dream hampton Speaks About The Horrors Of Making Surviving R. Kelly
In the last week, the six-part documentary Surviving R. Kelly aired on Lifetime. The investigative work examines the extensive abuse allegations against the three-time Grammy Award-winning singer. Kelly’s accusers are all women of color, many of whom were minors at the time. In the documentary, each goes into detail about the sexual misconduct and physical abuse they suffered from the onetime superstar. The work also addresses alleged sexual abuse that R. Kelly experienced during his childhood, which he referenced in his 2012 memoir.
dream hampton is an executive producer of Surviving R. Kelly. A former editor at The Source in the early 1990s, hampton also worked extensively on Decoded with JAY-Z, in addition to multiple film and television credits. Following the premiere of the documentary that gave Lifetime its highest ratings in nearly two years, dream hampton spoke to The Karen Hunter Show on Sirius XM.
Speaking to the show by phone, hampton discussed what she learned through this work. “When I went into this project, I was clear that he was a predator and that he targeted young and vulnerable girls. I don’t think I knew he was an abuser, and I don’t mean to sound naive, but I just I didn’t think physical abuse was a part of his repertoire. I certainly didn’t know having to listen to a woman after woman talking about being denied food and movement. I mean we about to get into a couple of episodes where you’re going to hear testimony of girls talking about having, you know, they couldn’t leave the room unless he told them to and all of them didn’t have bathrooms in the room. So they [had to use] slop buckets. His runners would put slop buckets in the room…I don’t think I was prepared for his sadism.”
Some of the documentary’s most jarring accounts come from Sparkle. In the late 1990s, the singer also known as Stephanie Edwards was a protege of R. Kelly’s and released her gold-certified eponymous debut album through Robert’s Rockland imprint. In Surviving R. Kelly, Sparkle says that it was her then-14-year-old niece who appears in a leaked pornographic videotape alleged to be made by and involving R. Kelly. In 2008, during a trial against R. Kelly, Edwards testified, and added that she introduced the singer to her sister’s daughter. Another woman in the documentary, Lisa Van Allen, also alleges Kelly had sexual encounters with the 14-year-old. Van Allen says she was unaware of the girl’s age at that time. She claims to have learned later during a rare conversation at a time when the singer allegedly kept the pair separated without his presence.
On The Karen Hunter Show, dream hampton spoke about the significance of Sparkle’s appearance and testimony in the documentary. “I would say that Sparkle was a really big get, she’s not someone who’s spoken. She didn’t do the interviews that you’ve seen in Buzzfeed and other places. She hasn’t talked since she did that, you know, since she testified at [the 2008] trial and lost her career, you know, a lot of these kids don’t remember Sparkle.” hampton points to 1998’s “Be Careful,” a career launchpad for Sparkle, as it featured R. Kelly. “That video cost a couple hundred thousand dollars. So she was there, there was an investment in her. She was gonna be Faith Evans; she was gonna be whatever she was gonna be.” In Surviving R. Kelly, Sparkle recalls how detailed her mentor’s instructions were for the video, down to wardrobe. She also says that the song about an abused and heartbroken woman is troubling in retrospect, given that R. Kelly wrote them. “[Sparkle] gave it all up and she gave up her family. Her family didn’t talk to her for 10 years after she testified at that trial, members in her family.” Sparkle’s latest song, “W.A.R. (We Are Ready),” plays at the close of the doc.
hampton says she wished that Lady Gaga had participated in the documentary. In 2013, Gaga and R. Kelly collaborated for the female singer’s “Do What U Want.” The pair also performed the video single on SNL and at the American Music Awards. Terry Richardson, a photographer and video director who has been accused of sexual misconduct, directed the video. That work was eventually shelved. In Surviving R. Kelly, Chance The Rapper appears. He admits regret for working with the fellow Chicagoan on 2015’s “Somewhere In Paradise” collaboration with Jeremih.
While calling into Hunter’s show, dream also spoke about the legal challenges surrounding Surviving R. Kelly. “The things that I learned making this documentary that couldn’t make it in for legal reasons, you know, this isn’t just me on Twitter. A&E is a publicly traded company. They own Lifetime, Bunim/Murray is a production company that’s been in business as long as it has because they have a team of lawyers. So, there are so many things that I can’t talk about, and will never talk about, and quite frankly, you don’t want to. It’s so dark and sad and traumatic. I wish that [R. Kelly] would have gotten help [early on].”
dream also addressed Aaliyah’s mother’s disapproval of the doc. “I mean, I can’t imagine [how she feels]. You know, you never get over losing a child and I’m not gonna comment on Aaliyah’s mom’s comment. I will say that I was incredibly mindful. You know, Aaliyah’s my homegirl. She’s from Detroit, you know? [I] knew her, you know, very not well, but I knew her and I didn’t want to spend, out of the two hours, we spent about 11 to 12 minutes on Aaliyah’s story.”
AFH TV‘s Video Music Box library includes video of 15-year-old Aaliyah addressing her relationship with R. Kelly. At the time, she denies being married to her producer and then-mentor.
According to TMZ, R. Kelly’s legal team previously warned Lifetime against broadcasting the documentary. Last month, an advance screening of Surviving R. Kelly evacuated following threats of a shooting.