“I think it’s clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time,” wrote Gaga, noting that she would not be working with Kelly again. “I’m sorry, both for my poor judgment when I was young and for not speaking out sooner.”
Gaga’s announcement comes after she faced mounting pressure on social media to condemn Kelly, who was the recent focus of a highly rated six-part Lifetime docuseries called “Surviving R. Kelly.” The series, which featured gripping accounts from women who said the famed R&B singer abused them, has revived interest in the allegations, prompting prosecutors in Illinois to ask for potential witnesses or victims to come forward, The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi reported. Kelly could also be facing an investigation in Georgia, CNN reported. The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer has denied the accusations.
“I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously,” Gaga wrote in her statement, calling the allegations “absolutely horrifying and indefensible."
As of early Thursday morning, the apology has received more than 96,000 likes and more than 25,000 retweets on Twitter.
Since the Lifetime series’s Jan. 3 premiere, a number of celebrities have publicly denounced Kelly, but many noticed that Gaga, who revealed in 2014 that she was a survivor of sexual assault and is a vocal supporter of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, was not among them.
Even in 2013, Gaga’s decision to partner with Kelly was considered controversial. Several years earlier, Kelly was involved in a high-profile child pornography trial but was acquitted on all counts in 2008. The same year the duet was released, the Village Voice published a Q&A with former Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis, who had reported extensively on the accusations that Kelly engaged in relationships with underage girls. In the interview, DeRogatis detailed the allegations against Kelly, describing them as “stomach-churning” and “disgusting.”
Gaga, however, stood by Kelly at the time.
“Both R. Kelly and I have, sometimes, very untrue things written about us,” she said at a 2013 news conference in Japan, defending the partnership. “In a way, this was a bond between us. We were able to say, ‘The public, they can have our bodies, but they cannot have our mind or our heart.’ It was a very natural collaboration.”
Here is a sample of the lyrics Kelly sings in “Do What U Want”:
Do what I want, do what I want with your bodyDo what I want, do what I want with your bodyBack of the club, taking shots, getting naughtyNo invitations, it’s a private partyDo what I want, do what I want with your bodyDo what I want, do what I want with your body
Further controversy arose when it came time to shoot the music video for the song. First, there was the issue of the video’s director. According to Time magazine, Gaga hired fashion photographer Terry Richardson, who has faced numerous accusations of sexual harassment and assault. The video was never released, but a leaked clip depicted a disturbing scene. In the video, Gaga is a patient asking Kelly, a doctor, if she will ever walk again, according to Page Six.
“Yes, if you let me do whatever I want with your body,” Kelly responds. “I’m putting you under, and when you wake up, you’re going to be pregnant.”
Gaga, along with Jay-Z, Dave Chappelle, Mary J. Blige and several other celebrities, declined to be part of the Lifetime docuseries, Variety reported.
The series’s executive producer, dream hampton, brought up Gaga in an interview on “The Karen Hunter Show” on SiriusXM earlier this week.
“I wanted to know how Lady Gaga could be on SNL with him as someone who advocates for domestic abuse survivors,” hampton said, referencing Gaga’s November 2013 appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” where she sang the song with Kelly. The performance, described by hampton as “ridiculous,” has been called “cringe-y” and featured the pair dancing provocatively.
In Thursday’s statement, Gaga explained that as a victim of sexual assault, she had “made both the song and video at a dark time in my life,” adding, “My intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn’t processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life."
She continued: “If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self I’d tell her to go through the therapy I have since then, so that I could understand the confused post-traumatic state that I was in — or if therapy was not available to me or anyone in my situation — to seek help, and speak as openly and honestly as possible about what we’ve been through.”
Gaga noted that she was not trying to use the apology to “make excuses” and promised to take action.
“Til it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels,” she wrote. “But I do know how I feel now.”
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