Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly: The Final Chapter examined his relationship with Aaliyah and her uncle Barry Hankerson’s alleged lies.
R. Kelly’s former backup dancer Jovante Cunningham said Hankerson was well aware of the disgraced singer’s sordid involvement with Aaliyah. Cunningham called out Hankerson, who once managed R. Kelly, for allegedly lying about what he knew in a 2021 interview with Dr. Oz.
“Barry’s full of s###,” Cunningham said. “Barry knew exactly what was going on.”
Hankerson claimed he cut ties with R. Kelly after learning about the singer’s illegal marriage to Aaliyah in the Dr. Oz interview. But Cunningham recalled Hankerson using his niece as a bargaining chip when R. Kelly didn’t want to renew Hankerson’s management contract.
“I remember coming back off of tour and Robert saying that he wasn’t gonna renew his management contract with Barry,” she explained. “Barry said, ‘If you don’t renew my management contract, I’m gonna pull the plug on you and Aaliyah.’ And Robert didn’t, or so I thought. And maybe two or three days later is when we found out about the marriage. I didn’t know anything about it.”
Cunningham added, “I remember thinking to myself, ‘You dirty m###########.’ You would do this to your niece? You’re OK with this type of behavior? Wow.”
Nakia Vestal, another former R. Kelly backup dancer, also accused Hankerson of lying. She heard him tell a similar story to the one he told on Dr. Oz’s show in a radio interview.
“I just remember hearing [him] on the radio,” Vestal said. “I was in Houston driving to work and Barry Hankerson, his former manager, was saying, ‘Oh when I found out about him messing with my niece Aaliyah, I stopped working with him.’ November of 1994 when I met him, Barry was still his manager. Barry ate breakfast with us.”
Lizzette Martinez, one of R. Kelly’s victims, poked holes in Hankerson’s story as well.
“I met Barry Hankerson in 1995 in January when I was 17 years old after the annulment of the marriage between Aaliyah and Robert,” she said. “For him to be sitting there with underage girls knowing what he had just done to his niece, I don’t know if I really have a lot of respect for this person.”
The last episode of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly: The Final Chapter aired on Tuesday (January 3). All four parts are available to stream here with a TV provider login.