to everyday Black women, by one predator. “I am humbled and honored to sit in this position as an ex and mother of two of his children. I wear multiple hats,” noted Kelly. “I stand with open arms with both the parents and the victims. Not because I read about it, or heard about it, but because I lived their life. I lived this horror.”

Lifetime is encouraging viewers to live tweet during Surviving R. Kelly, which airs January 3-5, 2019. As a complement to the three-night event, the network has created a robust online resource guide to combat violence against women.

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