R. Kelly Survivor Azriel Clary Says Singer Coached Her Before 2019 Interview

The notorious 2019 interview saw Clary defending the singer. In a new discussion with Gayle King, Clary reflects on those moments and the conviction.

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In a new interview with Gayle King, Azriel Clary—who was among those who testified against R. Kelly in court—looked back on a 2019 interview during which she and another woman defended the singer.

Clary, now 23, now says she and others were coached prior to the 2019 interview, which also included a separate portion in which King interviewed Kelly himself. The disgraced singer was convicted this month on all charges in a federal racketeering and sex trafficking trial. Of those charges, five were related to crimes committed against Clary.

“I was lost and I felt invisible and I gave someone that control over me to basically make me do whatever it was they wanted me to do and to act however they wanted me to act,” Clary, who says Kelly abused her verbally and physically for years, said in the new interview when reflecting on how she felt in 2019.

After Kelly recorded his interview that day, Clary said, he “told us to be angry and be upset,” which they did.

“We came in angry and I was scared because I was like, I don’t want the world to see me this way,” Clary told King around two minutes into the video up top. “I’m loving, I’m caring, I’m compassionate. And no one got to see that side of me.”

“Why am I exploiting myself for a man who has me in this position in the first place?“: Azriel Clary, one of the R. Kelly survivors who testified against him in court, said her interview in 2019 with @GayleKing was a turning point for her. pic.twitter.com/cM4hyLWSnc

— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) September 30, 2021

Closer to the three-minute mark, Clary was asked what she lied about in the original interview, with Clary revealing that the coaching forced her to be dishonest the entire time.

“Everything, everything,” she said. “Before that interview, you know, he had us practicing every single day, answering questions. If he didn’t like our answers, he would tell us exactly what to say and how to say it. So anytime you mention anything about sexual preference, we already know to say, ‘I’m not here to talk about that.’”

Addressing the impact Kelly had on her sense of reality, Clary spoke candidly on how even a toxic situation can be normalized, both by those directly involved and by those surrounding it.

“Everything that we were living in had become very normal and I had to break out of that,” she said around five minutes into the video above. “I had to realize that this is actually abnormal. … When I met him at 17, he had four other women and so these women are all normalizing his actions.” Others who Clary said normalized the situation included assistants, security detail, and other employees of the singer.

Later, Clary shared a touchingly direct reflection on one of the saddest aspects of an abusive situation.

“A lot of people don’t realize that, with victims, the more you try to help them, the more it upsets them sometimes,” she said.

See the full interview above.

Kelly’s conviction on all counts in the racketeering and trafficking trial was announced on Monday. The singer is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, with Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Jacquelyn M. Kasulis saying the verdict both “forever brands R. Kelly as a predator” and also lets victims know their voices have been heard.

Following the guilty verdict, TMZ reported that the 2013 decision to award Kelly the “key to the city” honor in Baton Rouge was being reversed.

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