The real reason R. Kelly got divorced

R. Kelly (real name Robert Sylvester Kelly) is no stranger to controversy, but despite the serious nature of the allegations levied at him over the years, the R&B star continues to release music. The "Ignition" singer sure knows how to survive a scandal, but in 2019, Lifetime started a storm that even he may not be able to weather. The network once again put the musician's murky past under the spotlight, interviewing some of the women he allegedly abused during its explosive six-part documentary, Surviving R. Kelly.

Kelly's long-rumored relationship with teenage starlet Aaliyah was corroborated by a former backup singer (via People), and a former personal assistant admitted to forging documents so Kelly could marry the then-15-year-old. "She looked worried and scared," the aide said, claiming Aaliyah's parents had the sketchy marriage annulled within a year. However, Kelly's subsequent marriage to Andrea "Drea" Kelly wouldn't end as quickly.

According to Rolling Stone, Andrea met Kelly when she was 19, impressing the singer during an audition for a backup dancer position. They tied the knot in 1996 and remained married for 13 years (per ABC) — 13 years of abuse and neglect, Kelly's ex-wife alleges. Andrea was among those interviewed for Surviving R. Kelly, but she has opened up about her relationship with the controversial singer on several occasions. From the fallout following that infamous leaked video tape to those bizarre sex cult claims, this is the real reason R. Kelly got divorced.

Andrea believes he endangered the life of their unborn child

R. Kelly has been accused of coercing more than one young woman into having an abortion, but he apparently got baby fever not long after his marriage to Andrea. The singer had three kids with his backup dancer-turned-spouse over the course of six years: Joann (born 1998), Jay (born 2000), and Robert Jr. (born 2002). Jay made headlines in 2014 after coming out as transgender, but Kelly's youngest child was in the news as recently as 2019, when his mother revealed the shady circumstances surrounding his birth.

During Lifetime's Surviving R. Kelly, Andrea alleged that the singer made her pack up and move to Florida during the late stages of her pregnancy with no explanation whatsoever. "I was under so much stress that when we went to the OBGYN, they couldn't find his heartbeat," Andrea recalled (via USA Today). "I was in that much stress that it put my unborn child's life in jeopardy. Because here I am, by myself in Florida, I don't know anybody."

The charges against him left Andrea 'limp'

After he allegedly forced his pregnant wife to move solo to Florida, Andrea said she had to go through "10 people" to get in touch with her husband, even when she was on the verge of giving birth. "Mr. Kelly," she says in the documentary (via USA Today), mimicking the hospital staff. "Do you know they just induced your wife's labor? She just had little Rob." Before long, the real reason for Kelly's absence (and his decision to uproot his wife from her home in Chicago) became clear.

Shortly after Robert Jr.'s birth, the baby boy's father was indicted on 21 charges of child pornography. "I remember, after having [the baby], that's when the day happened," Andrea said, revealing that she found out the same way most of us found out — via the news on TV. "I was with the baby, and then it comes across the screen like, 'R&B singer R. Kelly has been arrested for child pornography.'" Luckily for Andrea, her best friend was with her at the time, because her newborn baby reportedly fell right out of her hands. "My body went limp, and she said she caught little Rob before he hit the floor," Andrea recalled. "I remember a buzzing sound, it almost felt like I couldn't hear."

Andrea suffers from PTSD

The allegations made against the father of her children were deeply shocking to Andrea, yet he "denied it for the longest time," she recalled during Surviving R. Kelly (via USA Today). Ignoring the reaction of the outside world might have been easier had Andrea not been going through turmoil behind closed doors. She alleges the Grammy winner was violent with her on numerous occasions over the course of their marriage. In fact, she claims that she suffers from post-traumatic stress as a result of the alleged beatings.

"One time he attacked me in the back of a Hummer, and I do suffer from PTSD because of it," she revealed on The View (via B98 FM) in October 2018, just a few months prior to Lifetime airing its eye-opening and often hard-to-watch docu-series. "He'd taken this left arm and pulled it behind me, and his weight was on my body, but he didn't realize his forearm was on my neck. So as he's pressing down, my breathing is getting labored."

