After a weekend in police custody, R. Kelly posted $1 million in bail on Monday morning with the help of an anonymous donor. Attorneys identified the unknown woman, who contributed an astonishing $100,000 to the singer’s fund, only as “a friend” until Tuesday afternoon, when a Chicago reporter unveiled the mystery woman as 47-year-old Valencia Patrice Love—a former day-care secretary, a resident of the south Chicago suburb Romeoville, and the owner of a Blue Island breakfast joint called Love on the Blu.
But even after news broke of Love’s involvement, the circumstances surrounding her contribution to Kelly’s bail remained foggy. A dive into news reports, witness accounts, court documents, and interviews with Love’s friends, family, and co-workers reveals a bizarre trajectory wrought with ambiguous motives and contradictory claims.
By all accounts, Love has not known Kelly for more than a few months. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Kelly’s manager, Don Russell, alleged that Love first encountered the musician, who has been indicted on 10 counts of sexual abuse involving four women, in September of 2018 on a Lake Michigan cruise ship called the “Spirit of Chicago.” The two reportedly reconnected five months later, when news outlets alleged that the R&B singer could not make bail (Kelly’s attorney denied the claim). After Love read the reports, Kelly’s manager recalled, she contacted Kelly’s associates and offered her assistance. “She wanted Rob to have a chance at justice, and she thought he’d have a better chance outside of jail than inside,” Russell told the Sun-Times. (Russell did not respond to multiple requests for comment). But a woman who called the Sun-Times and identified herself as Love disputed the manager’s account, without providing an alternate story.
On Tuesday, Love spoke briefly with Chicago news anchor Tia Ewing, reaffirming that the controversial R&B singer was her friend. “He’s my friend and I knew he needed help,” she told Ewing. “There are three sides to every story, his side, there’s [the alleged victims], and the truth.” Love confirmed that she had paid the singer’s bond—which a Cook County judge had set at $250,000 for each of his four accusers (Love contributed $25,000 to each case)—but declined to comment on where the money had come from. “It wasn’t my money,” Love told Ewing. “I’m not going to say whose money it is.”
The 47-year-old also told Ewing that Kelly was “not broke” and “was going to post bond by Thursday anyway.” The R&B singer has a notorious history of financial problems, including two house foreclosures and a lawsuit from July of 2018 which revealed that the singer owed at least $174,000 in rent for a Chicago recording studio. Last week, his attorney Steve Greenberg described Kelly’s finances in court as “a mess.”
But Love has an eventful financial history herself. In 2015, according to court documents, the restaurant entrepreneur filed for bankruptcy, citing $2,700 in parking ticket debt. Then, two years later, she and her husband each received $1.1 million in a settlement from Children’s Medical Hospital in Chicago, according to court documents. The couple had sued the hospital for wrongful death after their daughter died during a heart operation in their facilities. (Love could not be reached for comment.)
Over the years, Love worked a range of jobs. A former co-worker named Tobia Cockrell told The Daily Beast that she had worked with Love in telemarketing during the 2000s. Later, she got involved with a child care business called Lordanchild Christian Day Care. Inc, according to a corporation filing with the Illinois Secretary of State. Since news broke of her involvement with Kelly’s bail, Love has often been described as a “daycare owner.” But her role at Lordanchild may have been overstated. “She didn’t really work here,” the proprietor of Lordanchild, who asked not to be named, told The Daily Beast, “she was just on my board.” In a since-expired registration paper for Lordanchild, Love is listed as the secretary.
According to Lordanchild’s owner, the day care has been inundated with hostile messages since Monday. Comments poured onto their Yelp and Facebook pages, decrying the caretakers for “condon[ing] and support[ing] a known child molester,” as one angry reviewer wrote. The messages have grown so numerous that Yelp has temporarily suspended commenting for the page. But the comments have already taken a toll on employees, the proprietor said.
“We’re not trying to hurt anybody. I’m just an innocent victim trying to run a business. People are saying all kinds of things. We’re going to bomb you. Why would you bail him out. All sorts of things,” the Lordanchild spokeswoman told The Daily Beast. “Valencia Love doesn’t work here. She hasn’t since 2015... It’s like Trump says, they’re spreading fake news. I love the man. He may hate me because I’m black, but guess what, I love him because he honors the word of God.”
Love’s primary enterprise appears to be her breakfast restaurant, Love on the Blu. The relatively young restaurant opened early last year to moderate hype, earning a mention on Eater after hiring famous local chef Derek Rylon. It’s a quasi-family restaurant—Love’s cousin, Kenyotta Stewart, works as the joint’s general manager—but not everyone was on board for their boss’ vocal and financial support of Kelly. After word spread of Love’s donation, Stewart took to Facebook Live to disavow it, citing her own personal history of abuse. “If anybody knows me, they know I fucking hate pedophiles. I hate them with a fucking passion,” Stewart said. “So, no. I wouldn’t have given any money. Or taken anyone out of there. If anything, I would have paid to keep the motherfucker locked up.”
This past week, Love on the Blu has also seen a surge in hostile comments on Yelp. The reviewing website disabled messages for the restaurant, citing its appearance in the news, and comments attacking Love have, for the most part, been hidden by the website’s algorithm. But the restaurant is no stranger to negative comments—the place seems to waffle between furious one-star reviews and enthusiastic praise. Likewise, Love has had an active presence on the website, often leaving long replies to the bad reviews—at times apologizing, while bristling at others. One woman, a 25-year-old Chicago resident named Roseanna Gonzalez, told The Daily Beast that, after leaving an angry review, Love emailed her, called her a “jobless dumb bitch,” and asked if she was “retarded.”
Still, the restaurant has its fans. In February of last year, a Chicago YouTuber named Mack Julion, who records a series called For The Culture, posted a gushing video review, citing the “amazing” food, the “attentive” staff and the “real cool” atmosphere. The best part, Julion claimed, was the music. “The music was amazing,” he said. “Nice, cool ‘90s vibe. Some R&B. Some neo-soul.”