Lifetime’s R. Kelly Docuseries Includes His Family — These Are Their Stories

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Content Warning: The following article may be triggering for victims of abuse.
Depending on how you want to start the new year, you might be looking for some lighter fare, or maybe you want to jump right into the thick of it with the second installment of the Surviving R. Kelly series. Yes, considering how incredibly well-received (and harrowing) 2019’s original six-part documentary was, Part II: The Reckoning has now been released exactly one year later. The Lifetime doc once again dives into the lives — both then and now — of R. Kelly’s (real name: Robert) accusers, including his family members. 
Part II: The Reckoning, this time a five-part season, has only aired one episode so far, and already we’re in the deep of Kelly’s harrowing alleged actions. While over the years, due to the nature of the ongoing legal cases and accusations against Kelly, we’ve learned a lot about his accusers, and the series actually gives us the opportunity to hear directly from them. Part II also features interviews with Kelly’s brothers and sisters, along with mentions of Kelly’s mother and former wives. 
Since the series picks up almost right where it left off in 2019, here’s what you need to know about Kelly’s family. 

Joanne Kelly, R. Kelly's Mother

Kelly’s mother passed away in 1993 (the identity of his father has never been made public). In interviews, Kelly has talked about how he was close with his mother growing up, and she worked as a schoolteacher. In a 2016 interview with GQ, Kelly explained that he had been by his mother’s side during her final days. However, in Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly, it’s alleged that Kelly actually grew apart from his mother and that he supposedly refused to take care of her medical bills. 

Theresa Kelly, R. Kelly's Sister

Kelly’s older sister allegedly molested him (and his brothers) as children, allegations she denies. In an interview with “Unwine with Tasha,” Kelly's brother Carey claims that, growing up, the two were forced to perform sexual acts while Theresa was babysitting them and their mother was at work. Supposedly, they have not seen each other since their mother’s funeral in 1993, but have spoken on the phone, the last time around 2008.
Theresa has not participated in either Surviving R. Kelly series and there’s no concrete information as to where she is or what she is currently doing (as far as anyone can tell, she doesn’t have any form of social media).  

Carey Kelly, R. Kelly's Brother

Carey is a rapper and songwriter himself, and currently performs under the name “Carey Killa.” One of his latest tracks is a diss aimed at his brother, titled “I Confess.” In an interview with Good Morning America after the airing of Part I, Carey explained that he believes his brother is guilty. "They have evidence, they have facts, they have DNA. They're not building a case based on what people are just saying," he said. "I would like to see him get help. If he's found guilty of these allegations and these charges, he has to deal with that."
In Part II, Carey claims that he once saw a video of Kelly with underage girls after he borrowed a movie. “I put the tape in, and what’s on this tape is these little girls that he done filmed over. He asked these girls on this tape, ‘How old are you?’ It was like he was interviewing them. And they were like, ‘13.’ These were white girls that were 13. In the system, [that’s] a different ballgame than a black girl that’s 13. He would have been gone," he alleged. Instead of doing anything with the alleged tape, Carey claims he gave it back to his brother and “he burned it up.”

Bruce Kelly, R. Kelly's Brother

At the time of filming for Part I, Bruce was serving time at Chicago’s Cook County jail for theft, burglary, possession of a controlled substance and an outstanding arrest warrant. If you’re wondering where he is for Part II, he’s at least in a different location, but still in prison. He’s currently at the Shawnee Correctional Facility in Illinois for possession of a controlled substance, burglary, violation of electronic monitoring, and theft. He is currently scheduled to be released on September 11, 2021. 
Out of all his family members, Bruce is the only one who has taken Kelly's side. In an interview with CBS Chicago after the airing of Part I, from inside the prison, Bruce stated that “I don’t believe these charges are true…I don’t believe these women are being truthful. I don’t.” He later went on to explain that if he saw his brother, he would hug him and tell him he loves him (the two were actually in the Cook County jail together for a short time, but never crossed paths). 
In Part II, Bruce claims, from prison, that he did witness Kelly confessing to his actions, to a female pastor who was visiting their house. “He was pointing to a walk-in closet with shelves full of videotapes,” Bruce claims. “He was telling the pastor, ‘I look at those videotapes and I [fuck] off.’ He was asking for help. Like, ‘I have a problem.’ That’s the only time I think Robert admitted he has a problem. I think it’s a sexual problem. A sexual addiction.”

Joann Kelly, R. Kelly's Daughter

Kelly’s oldest daughter, Joann (named after his mother) is not on speaking terms with her father and hasn’t been for years. Following the airing of Part I, she shared a lengthy message on Instagram explaining her silence (she hadn’t commented publicly about his allegations until this point), writing:
“Anyone that knows me personally or has been following me throughout the years knows that I do not have a relationship with my father. Nor do I speak on him or on his behalf…I pray for all the families and women who have been affected by my father’s actions. Trust, I have been deeply affected by all of this.”
Growing up, she only learned about the allegations against her father via rumors in school. Now, as an adult, she’s built a music career of her own and explained to the Associated Press, “people [want] to work with me to spite him or people not wanting to work with me just because of who he is. I’ve definitely come across turmoil ... being judged for really no reason at all, just based off associations.”

Andrea Lee, R. Kelly's Ex-Wife

Lee and Kelly were married from 1996 to 2009, and she used to be one of his backup dancers. The couple had three children, Joann, Jay, and Robert Jr. When she first told Kelly she wanted to divorce in 2005, he allegedly hit her, causing Lee to file a restraining order against her then-husband. She eventually filed for divorce in 2006.
“I know the allegations against my husband don’t reflect on me as an individual,” she told Essence in 2009. “They don’t reflect on me as a mom or as a wife, and they don’t reflect on me in my everyday life.” Though originally she was hesitant to speak out about her former husband, she has since become more vocal about domestic abuse. 
For Part II, Lee did not actively participate. Instead, Lifetime used footage from Part I. In a TMZ article from December 2019, Lee claims that she will sue Lifetime for reusing this footage, and also for contacting her children again for interviews, something she claims she did not agree to. 

Aaliyah, Who Was Married To R. Kelly

Unfortunately, we can’t talk about one of Kelly’s ex-wives without talking about the other, which brings us to Aaliyah. Kelly and Aaliyah were married from 1995 to 1996 and at the time Aaliyah was only 15 years old. Kelly allegedly used bribes to get doctored documents that showed her as 18.
Aaliyah died in 2001 in a plane crash and was dating Damon Dash at the time. He appears in Part II and explains that Aaliyah “just said he was a bad man, and she left it at that. It made her so uncomfortable that I couldn’t know about it, because it would have made me too uncomfortable not to try to rectify that situation. But I just wouldn’t have been able to tolerate knowing certain things and being in the same room with certain people."
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).
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