For years, the steady drip of allegations about R. Kelly’s proclivity for young women and teenagers as sexual partners failed to dent his box-office appeal.
Now, however, the R&B crooner is finally having to face falling ticket sales and a raft of canceled concerts, following a July report by BuzzFeed News that accused him of holding a number of young women in a “sex cult” based on court documents, police reports, and interviews with family members.
In response, Kelly has hired a high-powered, big-bucks crisis-management team to fight the claims, Page Six reports.
Kelly has for years been dogged by accusations of being a sexual predator with a penchant for underage girls. A video of the star urinating on a teenage girl became widely available as a bootleg in the early Aughts; he was acquitted on all charges arising from the recording in 2008.
Now multiple families have come forward to claim that he is housing their daughters in Chicago and Atlanta, where, the families allege, he brainwashes them and “records” them in sexual encounters.
The young women are said to be in their early twenties. One of them, Joycelyn Savage, gave a video interview in which she denied she was being held against her will.
Her father has said he believes she is suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and sympathizing with her captor.
Up until now, Kelly’s career has proved to be remarkably resistant to the persistent allegations against him.
In a message to his fans about the latest report, Kelly said simply: “It’s a bunch of crap.”
“Despite all of the crap y’all hearing, I will be coming to the East Coast to do my show, and believe me, y’all, it’s a bunch of crap,” Kelly said in the clip.
However it appears the new allegations are hurting Kelly’s bottom line, with Page Six reporting that poor ticket sales have seen concert dates canceled in Dallas, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The tabloid also reported Kelly’s booking agency, Monterey International, plans to cut ties with him this week, according to sources.
A key part of Kelly’s strategy to fight the allegations, according to Page Six, is to discredit the families who have made the accusations that he’s holding their girls hostage.
After Joycelyn Savage told TMZ that she’s happy living with Kelly, and slammed her father’s allegations, a source told Page Six: “They’re working on a plan to portray Jocelyn’s father as having... encouraged the relationship with R. Kelly. They want to make it look like Kelly rescued her from her father.”
Kelly has retained former Bill Cosby lawyer Monique Pressley to manage the crisis, and is paying her $50,000 for 30 days.
“She signed on to do damage control,” the source said.
In the BuzzFeed report, three sets of parents claimed the singer is holding their daughters in an abusive “cult.”
Three former associates of the singer also spoke with reporter Jim DeRogatis, repeating the parents’ accusations and adding details of their own—one said “he is a master at mind control.”
According to the parents and former associates, Kelly is keeping as many as six young women at his homes in Atlanta and Chicago.
The report states that he replaces their cellphones with ones specifically used to communicate with him and forbids them to contact their families. The report also alleged that Kelly requires they call him “Daddy” and ask permission to leave the studio or their residences and films their sexual encounters with him.
Through attorney Linda Mensch, R. Kelly has issued a denial, saying in a statement, “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.”