Drea Kelly, dancer, choreographer, actress and reality show star, shared her story of alleged domestic abuse by R. Kelly, ex-husband, former professional basketball player and R&B star, to about 40 people at Loyola’s Crown Center during an Oct. 24 event hosted by one of the school’s fraternities, Alpha Phi Alpha.
While the 44-year-old has appeared in television shows such as VH1’s Hollywood Exes, she began her career as a dancer where she met R. Kelly, according to Kelly. The alleged emotional abuse started when their relationship became romantic with R. Kelly becoming controlling of where she went and who she interacted with, Kelly said.
The alleged physical abuse came later, according to Kelly, adding domestic abuse had been normalized in her life because she had seen her grandparents’ own abusive relationship when she was growing up.
She separated from R. Kelly in 2005, taking their three children with her and later divorcing him, Kelly said.
Domestic violence is defined as actions taken over a period of time that inflict power and control over someone else in an intimate relationship, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Examples of domestic violence include physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as creating fear and demanding control.
R. Kelly couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Kelly’s memoir, “Drea Kelly’s Video Memoir,” where she opens up about her experiences, was featured at the event. According to Kelly, the memoir shows why victims of domestic abuse shouldn’t let shame keep them from getting help.
“The thing I want people to take away from my memoir is not to remember the storm, but how I came out of it,” Kelly told The Phoenix. “Never to forget that inner voice and that inner strength is always with you, even in your weakest moment.”
Kelly has been sharing her story, but she said her visit to the Lake Shore Campus was the first time she watched her memoir in the same room as an audience.
“This is fresh for me … it was a lot to take,” Kelly said. “It was very emotional because seeing that and knowing that that’s really my life and my life story.”
Kelly considers herself an activist now, she said, one of the reasons she decided to become an activist was to educate people on the signs and impacts of domestic abuse.
“Celebrities go through it, rich people go through it … and people think you live this great life and you have all this money and you travel, so it can’t be that bad,” Kelly said. “I want people to take away from it that abuse is that bad across the board, rich or poor, black or white, celebrities or just regular old everyday people.”
Alpha Phi Alpha is one of Loyola’s seven fraternities on campus and was the first fraternity on campus established for African Americans, according to the Multicultural Greek Council.
Marlon Vargas, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, said the event was intended to educate the Loyola community on domestic violence so more people will have the courage to stand up for themselves and others.
Sarah Palkowitz, a junior psychology major, attended the event and she said she didn’t expect Kelly to be as open as she was about her personal life.
“I’ve heard a lot about the whole R. Kelly situation,” the 20-year old said. “But I mean I had no idea what she has been through, and I was crying … it just really moved me.”
For Kelly, her memoir gives her a way to tell her story on her own terms.
“I want people to know the real and rawness of it, and let’s try not to make a beautiful story out of what is a mess,” Kelly said. “It has to be real and raw because it’s life changing and life saving.”