Around 20 minutes into Tuesday night’s screening for Lifetime’s upcoming R. Kelly documentary at New York’s NeueHouse Madison Square, the house lights came up as the film, Surviving R. Kelly, abruptly turned off. Approximately 100 people, including seven survivors who appear in the movie, had filled the room to see an excerpt of the six-part docuseries detailing the R&B singer’s numerous allegations of sexual, mental and physical abuse. But as organizers began to evacuate the room, attendees learned that an unidentified male caller had made multiple calls to NeueHouse, telling an employee that there was someone in the theater with a gun and that shots would be fired if they continued showing the documentary.
For Drea Kelly, Kelly’s ex-wife who was at the screening, the threats and event shutdown meant “we were doing something great.” “It makes me smile because that lets me know we’re on the right track,” she tells Rolling Stone. “We’re causing people to listen.” A source close to the project tells Rolling Stone that it’s unclear if they’ll reschedule the event. But ahead of the January 3rd premiere of the three-night, six-hour docuseries, Kelly explains why the threats “just put gasoline on a fire.”
The night started out magical, like Cinderella finally getting to go to the ball. We were coming into that place where we were about to see what all the tears, pain and reliving of the memories was all for. It felt like a life-changing moment and time stood still with all the support of people showing up to hear our stories and lend an ear. The documentary came on and there was this floodgate of emotion in the room; you felt peace and fear enter the room at the same time. It was the first time that a lot of these women are seeing themselves on an actual platform and there was a pit-of-the-stomach feeling like, “OK, well, once we get to the end of this, we can really say, ‘It’s done and it’s final.'”
Then all of a sudden, the rug was pulled out from under us. Twenty minutes in, the house lights came up and we’re all confused and thinking it’s technical difficulties. Someone comes in and says they’re evacuating the theater. It was amazing the way they got everyone out calm with nothing to worry about. That could have been complete chaos.
At that moment, I knew we were doing something great. I don’t believe in chance. I don’t think things are coincidental in life. Of all the places that there could have been a state of emergency, why is it on the night that we are about to step into another dimension when it comes to speaking out and having people’s ears?
The first thing that came to my mind — and I can’t speak for anyone else — was that [R. Kelly] had this shut down. I believe it was somebody connected to him. This was an outside inside-job to me; someone on the outside does not want what’s going on on the inside to be completed. Whoever it came from, they know that this is not a good thing because there’s power in numbers. [A rep for Kelly declined to comment.]
At the end of the day, though, it makes me smile because that lets me know we’re on the right track. We’re causing people to listen. We’re getting people’s attention and we’re getting attention from the one who thought that he was invincible and untouchable. And that also applies to the people that work for him and the people that are around him.
What people don’t understand is that we are a fire that is burning and it’s never going to go out. They thought they were putting us out; they just put gasoline on a fire and now we’re just gonna burn longer and stronger. You actually helped us when it was meant to harm us [because] this did nothing but unite us even more.
[The other survivors] were aligned with what I’m saying right now. Some of the women were disheartened because you finally felt like, “This is my moment of vindication; this is my chance for someone to listen to my story” and it got cut short. But this is in no way the end. This isn’t a stop; it was just a pause. But my God, be careful when you pause. This just makes us go back into boot camp and train harder because now we are very aware of what we’re up against. This is so strong and powerful and life-changing that you have people that don’t want this story told. That means that you speak louder. That means that you come together like never before. That means that you keep pushing forward. You put cracks in us, but you didn’t break us.
What we should be concerned about is if no one felt threatened by this documentary. What we should be concerned about is if no one feels that we should be stopped. Then you’re not doing anything. It’s when you’re being opposed that you know that you’ve been chose.