Rolling Stone published an interview last week with one of R. Kelly's ex-girlfriends, Kitti Jones, a former Dallas DJ for radio station 97.9 The Beat. The interview follows BuzzFeed's July article detailing R. Kelly's alleged sex cult of women. Jones says Kelly forbade her from leaving her room, going to the bathroom or eating without permission.
But not everyone is ready to believe her. Dalyce Kelley, her former co-worker at 97.9 The Beat, tweeted her skepticism:
The Dallas Observer spoke with Kelley, who says she was the promotions coordinator and an on-air personality at The Beat from 2007-09. In 2009, her show with her sister, "Ebony & D'Lyte – The On Air Divas" moved to K104-FM.
"I saw everything from being there late night, early," she says. "I kind of was like the station’s backbone."
We reached out to The Beat for confirmation that Kelley and Jones worked together and have not heard back. However, a Google search confirms Kelley had a show on the station.
Speaking to the Observer from Los Angeles, where she now resides, Kelley says she believes Jones had sought a job at The Beat, where she worked nights, hoping to date celebrities like R. Kelly. Jones told Rolling Stone she met Kelly at a station-sponsored afterparty for his June 2011 show at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie.
"You can tell when people are into radio because they love the music business and they love radio, or they’re just in it for the opportunity to meet the next celebrity," Kelley says. "Like she happened to be at the afterparty and used her power in radio to get into VIP."
By November of that year, Jones quit her job at the radio station and moved to Chicago to be with Kelly.
"She just kind of bragged that she was dating R. Kelly and then she took off," Kelley says.
Jones told Rolling Stone that Kelly eventually moved her into his recording studio with his other girlfriends, where she was forced to live under strange, abusive rules. As their relationship progressed, Jones said, Kelly began forcing her to have sex with his other girlfriends and became physically abusive when she refused to comply with his demands.
In the last year of their relationship, Jones performed onstage with Kelly during his Single Ladies tour, which began in 2012 and concluded in early 2013. During the skit, Jones was chained inside a white cage while Kelly simulated oral sex on her.
Jones told Rolling Stone she asked Kelly for permission to visit her son in Dallas in November 2013 and never returned. The live skit is still listed on her LinkedIn profile.
Kelley says she thinks a lot of Jones's claims about the R&B singer are true and that he has "some issues." But she thinks Jones participated consensually and is now adding her spin on events because she hopes to re-enter radio.
"I find it suspicious of the timing," Kelley says. "It's coming out now after so many young girls have come forward about this whole thing. Someone's parents had come out and said their daughter was being held at his mansion with all of these women. So that [initial reports of a cult] came out maybe a year or a year and a half ago. And now this grown, 30-something woman [comes out]."
But Kelley's timeline is off. Jones' allegations about Kelly came out three months after Buzzfeed's July report, which published the first allegation that the singer was running a sex cult — not a year later, as Kelley suggested.
Janja Lalich is an author and professor at California State University, where she specializes in extremism, cults and situations of undue influence. Lalich says opportunism isn't a common characteristic among cult members, but idealism is.
"They're generally people who, in some way, want a better world either for themselves or society, and that can take a number of manifestations," she says. "It could be health, money, love; it could be whatever. I know that most people think that these people are really vulnerable people and they are weak and they're needy, and that's really not the case. It's generally very high-functioning people who get recruited into cults. They may be at a moment of vulnerability, which we all have a million times in our lives."
Most of the women or girls who linked to Kelly's alleged sex cult are teenagers. Rick Ross, the founder and executive director of the Cult Education Institute, noted that Jones' age during her relationship with Kelly is out of step with other allegations he's read.
"It doesn't sound congruent with any other stories," he says. "What has been repeatedly said is that R. Kelly prefers very young women — even girls that are underage — so the idea that someone in their 30s would be recruited and be part of the group and R. Kelly would be interested — I'm rather surprised. It sounds very surprising and unusual to me. Why would R. Kelly want someone in her 30s when the allegations repeatedly focus on women much younger than that?"
Jones addressed this question in her conversation with Rolling Stone, saying that media and fans "judge people by how they look: 'She's too old, he wouldn't go for her, this bitch is lying.' Any little thing to justify what he's doing to people."
Lalich says the median age of someone in a cult is between 30 and 40 — cult leaders are no longer recruiting on college campuses like they did in the '70s and '80s. Instead, they seek out people who have something to contribute, like money or time. But Kelly was reportedly looking for sex and power, Lalich says.
"He clearly has various psychological disorders, from what I understand from the things I've read, so he was able to act those out to people who were so enamored with him," she says. "He was such a star and, I suppose, charismatic and a powerful person, so people get attracted to those kind of people."
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In the Rolling Stone article, Jones said she had idolized Kelly since she was a teenager.
"In her case," Lalich says, "she was initially infatuated with him for years and felt like she had found a true love with this incredible famous person, and then once you get entrapped into something like that, it becomes harder and harder to get out."
The Observer reached out to Jones' lawyer, Shay M. Lawson of Atlanta, who provided this statement on her client's behalf:
"Ms. Jones' Rolling Stone profile describes the experiences of 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men who have seen violence at the hands of an intimate parter. How experts do or do not label the context of her mindset in the relationship with Mr. Kelly does not change her experience or the violence she was subject to.
"Further, Ms. Jones always maintained an excellent professional reputation and was married for almost her entire time in radio prior to meeting Mr. Kelly. She remains in contact with a number of former coworkers who have been nothing but gracious and supportive of her courageous decision to speak out.
"It is unfortunate an individual has made a desperate meritless attempt to mar public perception of Ms. Jones for personal gain and attention when women and men across the nation are rallying along with Ms. Jones for an end to sexual assault and abuse."