"People just don't want to touch it," Dream Hampton explains ahead of Thursday's premiere.
John Legend is one of just two famous performers who agreed to appear on camera for Lifetime's "Surviving R. Kelly," and the executive producer of the docuseries has revealed a long list of celebrities who allegedly turned down the opportunity.
Dream Hampton told The Detroit Free Press it was "incredibly difficult" to snag stars who worked with the R&B icon, who may be more famous for his many scandals and legal troubles than his music at this point.
"When it comes to celebrities, It was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated with Kelly to come forward. We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle," she said. "[They're] people who have been critical of him. That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me."
"I mean, most people just don't want to touch it," she said. "I remember Ahmir ["Questlove" Thompson] was like, 'I would do anything for you but I can't do this.' It's not because they support him, it's because it's so messy and muddy. It's that turning away that has allowed this to go on."
The docuseries premieres tonight, but Lifetime has been steadily releasing clips over the last week, featuring Kelly's own brothers and a lot of women who have stepped forward to share their stories. Over 50 interviews were conducted for the project, which chronicles Kelly's life, career and the numerous sexual assault and abuse allegations he has faced.
His former protégé, R&B singer Sparkle, is among those women. She testified against Kelly at a 2008 trial when he was facing child pornography charges, and ultimately acquitted.
Kelly also allegedly had a sexual relationship with the late singer Aaliyah when she was only a teenager. In the premiere episode, airing tonight, a woman claiming to be one of R. Kelly's former backup singers, Jovante Cunningham, says she saw the two having sex and doing "things that an adult should not be doing with a child." Cunningham said Kelly was 27 at the time, while Aaliyah was allegedly just 15 at the time.
The singer's mother, Diane Haughton, responded to the allegations in a statement sent to the Aaliyah for Mac Twitter account. According to Bustle, Aaliyah's brother, Rashad, was the one who e-mailed the statement to the account. The message was then re-tweeted by the official Aaliyah page.
"The woman and so-called back up singer in the forthcoming 'Surviving...' documentary that describes seeing, meeting or ever breathing the same air as my daughter, Aaliyah, is lying and is a liar," read the statement. "My husband and I were always on tour with her and at interviews and every place she went throughout her entire career. Whoever this woman is, I have never seen her before anywhere on planet earth, until now."
"These lies and fabrications cannot be tolerated and allowed to be spewed from the forked tongues of saboteurs of Aaliyah's legacy," the message continued. "My daughter only wanted to realize her dream of sharing her talent with the world, and give her all performing on stage, and in front of the camera for the fans she adored so much. She realized that dream, thanks to those true fans who still love and support her legacy unconditionally to this day."
"Shame on all those involved in this project who thought it kosher to drag Aaliyah's name into a situation that has nothing to do with her today," she concluded. "Once again, this will not be tolerated. Sincerely, Diane Haughton."
Aaliyah's life was cut short after she died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22. Neither she or R. Kelly ever talked about their relationship or alleged marriage in 1994, when she was 15.
TMZ reported Thursday morning that R. Kelly has threatened to sue Lifetime over the docuseries, arguing it's full of lies, but the network is still airing the first episode tonight as scheduled.