This week, Lifetime began airing Surviving R. Kelly Pt. III: The Final Chapter, the two-part finale to the documentary believed to have helped Kelly finally face charges of sexual abuse. Now the disgraced singer, songwriter, and producer is living a very different life behind bars.
The series finale brought new revelations to the forefront, including that the late singer Aaliyah was Jane Doe #1.
Kelly’s 1994 marriage to his protégé Aaliyah, then 15, was annulled but it was one of the first public signs that Kelly was abusing underage girls. A 2008 trial on child pornography charges ended in an acquittal, but rumors of his aberrant behavior dogged him.
In 2019, after the release of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly, where abuse survivors detailed his crimes, he was finally charged in three states on various counts including racketeering, violating the Mann Act, and child pornography. Kelly was convicted in federal court in New York City in September 2021 of one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act.
Kelly awaits sentencing in Chicago and is currently imprisoned there.
Kelly was contacted to provide his side for the series, but producers say nothing went any further. In these last two episodes, viewers also hear from the parents of Joycelyn Savage, who appears to remain Kelly’s fiancé and was one of the two women, along with Kelly, that participated in the infamous Gayle King interview. In December, a woman who said she was Savage announced she had given birth to Kelly’s child. It was proven not to be Savage, confirmed by Kelly himself and her family. Her family says they have not been in contact with her.
Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in the New York case and is awaiting sentencing in the Chicago case.
Jesse Daniels is a producer on Surviving R. Kelly Pt. III: The Final Chapters. He spoke to Variety about the series, here are excerpts from the conversation.
On the reporters who helped move the story along, ultimately leading to charges in the Kelly case:
Surviving R. Kelly without a doubt had an impact on the charges that were made. But we also really have to give a nod to the journalists who kept the story going for so many years – journalists such as Jim DeRogatis who’s been on this story for over 30 years, and those who attended the trial day in and day out; that is not an easy job to report on. Keeping the story alive and giving survivors a platform we owe them, it’s not just Surviving R. Kelly, but many people who contributed to that.
On Aaliyah being named Jane Doe #1 in the accusations against Kelly:
Aaliyah is Jane Doe #1 in the New York federal trial. That alone speaks volumes. We really tried to respectfully tell that story about Aaliyah, and simply because she was Jane Doe #1 in this trial, there was no turning away from that. I’m paraphrasing here, but in this installment, Jim DeRogatis says that Aaliyah’s name for the first time was spoken in a court of law in what is one of the biggest scandals in the history of popular music. I agree with him.
On Kelly’s male victims:
Our goal was to create a real 360-degree look at what was unfolding every day of the trial, and that certainly was a big chapter of the trial where there were male victims who testified. It was certainly something that we had heard in the past, but not in the context of this trial. We felt obligated to tell the whole arc of the trial and every detail that we could.
On what viewers should take away from the series:
We’ve tried to break down just how difficult it is to leave an abusive situation, and then just how difficult it is to heal from an abusive situation. That conversation, in every single chapter, is one of the most important themes to talk about because we believe that viewers at home can learn from that, and hopefully, we can spark conversations at home on this topic.
Read the entire interview here.