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R. Kelly’s Ex-Mentee Sparkle on His Guilty Verdict and the Cost of Speaking up 20 Years Ago

Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards was the first woman to speak out against R. Kelly years ago after watching a sexually explicit video featuring the disgraced entertainer and her 14-year-old niece. Now, she’s going on the record to discuss her thoughts on his verdict and the years she’s spent exiled from the music industry.

Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, a former protégé of R. Kelly has shared her thoughts on the recent verdict of the disgraced entertainer. Edwards was the first woman to accuse Kelly publicly. 

On Monday, Kelly was found guilty of all crimes including sex trafficking and racketeering in his federal sex crimes trial. 

20 years ago Edwards was blackballed from the entertainment industry after calling the police and reporting she’d seen her 14-year-old niece in a sexually explicit video with Kelly (she’d introduced her niece at 12 and her parents to the singer in 1997). The moment she spoke out about the harrowing incident captured on camera changed the trajectory of her life and her career. 

Sparkle also testified in Kelly’s 2008 trial in which he was found not guilty of child pornography charges. She appeared in Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary and shared her experiences again. In a detailed interview with The Cut, she discusses not only the verdict but how she was left with a troubled relationship with her family and more. 

On the verdict:

“I didn’t think I would be emotional. But I am. It’s just been a long time for me, dealing with this. On the one hand, I think I’m a little sad because Robert was my ex-mentor and what he did was just a punch to my chest. And I’m also relieved. Thank God they got it right this time. At the first trial, nobody believed me.”

Her appearance on Surviving R. Kelly was pivotal for the documentary. Here’s why she felt the need to speak up again and share her story: I wasn’t looking to stir things up again, but the producers of Surviving R. Kelly said they were going to include me whether I was part of it or not,” she said. “I didn’t want anybody lying on me or telling my story, so I said yes.”

On being estranged from her family and the entertainment industry:

“My career was shattered… But when people heard I wasn’t on Robert’s side, they disappeared. It felt like that Homer Simpson GIF where he just backs into the bushes. Robert was so powerful in the industry, they didn’t care what he was doing. For the next 18 years I only put out a couple of songs. I felt disgusted with the music business. I did a lot of private events and made a few dollars.”

With her integrity intact, Sparkle is hoping to continue living her truth. She expressed in the interview that it felt good to have support, but she doesn’t care about vindication. “I didn’t let anyone deter me from speaking up,” she said. 

“I know that I’m going down in history being on the right side of truth,” Edwards adds.

Robyn Mowatt

Robyn Mowatt is a Staff Writer at Okayplayer where she covers culture, music, and fashion. You can see what's on her mind on Twitter at @robyn_mowatt.

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