The dark secrets of R. Kelly weren’t the only ones exposed in Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docu-series that aired last week.
Viewers learned that the victim of Kelly’s 2002 child pornography case was the niece of singer Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, best known for her “Be Careful” hit with the disgraced R&B artist. But despite Sparkle’s admission to introducing her niece to the Pied Piper, even after learning of the rumors of abuse toward his then-wife, Andrea Kelly, and other teenage victims, she’s clearing her name among the critics. Her first order of business is addressing the wildly controversial marriage between then-15-year-old Aaliyah and R. Kelly as well, which she says she initially believed was a mere hoax.
The “Be Careful” singer spoke on The Clay Cane Show about the controversy, beginning with Aaliyah’s uncle, Barry Hankerson, who was Kelly’s manager at the time. Especially with him around, she didn’t think much of the marriage. Between her time at the studio and limited elbow-bumping with other people Kelly was working with, Sparkle said she actually paid no mind to it. Thus, the question of how the forged marriage occurred beneath the noses of so many adults who were around Aaliyah is a better question for Hankerson, who was supposed to be looking after her, Sparkle acknowledged.
“That’s not a question everybody should be asking me,” she stated. “I didn’t see anything with the Aaliyah thing. Even on the ‘Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number’ CD, I didn’t sing on [that album], or I didn’t even know about that song until the album came out.” She recalled that 1992 was when she worked on that project, but she was gone up until 1996.
As for the marriage certificate, Sparkle doubted that anyone assumed that was real at the time. "Who thought that was real? You know what I mean. I thought that was a hoax that that's not real, you know?" Sparkle said. "That was my naiveté of thinking that it wasn't real because, like again, Barry Hankerson was there. This shouldn't and couldn't have happened.” Taking Aaliyah’s age into consideration, she continued, Sparkle assumed it wouldn’t have even been possible. But after seeing the marriage certificate for herself, that’s when reality confronted her a little closer.
“Well, after I saw the marriage certificate and I was like, ‘OK, maybe there's something to it,’” she said. “But again, I'm thinking the uncle was there, the parents are there. This can't be."
“I did not know,” she asserted. “Like—hear me—I did not know. Had I known when it first jumped off, I would have reacted the same way I reacted when I did know." She recalls calling police and said that before she even knew about the camp, people within Kelly’s team called her to let her know something wasn’t right. Her first move was to alert authorities, which she said she did, and led to an investigation. Sparkle added that her niece, sister and brother-in-law all reported that nothing was going on, however. But in 2001, when she actually witnessed the tape herself, she didn’t hesitate to call the police, Sparkle recollected.
Now, she said to Cane, she feels she’s being unfairly scrutinized for the entire situation. According to her, there was far more content in the Lifetime docu-series that shed light on the ordeal, which the network cut out. She wishes that they’d air that as well, so people would hear the whole story instead of just the 15 minutes or so her statements were shared throughout the documentary.
Hear her full statement on the child pornography case involving her niece below.
(Photos from left: Dexter A. Jones/Getty Images, Roger Wong/Ovoworks/Ovoworks/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)