The late Aaliyah’s mother is speaking out regarding claims that recording artist R. Kelly had sex with her daughter when Aaliyah was underage.
Lifetime’s six-part documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, which premieres on the network Thursday at 9 p.m., alleges that the celebrated R&B singer is a perpetrator of sexual, physical, and mental abuse. These claims have followed Kelly throughout much of his career, but gained public attention once again in 2017, when Buzzfeed published a piece alleging that Kelly had held women in what was described as a “sex cult.’
In addition to celebrities like John Legend and Wendy Williams, the documentary series features interviews with women who claim to be survivors of or witnesses to Kelly’s alleged abuse. (Kelly has previously denied all abuse allegations.)
Former backup singer Jovante Cunningham, alleges that she once witnessed Kelly and Aaliyah — who died in a plane crash at age 22 in 2001 — having sex. Aaliyah was allegedly underage at the time.
"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. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah," Cunningham claimed in the documentary, adding that Aaliyah was a "child" at the time.
Rumors of a romantic relationship between Kelly and Aaliyah are not new. Reports claimed that the two secretly married in 1994 when Aaliyah was just 14.
However, in a new statement, Aaliyah’s mother Diane Haughton refutes the notion that Cunningham’s claim occurred.
"My husband and I were always on tour with [Aaliyah] and at interviews and every place she went throughout her entire career,” the statement, which was posted on an official Aaliyah Twitter account read. “Whoever this woman is [who is making the allegations], I have never seen her before anywhere on planet earth, until now."
ATT: 🚨#TeamAaliyah #Aaliyah ‘s Mom , Diane has made a statement in regards to the lies from the #Lifetime #RKelly documentary coming out. PLEASE RT to make this go viral! We can’t let @lifetimetv lie on @AaliyahHaughton this way! If you need the quote tweet me. Let’s do this! ✊ pic.twitter.com/0sOnGV0g6q— Aaliyah For MAC (@AaliyahForMac) January 2, 2019
"It’s unfortunate that there are still people trying to protect Robert when they know he has destroyed so many people’s lives. I loved Aaliyah and when people watch the documentary, they will see how much I cared for her and how much Robert’s actions deeply affected me and so many others."
According to TMZ, Kelly has threatened to sue Lifetime should the network air the documentary series.
Refinery29 has reached out to Kelly for comment.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).