Aaliyah’s mother, Diane Haughton, who rarely speaks publicly about her late daughter, has emerged from the shadows to shoot down rumors heavily circulating about the singer’s alleged underage sexual relationship with R. Kelly.
Yahoo reports that Haughton said she’s tired of her daughter’s name getting “dragged through the mud with lies” after hearing a former back up singer’s claim that she witnessed the disgraced singer R. Kelly having sex with Aaliyah at the age of 15 inside a tour bus.
Jan. 3 -Jan. 5, Lifetime will air Surviving R. Kelly a six-part docu-series featuring the testimony of that back-up singer Jovante Cunningham and also a number of women who have accused the R&B singer of domestic abuse and sexual assault throughout his career.
Cunningham said she met R. Kelly at age 14 and claims she witnessed his sexual encounters with underaged girls in the ’90s, including late songstress Aaliyah Haughton. Kelly has been accused of running a sex cult.
“We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” Cunningham said in the first episode. “On a tour bus, there really aren’t many confined spaces. When you get on the bus there are bunks and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping.”
“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” she continued. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert (R. Kelly) was having sex with Aaliyah.”
In a statement, Aaliyah’s mother denied the claims: “the woman and so-called back up singer … that describes seeing, meeting or even breathing the same air as my daughter, Aaliyah, is lying and is a liar.”
Haughton pushed back further saying that she and her husband “always” accompanied Aaliyah on tour. Haughton said about the singer that she has “never seen her before anywhere on planet earth, until now.”
Haughton slammed Cunningham’s claims calling them “lies and fabrications” to soil Aaliyah’s legacy.
“My daughter only wanted to realize her dream of sharing her talent with the world, and give her all performing on stage, and in front of the camera for the fans she adored so much,” the statement continued. “She realized that dream thanks to those true fans who still love and support her legacy unconditionally to this day.
“Shame on all those involved in this project who thought it kosher to drag Aaliyah’s name into a situation that has nothing to do with her today,” Haughton concluded. “Once again, this will not be tolerated.”
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, reportedly married Aaliyah in 1994 in a secret ceremony when she was only 15, and allegedly forged a marriage certificate to say she was 18.
While the marriage has been in the public eye since Vibe Magazine published a copy of the marriage certificate, R. Kelly’s former personal assistant Demetrius Smith is also featured in the docu-series and reports that he witnessed the marriage take place and helped forged the documents to make it happen.
“I was in the room when they got married. I’m not proud of that. I had papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underaged. It was just a quick little ceremony, she didn’t have on a white dress he didn’t have on a tux. Just every day wear. She looked worried and scared,” Smith alleged. The marriage was purportedly annulled within the year as “her parents had the last say.”
As reported by PEOPLE, the first episode, airing Thursday, Jan. 3, includes an interview with former backup singer Jovante Cunningham, who met R. Kelly at age 14 and claims she witnessed his sexual encounters with underaged girls in the ’90s, including Aaliyah.
“Aaliyah [was] very tom-boyish, glasses, braces, no swag,” Cunningham describes of meeting the 12-year-old star in the making. Aaliyah became acquainted with Kelly through her uncle Barry Hankerson, his manager at the time.
“She truly was a beautiful young lady. We used to sneak Aaliyah out of the hotel room and take her all over the place,” says Cunningham. Asked to describe the moment she discovered R. Kelly, then 27, and 15-year-old Aaliyah had a sexual relationship, she explained.
“We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” she says. “On a tour bus, there really aren’t many confined spaces. When you get on the bus there are bunks and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping.
“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” Cunningham continues. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
She says Kelly was doing “Things that an adult should not be doing with a child.”
“I can’t stress to you how people are still suffering behind things that went on 20 years ago,” she added.
Will you be watching the docu-series?