R Kelly’s back-up singer recounts his sexual relationship with 15-year-old Aaliyah
A new documentary has revealed that R. Kelly had sex with 15-year-old Aaliyah.
In Lifetime’s upcoming Surviving R. Kelly, Jovante Cunningham claims to have witnessed the then 27-year-old commit statutory rape on the teen.
Looking back on being on the road with Aaliyah, she said, as reported by People. ‘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.’
Jovante continued: ‘So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing, when the [room] door flew open on the bus.,’ she recalled. ‘Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.’
When asked what she saw, Cunningham replied: ‘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.’
That same year, 1994, it was widely reported Kelly and Aaliyah had secretly married, though they both denied it.
A subsequently unearthed marriage certificate listed his 15-year-old protegee’s age as 18; her parents had it annulled the following year.
Aaliyah met Kelly though Barry Hankerson, her uncle and his manager.
‘Aaliyah [was] very tom-boyish, glasses, braces, no swag,’ Cunningham said of meeting the the then-12-year-old.
‘She truly was a beautiful young lady. We used to sneak Aaliyah out of the hotel room and take her all over the place. Those were the good old days,’ she said, adding: ‘but those are the things that also make you cry.’
Kelly went on to become her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her double platinum debut album, the uncomfortably titled Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.
Aaliyah cut ties with Kelly after the accusations of illegal marriage; she died in a plane crash in 2002 shortly after filming a music video in the Bahamas, aged just 22.
The eye-opening six-part docu-series interviews dozens of former friends, family members and colleagues, who all make grim claims about the singer abusing women and young girls.
In 2018, several women came forward claiming Kelly had been running a sex cult, and in May a woman filed a lawsuit against him claiming that he had treated her like a sex slave.
The woman, who is a former teenage girlfriend of R. Kelly – and is suing him for allegedly giving her herpes – claimed he also videotaped himself having non-consensual sex with her.