In the conclusion of the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries, they discussed the women still living with Kelly. Two of the women mentioned were the ladies interviewed by Gayle King during her CBS This Morning interview, Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage. The third was Dominique Gardner, who had been introduced to Kelly’s household by Jerhonda Johnson, also a survivor. Dominique was the woman whose mother tracked her down at her hotel and convinced to eventually leave. The docuseries noted that Dominique went back to R. Kelly but did, eventually leave him for good. After taking some well-deserved time to work on her health, Dominique reached out to reporter Jim DeRogatis to give her side of the story. In her interview, she said she was not brainwashed by Kelly, but he did try to break her.
Early last Thursday morning, I received the latest in a series of calls from Dominique Gardner, a former girlfriend of R. Kelly, who said she was eager, when we met that night, to “give my truth.” For nine years, Gardner, who is twenty-seven, was one of Kelly’s lovers. For part of that time, she says, she was one of six women living with the singer. In the documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” Gardner appears in the final two episodes: we watch as her mother, Michelle Kramer, tracks her down to a Los Angeles hotel room and convinces her to leave the singer’s “cult.” Gardner told me that she has not watched any of these dramatic scenes, nor any part of the documentary. “What’s the point of seeing it when I lived it?” she said. “People are using it as entertainment, when it wasn’t entertainment for me, you know?”
One of my first questions for Gardner was if she regrets spending a third of her life with Kelly. No, she said. “I loved him to death, you know what I’m sayin’? But he needs help. Who doesn’t need help?” The word “cult” is one that Gardner rejects, and so is “brainwashed”—“I am not just about to spread lies about him,” she said—but she struggles to find a better way to describe a situation that, according to her, people don’t really understand, at least not the way she does. “I wouldn’t …
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