Andrea feared for her life

If Andrea's version of events is accurate, then that aforementioned day in the Hummer could have ended very differently. R. Kelly's ex told The View that her life was literally being choked out of her and she probably would have died had she not managed to gargle out a plea for help. "The only reason why I think I made it out is 'cause I said, 'Robert, you're gonna kill me, I can't breathe, you have to get your arm off of my neck,'" she recalled (via B98 FM).

The mother of three shocked viewers as she relived those moments of panic. "I just remember sitting in the back of the Hummer and it got blue," she said. "I just thought, 'Oh my god. I'm gonna die in the back of this Hummer, and he's gonna drive off with my body in the back seat and nobody's gonna know." 

This wasn't the first time a woman feared she'd be killed by Kelly. Former flame Lisa Van Allen believes he discussed having her murdered after she stole the sex tape that brought about the child pornography charges against him.

He reportedly 'hogtied' Andrea

It took a long time for R. Kelly's trial to come to fruition. He was charged in 2002, but six years passed by the time he took the stand. In that time, the alleged ordeal that the R&B icon was reportedly putting his wife through continued. Andrea went into great detail about the things that Kelly reportedly did to her during her emotionally charged segment on The View, including one incident in which he supposedly tied her up.

"He had his knee in my back and he took both of my arms around me, tied them, and then attached my legs to my arms," she explained (via Complex), claiming that Kelly flew off the handle after she answered one of his questions in a manner that displeased him. Andrea claims that she was left incapacitated while her famous husband went for a nap, giving her enough time to wriggle free from her binds. "He hogtied me and left me on the side of the bed and he actually fell asleep, and that's the only way I got away," she recalled.

Andrea tossed her $50,000 wedding ring

We've heard his former wife's side of the story, but what about the man himself? R. Kelly and his camp maintained radio silence after Surviving R. Kelly aired. A TMZ source claims he's going to "sue everybody who had anything to do with [it]," but there's been no official statement to date. However, the singer has openly discussed his divorce from Andrea in the past. In his 2012 memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, Kelly wrote about the day Andrea supposedly realized she didn't love him anymore.

"'If you really don't love me, I dare you to take off your wedding ring and throw it in the pond out back,'" Kelly claims to have told his wife (via Yahoo!). That ring, by the way, was reportedly worth about $50,000. "Drea took the dare. She marched out to the yard and threw the ring in the pond — 'plunk!' Man, I couldn't believe it. I offered $10,000 to anyone who could fish that ring out of the pond. No one could." 

According to his memoir, Kelly realized it was time to move on after he went to the cinema to watch The Notebook on his own. "As the film credits started to roll, I couldn't move. I burst into tears," he said, describing how other theatergoers tried to console him. "My marriage had died. And there was nothing I could do to bring it back."

Was Andrea bitter about giving up her career?

Fans of R. Kelly were quick to dissect Soulacoaster, but so were critics, and many of them found the book severely lacking. "R. Kelly's memoir is an entertaining read, but too many skeletons stay in the closet," reported Slate. Consequence of Sound felt much the same way. "I think the blatant omissions and ultra-condensed versions of things are a solid indicator of what this book is not: An objective account of R. Kelly's life." One person who would no doubt agree with those critics is the singer's ex-wife.

Kelly's book implies that one of the reasons his marriage to Andrea failed was because she wasn't comfortable giving up her career for the sake of the kids. She vehemently denied that version of events during her June 2018 interview on Sister Circle (via Complex). "Robert, you don't get to tell my story," she said. "You don't get to tell people that we got divorced because I had a problem with being a stay-at-home mom. We got divorced because I was no longer going to sit and be violated. What he did to me was criminal."

She almost committed suicide

The alleged abuse got so severe that Andrea said she contemplated taking her own life to make it all end. How did it come to this? "It started with yelling and being slapped and grabbed," the Hollywood Exes star told People. "He chips away at your self-esteem, your ability to even think. You're just thinking, 'What do I do to not p*** him off?'"

The alleged violence was reportedly of a sexual nature sometimes, but Andrea wasn't really sure what she could do about it. "At the time I didn't know there was such a thing as spousal rape," she said, claiming that her husband once locked her inside the bathroom of a hotel room. "I remember being ready to jump off the balcony of our hotel suite and commit suicide," she admitted. "Thank God I didn't. After that I said, 'I'm done.' In 2004 I called my dad, packed my bags and left with our kids in the night."

