The first two episodes of the six-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, which aired on Lifetime Thursday evening, are the most harrowing look yet at the accusations of abuse and sexual misconduct against the singer. The series, created by dream hampton, features interviews with survivors, his family, his exes, as well as celebrities. Notably, singer John Legend appeared in the first episode, but Hampton says he was one of few celebrities willing to speak for the series.
"It was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated [artistically] with Kelly to come forward," she said. "We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle. [They're] people who have been critical of him. That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me." In a separate interview with Shadow and Act, hampton said she also got refusals from Mary J. Blige, Lil Kim, and Questlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson). Thompson later claimed on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet that he'd refused to participate because he was asked to speak about Kelly's "genius" and not the alleged abuse.
"I was asked to talk about his genius. I do not nor have I EVER stanned for him," the producer wrote. Thompson has since been actively tweeting about the series.
Refinery29 has reached out to the celebrities who reportedly declined to appear in the documentary for comment. In the wake of its premiere, most celebs have been quiet on social media — except for Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor Terry Crews.
"So proud of the women telling their truth tonight," Crews wrote on Twitter. "It's finally time for the music industry to be held ACCOUNTABLE."
The next two episodes of Surviving R. Kelly will air Friday, January 4 and the final two Saturday, January 5 on Lifetime.
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).