Lifetime’s six-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly is set to premiere its first episode this Thursday.
Ahead of its arrival, People has revealed that the first episode features an explosive account from one of R. Kelly’s former backup singer Jovante Cunningham, who says she witnessed several of his sexual encounters with underaged girls in the ’90s — Aaliyah being one of them.
During one part of the interview, Cunningham recounted the time she discovered a then 27-year-old R. Kelly having sex with a then 15-year-old Aaliyah. “We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” she explained. “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. When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
When asked what she saw in particular, Cunningham responded, “Things that an adult should not be doing with a child. I can’t stress to you how people are still suffering behind things that went on 20 years ago.” R. Kelly and Aaliyah were rumored to have secretly gotten married in 1994, with R. Kelly falsifying documents listing her age as 18. They never clarified the true nature of their relationship.
Demetrius Smith, R. Kelly’s former personal assistant, says he was there when they got married. “I was in the room when they got married,” he said. “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 every day wear. She looked worried and scared.”
Explaining the situation further, Smith says their marriage was annulled within a year. “Her parents had the last say,” Smith said.
Surviving R. Kelly airs on Lifetime at 9 p.m. ET from Thursday, Jan. 3 through Saturday, Jan. 5.