In Lifetime’s new six-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, one of the troubled R&B singer’s former backup singers claims to have witnessed his sexual encounters with underage girls — including Aaliyah. Now Haughton is calling the woman “a liar.”
Jovante Cunningham was on tour with R. Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, in the ’90s and alleges her boss and his protégée began a sexual relationship when he was 27 and Aaliyah just 15. “We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” Cunningham said in the first episode. “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.”
“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” she continued. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
In a statement, Haughton said, “the woman and so-called back up singer … that describes seeing, meeting or even breathing the same air as my daughter, Aaliyah, is lying and is a liar.” Haughton noted she and her husband were “always” on tour with Aaliyah and that have “never seen her before anywhere on planet earth, until now.”
Haughton doesn’t want “these lies and fabrications” to taint her daughter’s legacy. “My daughter only wanted to realize her dream of sharing her talent with the world, and give her all performing on stage, and in front of the camera for the fans she adored so much,” the statement continued. “She realized that dream thanks to those true fans who still love and support her legacy unconditionally to this day.
“Shame on all those involved in this project who thought it kosher to drag Aaliyah’s name into a situation that has nothing to do with her today,” Haughton concluded. “Once again, this will not be tolerated.”
R. Kelly, who has been accused of running a sex cult, had “no comment” on the claims put forth in the documentary.
Aaliyah and R. Kelly never commented on the nature of their relationship. However, in 1994 it was widely reported the two secretly got married. Although a public marriage certificate said she was 18, the singer would have been 15 at the time. In Surviving R. Kelly, his former personal assistant, Demetrius Smith, claims to have attended the wedding and to having helped obtain false documents for underaged Aaliyah.
“I was in the room when they got married. I’m not proud of that. I had papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underaged. It was just a quick little ceremony — she didn’t have on a white dress, he didn’t have on a tux. Just everyday wear. She looked worried and scared,” Smith alleged. The marriage was purportedly annulled within the year as “her parents had the last say.”
In 2001, Aaliyah’s career was tragically cut short when she died in a plane crash.
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