The fallout following last week’s airing of “Surviving R. Kelly” has been swift if nothing else. The bombshell docuseries on Lifetime featured heartbreaking and detailed accounts from alleged victims as well as people in the singer’s inner circle. The powerfully revealing episodes not only renewed scrutiny for decades-old claims of pedophilia and sexual abuse against the disgraced singer but also turned some of the focus to the former associates of R. Kelly who refused to go on the record and participate.
But with Thursday’s disclosure that journalist and cultural critic, Touré Neblett, was accused of sexually harassing a former co-worker, it became a little clearer why so many A-list stars declined to appear on the docuseries about R. Kelly’s alleged sexual antics with underaged girls and young Black women.
The docuseries featured heartbreaking detailed accounts from alleged victims as well as people in the singer’s inner circle. Many viewers were disgusted by Kelly’s brother, Bruce, who openly said the singer had a “preference” for young women. Some of the parents who also appeared in the docuseries seemed to be complicit in their daughters’ associations with Kelly.
Touré apologized to the accuser — a makeup artist named Dani who used to work Touré at People/Entertainment Weekly as recently as 2017 — but dismissed his actions in part as “edgy, crass banter, that at the time I did not think was offensive.” After she quit, Dani reported Touré to the company’s human resources, which fired him promptly, she told ESSENCE, which published the exclusive story on Thursday.
Dani felt the need to publicize the allegations against Touré “because he was doing media appearances talking about Harvey Weinstein and his allegations of sexual misconduct.” His participation in “Surviving R. Kelly,” she said, came off as hypocritical.
It was probably that precise effect that made most of the high-profile former collaborators with Kelly hesitant to participate: Perhaps they, like Touré, had some similarly shameful allegations they want to keep concealed and not stoke any simmering flames of the past, whether true or not.
“Surviving R. Kelly” executive producer told Shadow & Act that she “asked Jay-Z, I asked Mary J. Blige, I asked Lil Kim, Erykah Badu, Dave Chappelle” to participate, but they all declined. “I mean, most people just don’t want to touch it. I remember Ahmir [“Questlove” Thompson] was like, ‘I would do anything for you but I can’t do this.’ It’s not because they support him, it’s because it’s so messy and muddy. It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”
Touré interviewed Kelly in 2008 after the singer’s acquittal of child porn charges. He was one of the few journalists that actually attempted to hold Kelly accountable for his alleged actions. That’s why it seemed to be inexplicable why he decided to appear on the docuseries if he knew there were might possibly be sexually based allegations that could resurface.
To be clear, the list of names of celebrities and corporations that have been seen with, worked with and/or collaborated with Kelly runs way longer than the abbreviated sample above that hampton named. Only time will tell if more of them plan to speak out and condemn R. Kelly.