R. Kelly's Former Backup Singer Stands by Claim She Saw Him Have Sex with Underaged Aaliyah
In the wake of Diane Haughton's statement, former backup singer/dancer Jovante Cunningham doubles down on claim she saw R. Kelly have sex with Aaliyah.
PEOPLE exclusively revealed that in the six-part docuseries, which premiered with its first two episodes Thursday night, former backup singer/dancer Jovante Cunningham claims she once witnessed music star R. Kelly, then 27, having sex with the R&B star Aaliyah Haughton, then 15 on a populated tour bus.
“It just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” Cunningham says in the documentary. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
Representatives for the 52-year-old star, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, responded “no comment” to PEOPLE’s request for a response to the allegations made in Surviving R. Kelly and our interviews. TMZ reported Thursday that Kelly’s lawyer Brian Nix said he would bring a lawsuit against the network on Kelly’s behalf. When contacted by PEOPLE, Nix had no comment.
Just ahead of the documentary’s premiere, Aaliyah’s mother released a statement on Twitter denying the account and calling it “lies and fabrications.”
“My husband and I were always on tour with [Aaliyah] and at interviews and every place she went throughout her entire career,” the statement read. “Whoever this woman is [who is making the allegations], I have never seen her before anywhere on planet earth, until now.”
Cunningham has released a statement to PEOPLE, saying she stands by her account.
“It’s unfortunate that there are still people trying to protect Robert when they know he has destroyed so many people’s lives,” she writes. “I loved Aaliyah and when people watch the documentary, they will see how much I cared for her and how much Robert’s actions deeply affected me and so many others.”
The documentary is built upon wide-ranging interviews with many of R. Kelly’s former friends, family members and colleagues, but most notably, women who claim that for decades the hit-making singer and producer used his power and influence to sexually and physically abuse women and young girls. In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, eight who escaped his world — or tried to help loved ones they say were trapped — share their harrowing stories.
In 2002 Kelly was indicted after a video surfaced allegedly showing a man engaged in sex acts with a woman who some witnesses testified was 14 at the time of the recording. Both R. Kelly and the woman denied that the video was of them, and R. Kelly was never charged with assault. In 2008, R. Kelly was found not guilty on 21 counts of child pornography.
A report from BuzzFeed News released in July 2017 alleged that R. Kelly has kept at least six women in his Chicago and Georgia properties who allegedly fulfill his desires and are punished if they break any of his “rules.” Amid these allegations — which have never led to formal charges — women’s rights organization Time’s Up along with stars like Ava DuVernay and John Legend have called for a boycott of his music with #MuteRKelly.
John Legend is one of the only stars to take part in the documentary. In it, he claims, “R. Kelly has brought a lot of pain to a lot of people.”
For more powerful stories from alleged victims of R. Kelly, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands now.
Surviving R. Kelly airs on Lifetime at 9 p.m. ET from Thursday, Jan. 3 through Saturday, Jan. 5.
If you or someone you know think they are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now for anonymous, confidential help, available 24/7.