The rising outcry against R. Kelly has picked up many prominent celebrity voices, both before and after the release of Surviving R. Kelly.
Kelly has been accused of sexual assault, imprisonment, brainwashing and even operating a "sex cult." The accusations go back over two decades, yet the singer has been cleared in court on the rare occasions his cases made it that far. In the wake of the Me Too movement, however, the outrage may be reaching its zenith.
Lifetime released a docu-series titled Surviving R. Kelly this month, recounting the allegations against him from the accusers themselves. The similarities between their stories are striking, and some experts also helpfully explain how and why the crimes could have been covered up. Kelly continues to deny all the allegations against him, yet more and more people are adding their voices to those of the victims.
That includes some big celebrity names, some of whom risk quite a bit by coming out against Kelly. Artists who have collaborated with him in the past, or stand to profit from collaborating with him again in the future, have nonetheless taken up the call. They have united under the hashtag "Mute R. Kelly," demanding that he finally face some consequences for his alleged abuse.
Here are some of the biggest stars to call Kelly out.
We should all thank my friend @dreamhampton for her very necessary work to create #SurvivingRKelly. These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard. I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice.— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 4, 2019
John Legend drew a line in the sand when it comes to Kelly, as he was featured heavily in the docu-series. He spoke about the cultural impact of Kelly's actions over the years in and out of the music industry. Earlier this month, he posted a tweet explaining why he decided to speak out.
To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn't feel risky at all. I believe these women and don't give a fuck about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision.— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 4, 2019
“To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn’t feel risky at all. I believe these women and don’t give a f— about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision,” he wrote. “These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard. I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice.”
Surviving R. Kelly was an eye-opening experience for Lady Gaga, who had collaborated with Kelly in 2013 on a song called "Do What U Want." In response to the documentary, she had the song removed from iTunes and streaming services last week.
“I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously," she said in a public statement. "What I am hearing about the allegations against R Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible. As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and the video at a dark time in my life. … I’m sorry, both for my poor judgment when I was young, and for not speaking out sooner. I love you.”
This is a reminder of women sticking together— and not letting a man take ownership of a great song/ moment... And if anything the message of this song remains that although you may have had my body, you will never have my heart, my voice my life or my mind. pic.twitter.com/fb4TdeR4eQ— Christina Aguilera (@xtina) January 11, 2019
Christina Aguilera's address of the controversy closely followed Lady Gaga's, as it was somewhat related. She appeared on a remix of "Do What U Want" without Kelly on it, and she praised Gaga for sticking to her principles through a tricky situation.
“This is a reminder of women sticking together — and not letting a man take ownership of a great song/ moment," she wrote. "If anything the message of this song remains that although you may have had my body, you will never have my heart, my voice my life or my mind."
Being a survivor of past predators myself, these lines spoke to me, which is why I did the song. I embrace all survivors of sexual and domestic violence and abuse holding a special place in my heart, and you @ladygaga, for doing the right thing! ? pic.twitter.com/VDsfzb0gyw— Christina Aguilera (@xtina) January 11, 2019
Aguilera was candid about her own experiences as well, planting her feet firmly on the side of the survivors.
“Being a survivor of past predators myself, these lines spoke to me, which is why I did the song," she wrote. "I embrace all survivors of sexual and domestic violence and abuse holding a special place in my heart, and you @ladygaga, for doing the right thing!”
Surviving R. Kelly left an impression on Chance the Rapper as well, and made him regret his 2015 collaboration with Kelly on "Somewhere in Paradise." He addressed the situation on Twitter just a few days after the documentary aired, calling the song a "mistake."
“I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out," he wrote.
Jada Pinkett Smith has cultivated an atmosphere of open and nuanced dialogue on her show Red Table Talk on Facebook. She dedicated two episodes to Surviving R. Kelly, and explained why in an Instagram post.
“It’s important we have conversations with both our daughters and sons around the many issues in this docuseries," she wrote. "It’s well done and makes it clear that we gotta do better... in so many ways.”
Of course, one of the most shocking call-outs to some people was from R. Kelly's daughter, Joann Kelly. She took to Instagram last week with a heartfelt message to the survivors who appeared in the documentary.
“I pray for all the families & women who have been affected by my father’s actions," she wrote. "Trust, I have been deeply affected by all of this... The same monster you all confronting me about is my father. I am well aware of who and what he is. I grew up in that house. My choice to not speak on him and what he does is for my peace of mind. My emotional state. And for MY healing.”
Actress and singer Keke Palmer addressed how many people are feeling in the wake of the documentary. She admitted that Kelly was an enormous influence on her musically as a young person, and that makes it all the more devastating to hear the allegations against him.
“Just finished Surviving R. Kelly and I have spent the last hour crying," she wrote on Instagram. "As a student of R. Kelly’s for the time I was and having been around his light and understanding the obstacles he overcame as a child to actually be birthed into the musical genius he is today... All to put others through the same darkness he was running from is the most disheartening thing to accept."
Nick Cannon also expressed guilt over his past collaborations with Kelly, and admitted that he may have been willfully ignorant of the singer's behavior. On Instagram, he wrote that he "turned a blind eye to a lot of the darkness in this industry."
“For far too long we have treated women like second class citizens, when in actuality they are the source, our core, and the Superior beings," he wrote. "But our insecurities, Egos, and lack of love has tried to prove otherwise. Therefore we have SEVERAL cases where we allow entertainers, executives, and every day individuals abuse and mistreat our life bearers and beautiful equals."
"It is no secret how men have misused their power to manipulate young emerging pop stars to seasoned Hollywood actresses and everyone in between. I have personally witnessed it and will no longer be silent about it," he finished.
Finally, actress Cara Delevingne, an early adopter of the Me Too movement and the call to "Mute R. Kelly" posted about the documentary last week, writing about how deeply it impacted her. To Delevingne, it was one more startling reason to keep on fighting injustice.
"I finished the Surviving R. Kelly documentary last night and I am so shocked and outraged at how long this has gone on," she wrote. "My heart goes out to all the victims of his emotional and physical abuse and their families. This man is a predator that feeds of power and in my opinion is far worse than Harvey Weinstein and needs to be held accountable."
“Every time I say something real, something I truly believe, something others may think of as controversial, something that makes people think and ask questions, I lose followers,” she went on. “Goodbye silence and backwards followers, hello confrontation and forward thinkers. It’s going to be a loud year xxx #MuteRKelly.”