Helping one’s child accomplish his or her dreams is one of the most exciting, yet quite often worrying, time in a parent’s journey. Naturally, some parents will stop at nothing to help their children succeed, but what happens when all that effort is channeled down the wrong avenue?
In the case of parents J. and Tim, the result can be devastating.
On Monday, BuzzFeed News published an article titled, “R. Kelly Is Holding Women Against Their Will In A “Cult,” Parents Told Police.”
Two of the parents referenced are J., a “devoted stage mom” and Tim, a car dealer.
They told BuzzFeed that, a few years ago, they decided to uproot their lives and move from Memphis to Atlanta to help their oldest child’s career in the music industry take off.
J. said it wasn’t long before she and her daughter seemingly made the one connection that would lead to a big break:
“When we got to go backstage with R. Kelly, we stayed there over two hours. One-on-one with just me and my daughter and him. We went back to talk about the music. He listened to her CD. He was going to help her with her CD, and I was really impressed with him at first, because I have always been an R. Kelly fan.”
But J., vaguely aware of 50-year-old R. Kelly’s past of sexual abuse allegations, among a slew of other accusations, told BuzzFeed those concerns didn’t really sink in, and that as a hands-on mom, she felt comfortable having her 19-year-old daughter around Kelly, so long as someone was there to supervise:
“In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her. It didn’t really hit home. Even with the Aaliyah situation, now that I think about it, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number’ … but you don’t think about that. You grew up with the song, and you like the song.”
Sadly, that’s when the communication between J. and her daughter went awry. After a little while, J. believed Kelly had lost interest in her daughter’s musical potential:
“As far as I know, we weren’t talking to [Kelly] anymore. Or at least I wasn’t talking to him anymore.”
But in June 2015, just one month after Kelly and J.’s daughter initially met, her daughter snuck off to see the singer in person.
She covered up her real intentions by telling J. and Tim she was going to visit a Georgia university over the weekend, but actually flew to Oklahoma to see one of Kelly’s performances.
According to BuzzFeed, she later revealed to her parents that that was the night she first had sex with Kelly.
Today, J. and her husband rarely see or hear from their daughter, as allegations are coming forward that Kelly actually keeps women against their will in his Atlanta and Chicago properties.
J. and her husband believe their daughter has fallen victim to Kelly’s “cult” of women.
Multiple sources told BuzzFeed that Kelly takes away the girls’ phones, and provides them with one himself, controlling and restricting their use of it to contact anyone other than him.
According to former members of Kelly’s circle, Kelly “controls every aspect of [the women’s] lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records,” through the cult.
As for the last time J. saw her child, she said she wasn’t the same girl:
“It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible. I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her.”
J. continued, saying that although her daughter does, on rare occasions, reach out on a phone Kelly provided, she has no idea how to help:
“I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
However, that’s not to say she hasn’t wholeheartedly tried.
A former business owner, J. reportedly closed all of her ventures and has since become an “amateur detective,” providing the FBI, and officials in two different states, with her findings.
By the middle of the fall semester in 2016, J. and Tim’s daughter’s whole appearance and behavior began to change. She reportedly lost a notable amount of weight, chopped, permed, and dyed her hair — telling friends that’s how Kelly liked it — and cut class, even missing final exams.
During this time, J. said her daughter already had cut off contact:
“My calls were all forwarded to voicemail.”
J. and Tim have gone down multiple avenues for help — campus police, state and local police, as well as the FBI — however, no evidence has been found proving foul play, and no law enforcement can remove a seemingly consenting adult from a relationship.
Just because J. knows where her daughter is and whom she is staying with doesn’t mean the police can take action. In the law’s eyes, J.’s daughter is a consenting adult — when police did perform a welfare-safety check, no evidence suggesting abuse or violence was found.
However, many people are claiming otherwise.
Mack, Kelly’s former personal assistant of over a year, told Buzzfeed:
“[The women think, at first glance] ‘This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle.’ No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”
Mack also told BuzzFeed another disturbing detail, saying that when other men are around, Kelly makes the women wear “jogging suits” to hide their physiques:
“He doesn’t want their figures to be exposed; he doesn’t want them to look appealing. [He] would make the girls turn around and face the wall in their jogging suits because he doesn’t want them to be looked at by anyone else.”
Jones, a woman who claimed to have lived with and carried on a sexual relationship with Kelly within the last five years, told BuzzFeed that if a woman breaks one of Kelly’s “rules,” he physically and verbally punishes them, citing a 2013 incident in which Kelly felt she had flirted with a Subway cashier and slapped her afterwards.
According to BuzzFeed, two other sets of parents have attempted to take legal action against Kelly in hopes of gaining their daughters back, but, so far, nothing has worked.
One of the mothers, who chose to go by her middle name, Theresa, told BuzzFeed:
“My thing was I trusted. I have never been in the music industry before, ever. He is a lyrical genius — he is R. Kelly! And the fact is he went to court, he was never found guilty — he was acquitted — and we were led to believe there was no truth in it. Now I got all of these people asking about why my daughter is there, telling me, ‘All of that, the charges against Kelly, was true.’ Well, how come you didn’t tell me that before?”
Theresa said her daughter was just 17 years old when Kelly first began pursuing her. She told BuzzFeed that, like other parents, none of her actions have worked in getting her little girl back:
“I desperately want my daughter back but I’m not [sure] what will [be] the repercussions if she doesn’t come willingly. These girls think this man loves them. Matters of the heart are a touchy subject.
I have not talked to my daughter in more than a year. We’ve had deaths in the family, birthdays, and I haven’t heard from her and she hasn’t been here for any of it. I didn’t even hear from her on Mother’s Day. All I want to do is bring her home.”
BuzzFeed reported that multiple attempts to reach Kelly were unsuccessful, but his attorney, Linda Mensch, responded via email. She wrote:
“We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life. He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”
On Tuesday, J. and Tim’s daughter spoke out to TMZ, negating her parents’ claims, saying:
“I’m 21, I’m about to be 22 in a few days and I just mainly want to say that I am in a happy place with my life and I’m not being brainwashed or anything like that. “
After the BuzzFeed article was published, Kelly’s attorney has come forward, yet again, with a scathing response to the allegations. In a statement to People, she said:
“Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him. Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name.”
Kelly, himself, has not publicly commented on the accusations, but he’s currently touring the nation, with the next scheduled performance in Virginia Beach on July 28.