Azriel Clary, one of the many women to testify against R. Kelly, is speaking out further about the abuse she suffered at the hands of the singer. This week, Kelly was convicted on nine charges with five of those related crimes committed against Clary.
"It was very disturbing to have to relive those moments," Clary said on Thursday's CBS Mornings.
Clary was physically and verbally abused by the singer for years starting at age 17, with some of her testimony so graphic the judge wouldn't allow it to be released to the public. For Clary, facing Kelly in court was part of the healing process.
"A piece of me was happy because I felt like this person no longer has control over me, you know? You don't tell me what to do and what to wear and where to go and how long to be in a room anymore," she told Gayle King.
Clary explained that while many people tried to get her out of the abusive relationship, Kelly was "very good at manipulating the situation."
"So even if he knew or not, he would basically say — he could come in this room right now and he would say, 'You know, I've already spoken to Joy. She already told me exactly what you guys have been talking about. You have five minutes to be honest or you're going to be thrown around this entire room,'" she explained. "Everything that we were living in had become very normal."
That included living with Kelly's multiple girlfriends.
"It was not only me, it was other women, other women who were older than me. You know, when I met him at 17, he had four other women. And so these women are all normalizing his actions. And then you have assistants normalizing his actions," she explained. "And you have assistants normalizing his actions... workers and security and everyone else that normalizes it. So, me being very young at that time, I just learned to normalize it."
Clary first met King in March 2019 when she and another one of Kelly's girlfriends, Joycelyn Savage, publicly defended the "Ignition" singer amid fallout from the Surviving R. Kelly documentary. Clary explained how Kelly coached them before the CBS News interview, and intimidated them as he watched the sit-down.
"He did his interview first," she explained, referencing Kelly's infamous interview with King. He stayed to watch the girls talk with her, too.
"He came in and he told us to be angry and be upset and she's gonna try to do this," Clary added. "And so we were — we came in angry."
Clary admitted that she was "scared."
"Before that interview he had us practicing every single day," she explained. "Answering questions… And if he didn't like our answers, he would tell us exactly what to say and how to say it. So any time you mention anything about sexual preference, we already know to say, 'I'm not here to talk about that.'"
When the interview was over, Clary said Kelly "was so happy."
"What did he think about how he came across in the interview?" King asked.
"Truthfully, I think he believed that he had done well. He felt like he had really made a great reflection of himself and where he was in life and how all these women were lying on him and how all these people were just, you know, out to get him. And, you know, that sympathy card that he just loves so much," Clary replied.
Clary regrets the world didn't get to see the "caring" and "compassionate" side of her two years ago.
"And so I feel like that's why it was important for me to come back here and see you again, because it is OK to change your mind. It is OK to apologize and forgive yourself, more importantly. And that's really what I had to do," she concluded.
Kelly faces decades in prison for his crimes. He will be sentenced in Brooklyn federal court on May 4, 2022.