Update: R. Kelly denied Buzzfeed's allegations in a statement from his lawyer Linda Mensch to USA TODAY. "Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him," the statement reads. "Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."
An explosive new Buzzfeed News report published Monday alleges that R&B superstar R. Kelly lures young women into his inner circle and keeps them against their will inside his homes in a 'cult'-like atmosphere.
Family members of two young, aspiring singers from Florida and Georgia, both of whom live with Kelly and have stopped speaking to them, relayed similar stories to Buzzfeed of the singer seducing impressionable young women who want to break into the industry, beginning sexual relations with them, and then moving them into his homes.
One woman was 17 when she met Kelly, another was 19.
USA TODAY could not independently confirm details provided in the report, and Kelly's reps have not responded to requests for comment.
Allegations include that six women, ages 18 to 31, live in a cult-like environment inside properties rented by Kelly, 50, in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs.
Buzzfeed also interviewed three former members of Kelly's inner circle, and reports the singer controls every aspect of the women's lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep and how they engage in sexual encounters, which he records.
“It was as if she was brainwashed," a Georgia mother, who last saw her aspiring-singer daughter on Dec. 1, told Buzzfeed. "(She) looked like a prisoner — it was horrible,” she said. “I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and (Kelly) is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do."
The superstar confiscates the women’s cell phones, reports Buzzfeed, barring contact with friends and family. He gives them new phones that they are only allowed to use to contact him or others with his permission.
Former members of his inner circle say Kelly calls the women his “babies,” who are required to call him “Daddy” and must ask his permission to leave the Chicago recording studio or their assigned rooms.
But welfare checks by police in both Illinois and Georgia in the past year didn’t lead to any charges. In January, the aspiring singer from Georgia told local police she was “fine and did not want to be bothered.”
The legalities behind Kelly's alleged living situation are murky: All of the women cited by Buzzfeed are of legal age. (The age of consent is 17 in Illinois and 16 in Georgia.)
But Kelly has a history of allegations against him regarding his sexual conduct with women. He was last tried in 2008 in Illinois, where he was acquitted on 14 charges of making child pornography.
The Buzzfeed report renews a critical glare into how Kelly, whose personal foibles have not deterred the entertainment industry from keeping him in business, conducts himself when out of the spotlight.
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