R. Kelly’s former protege, singer Sparkle, has broken her silence on the guilty verdict in the singer’s sex trafficking trial, which began in August.
Guilty is the verdict Sparkle has longed to hear for the past 20 years, after decades of working to convince the world Kelly abused her teenage niece. Sparkle tells The Cut magazine she’s still haunted by the fact that she introduced her then-12-year-old niece to Kelly in 1997, in hopes of launching her aspiring music career.
“I didn’t think I would be emotional. But I am. It’s just been a long time for me, dealing with this,” she said. “On the one hand, I think I’m a little sad because Robert was my ex-mentor and what he did was just a punch to my chest. And I’m also relieved. Thank God they got it right this time. At the first trial, nobody believed me.”
Sparkle says she became suspicious of R. Kelly’s involvement with her teenage niece in 2001. Those suspicions were heightened after a now-infamous video, which shows Kelly intimately engaging with the girl, on whom he also urinates.
“I was one of the first to call out what I saw on a 27-minute tape as a violation. I mean, nobody was believing me,” Sparkle said. “I used to feel like, Am I crazy? Am I the only person seeing this? I wanted to shake the shit out of everybody. When the Dave Chappelle – “Piss on You” skit came out in 2003, it was a gut punch. I felt like that emoji with the top blown off my head.”
After several witnesses identified Kelly and the girl in the video, Sparkle testified at the singer’s 2008 trial, during which he was acquitted of 14 child pornography charges. She shared her story again in the 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
“I’m happy I did it because otherwise, maybe we wouldn’t be here with this verdict. After the doc aired, more girls got the guts to come forward,” Sparkle said. “Of course, people were posting stuff on my social media saying, ‘You’re a liar. You’re a clout chaser.’ But for the first time, I got nonstop DMs and emails from women saying things like, “Oh, I wish you were my auntie. I wish you were there to speak out for me when this or that happened.’ ”
The 46-year-old admits her niece’s parents refused to testify at Kelly’s trial and stopped speaking to her for nearly a decade. The accusations also took a blow to Sparkle’s music career since she stopped releasing music after her 1998 self-titled gold debut album and the 2000 release of “Told You So.”
“It feels good to have more support,” added Sparkle, who recently released “Open Letter” from her forthcoming EP, “Obstacle Course,” dropping in November. “I’ve stifled myself for a long time when it comes to releasing music, and writing it was a huge release.”
Sparkles hopes that she won’t have to testify during Kelly’s trial in Chicago, where he also faces charges of child pornography.
“I’m praying I’m not called to testify at another trial because I’ve already said my truth. But if I am, I will surely be there to share it all over again,” she said. “I do have more to say, and more insights into what happened. I lost it all, but I’ve made gains as well.”