The first part of Lifetime’s new six-hour documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” premieres Thursday night (Jan. 3) and will feature an emotional interview with former backup singer Jovante Cunningham, who met R. Kelly at age 14 and claims she witnessed his sexual encounters with underaged girls in the ’90s, including Aaliyah.
As reported by PEOPLE, during her interview, Cunningham breaks down recalling when she alleges to have discovered Kelly and Aaliyah had a sexual relationship.
“We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” she says. “On a tour bus, there really aren’t many confined spaces. When you get on the bus there are bunks and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping.”
“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” Cunningham continues. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”
Asked what she saw, Cunningham says: “Things that an adult should not be doing with a child.” She adds, “I can’t stress to you how people are still suffering behind things that went on 20 years ago.”
27-year-old Kelly secretly wed a then 15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994, the same year her solo album debuted. The media uncovered a marriage certificate that was suspected of being bogus.
In the Lifetime documentary, Kelly’s former personal assistant, Demetrius Smith, claims he was present at the wedding and admits to obtaining false documents for an underaged Aaliyah.
“Robert came to me, we were in Miami,” recalls Smith. “Robert said, ‘Man we got Aaliyah in trouble’.”
That’s when Kelly revealed: “I think she’s pregnant.”
“That broke my heart right there because I really believed him when he said that he wasn’t messing with Aaliyah…Once he told me that I was at a loss for words,” Smith added.
The marriage was annulled a year later, and Kelly has since continued to deny their nuptials.
Smith goes on to claim, “I was in the room when they got married. I’m not proud of that. I had papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underaged. It was just a quick little ceremony, she didn’t have on a white dress he didn’t have on a tux. Just every day wear. She looked worried and scared.”
Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash at the age of 22.
“Surviving R. Kelly” airs on Lifetime at 9 p.m. ET from Thursday, Jan. 3 through Saturday, Jan. 5.