She's grown up in the shadows of his scandals.
R. Kelly's family has endured much over the years as the singer has been the subject of both ridicule and controversy for decades. Now, his children are stepping forward to share what life has been like living under the umbrella of scandal as Kelly is once again facing charges, this time for child pornography, sex trafficking, and sexual abuse.
Buku Abi, whose real name is Joann Kelly, has been a featured cast member on the most recent season of Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta. The 21-year-od has spoken openly about her relationship, or lack thereof, with her father, something that she elaborated on during a recent interview with the Associated Press. The accusations against Kelly began prior to Abi being born due to Kelly marrying Aaliyah when the late R&B singer was just 15-years-old.
“I think you get to see a different side of it than somebody who sees it from the outside and gets to see the glitz and glam," Abi said of growing up with a famous parent. "I got to see the hell part of it. I didn’t want to be in the industry.” Abi was four-years-old when Kelly was first indicted on child pornography charges, and when she was 10, he was acquitted. Her family sheltered her as much as they could from the gossip about Kelly, but when she enrolled in public school, her peers didn't hold back.
“At home it’s normal, you’re living a life with your parents; your dad and mom aren’t going to go into all the bad things that might be going on outside of home, but kids in school don’t necessarily care," she said. "Fifth and sixth grade is when I started learning the sore part of it, the not so good part. I think that was the hardest part for me because for so long I went with this image of who my dad (was) and what my family (was).”
“I definitely run across challenges — people wanting to work with me to spite him or people not wanting to work with me just because of who he is,” Abi added about her attempts at making it as an aritst. “I’ve definitely come across turmoil...being judged for really no reason at all, just based off associations. I’ve been pushing through it. Me making the art, it saved my life so there’s nothing really that would be able to stop me.”
They may have a strained relationship, but Abi also noted that she can't deny that her father is talented. "There’s a lot about him as an artist that inspires me.”