Andrea says God helped her escape

The suicide scare was the moment the penny really dropped for Andrea. Studies have shown that it can be incredibly difficult for those in an abusive relationship to simply walk away from their violent partner, for a variety of reasons. For Andrea, a questionnaire helped her see the light. After talking herself down from her hotel balcony, the ex dancer turned to God for answers, and luckily for her (and the three children she would have left behind) she got them.

"And the first thing God told me, he said, 'Grab your laptop,'" Andrea recalled through a flood of tears (via Complex). "Once I grabbed the laptop, he said, 'Put in domestic violence.' And I'm thinking to myself, 'I'm not that girl. I'm not the teeth missing, I'm not the broken bone girl.'" She might not have felt like a domestic abuse victim at the time, but the survey on the domestic violence awareness website told her otherwise. "There were 17 questions, and they ask you 'Has your abuser ever done…,' of the 17, Robert had done 15 to me."

Those 'sex cult' claims

In 2017, Jim DeRogatis (a journalist who has written several articles exposing Kelly over the years) published an investigative piece via BuzzFeed News, alleging that R. Kelly was keeping a number of young women against their will in what the parents of the missing girls described as a "cult." Two extremely worried parents told DeRogatis that their daughter had been "brainwashed" by the older man. According to the explosive report, three former members of Kelly's inner circle confirmed that as many as six women live in the celeb's various rented properties around Chicago and Atlanta. He allegedly controls "what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe [and] when they sleep."

The article struck a chord with Andrea, who claims to have lived under the same harsh conditions for years. Unable to shake the thought that helpless young girls (and their families) could be going through the same thing at the hands of her ex husband, she decided to speak out. "You cannot not speak when someone's life and what they've been through is parallel to yours," she said (via B98 FM). "I wanted to bring validity to these women's stories. So much of it falls on deaf ears and no one believes them … I was like, 'If no one else is going to speak up for her, if no one else is going to believe her, at least she knows that I do.' It's about saving lives."

Andrea claims Kelly has accomplices

Could R. Kelly really have gotten away with all of this monstrous behavior for so many years? Surely one of his friends or someone passing through his studio (where he reportedly had beds "placed in every room," per Rolling Stone) would have noticed and said something, right? Well, according to Andrea, plenty of people were exposed to Kelly's alleged violent and predatory side but refused to call him out on it. In fact, Kelly's ex claims that he actually had a number of people helping him get away with things they all knew he shouldn't be doing.

During her interview for Surviving R. Kelly, Andrea was asked how a person as famous as Kelly got away with the things he was allegedly doing. After a moment of contemplation, she answers: "Because he has people helping him." The divorcee claims that her former partner suffers from illiteracy and doesn't have the smarts to keep his supposedly sordid activities on the down low. "I'm not trying to be funny — you don't read and write well," she said (via USA Today). "So who's booking these flights? Who's telling the driver to go pick people up?"

Kelly denied the abuse allegations in a 19-minute song

According to TMZ, a source who is in "day-to-day contact" with R. Kelly claims the singer didn't watch Surviving R. Kelly but is "disgusted" by the accusations made during Lifetime's record-breaking docu-series. R. Kelly may not reply to the allegations directly, but he kind of already has — through a bizarre 19-minute song. In 2018, Kelly released the track "I Admit," in which he seemingly admits to some things about his life but not to others. In the lyrics, the singer appears to confirm that he was illiterate and that he was sexually abused as a child (something he went into detail about during a 2016 interview with GQ), but he doesn't address the accusations of abuse made by Andrea and numerous other women. 

Andrea is sticking to her guns and continuing to share her side of the story via social media. "No longer willing to silence my PAIN AND SUGARCOAT THE ABUSE I ENDURED because of how my abuser and his LEGAL TEAM were THREATENING to come against me if I 'didn't choose wisely,'" she said in a January 2019 Instagram post. "NO MORE! Don't speak about MY GROWTH OR JOURNEY especially if you have NEVER BEEN ABUSED." The proud survivor claims to have "so much more to say" on the topic of her ex, so chances are we haven't heard the last of Andrea "Drea" Kelly just yet.