The discussion follows the release of the six-part Lifetime docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, which alleges that the 52-year-old R&B singer has kept women against their will in Atlanta, Georgia, and Chicago, Illinois. Kelly has denied the allegations and threatened to sue the network over the series.
When Van Allen -- who was 17 years old when she began her relationship with Kelly -- came into the conversation, she almost immediately broke down in tears, explaining how she feels "blessed" over how "awesome" it has been to be heard.
"We didn’t expect it to be this powerful," she said. "I came out in 2008 and nobody heard me."
Quickly following Van Allen's admission, Pinkett Smith herself started to cry, telling her, "I'm so happy that you guys could be brave enough to do it this way and that Lifetime was brave enough, because you guys deserve it. I am just so sorry you didn't get it sooner."
Van Allen went on to describe her life before and after her time with Kelly. From being in foster care until age six -- where she experienced abuse -- to growing up with an adoptive single mother, Van Allen recalled Kelly's "sickening" use of her past against her and deemed him "a master manipulator."
"We've always been told 'You don’t talk about that. You don’t tell our business.' Even my mom had a hard time dealing with this," Van Allen said. "We have to really deal with ourselves. Her reaction on how she felt about her role. My role. Everybody has their own things to deal with. I had to do it for me, for other young girls. Someone has to have that conversation that nobody wants to have. You can’t worry about how you look. We gotta put it on the line and put it out there. That’s what I felt like I did."
"There was a me before #MeToo," she continued. "In 2008 there weren’t any movements, nobody else was talking about it. I came out hoping that I could help the victims and the girl on the tape because I knew her family wasn't going to speak. So I felt like, somebody has to stand up. They threatened my life. There was a lot I was dealing with. I was pregnant. You can’t let that stuff stop you. You can’t be afraid."
In this two-part Red Table Talk special, Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Willow sit down with R. Kelly accuser Lisa Vanallen as she shares details of her decade-long ordeal with the R&B singer.Posted by Red Table Talk on Friday, January 11, 2019
Before Van Allen joined the group, the women discussed the series as a whole and why they found it important to watch it together. For Pinkett Smith, the "teachable moments" couldn't be missed.
"I felt like it was really important to watch it as mother and daughter... I had a lot of feelings about it. One being, I was like, 'Man, how complicit we all have been,'" Pinkett Smith said. "That really broke my heart, to really think about it. We ignored it. I think that’s been very heartbreaking for me, just how harsh the reactions have been."
Pinkett Smith herself admitted to being complicit, even apologizing for using an R. Kelly song in a video of her husband, Will Smith, bungee jumping.
"It slipped under my radar when Will did that bungee jump and we put [it to] 'I Believe I Can Fly,'" she revealed. "That just goes to show you, I didn’t pick up. See how things will fly under our radar? It was on Instagram. And you forget. That’s how we are all complicit. Because, guess what? How can you forget? How can you forget? You can’t forget. That’s why we should’ve all been screaming from the rafters... But here's the other conflict: We have such a conflicted relationship to the law, to the media, to feeling as though authority is attacking our men and the community."
Along with the newly realized complicity, the series also made Pinkett Smith think back to her own unhealthy relationships and how hard it was to get out of them.
"You have somebody who breaks you down and comes back to you and they're like, 'I can’t live without you, my everything,' and then the endorphins in my mind, and those highs and lows and even just being addicted to that cycle," she said. "I’ve been there! I've been addicted to that cycle of knowing that this person is not treating me well, but then you get so low and then he comes in with his sweetness and you're like, 'Aw.'"
"The idea of having a superstar point you out, where most of us come from backgrounds where we feel neglected and we feel like we haven’t been loved. And then just the cycle of terror," she added.
Lisa Vanallen's teenage daughter Akeyla speaks publicly for the first time about her mom’s alleged 10-year abusive...Posted by Red Table Talk on Monday, January 14, 2019
For Smith, it was Kelly's connection to Aaliyah -- Kelly married her when she was just 15 years old -- that affected her the most.
"I had listened to Aaliyah and had known about R. Kelly and listened to his music when I was super young, and it’s so strange because I had an inkling that he was slightly suss, but it just hit me so hard when watching [the docuseries]," Smith said. "Like, oh my god. I was listening to this when I was a kid. And then seeing him in the back of Age Ain't Nothing But a Number album cover. Something from my childhood was just debased. Why is he just on the back of the album cover just lurking? That’s weird."
Watch the video below for more on Surviving R. Kelly: