Lizzette Martinez was a 17-year-old high school student hanging out at the mall in Miami when she met R Kelly by chance in 1995. Despite the incongruous setting she recognised him immediately – the previous year he’d had his first No1 hit with “Bump N’ Grind” – and after the briefest of conversations, she says one of his bodyguards passed her Kelly’s phone number. Martinez was an aspiring R&B singer and hoped this could be her big break. She rang Kelly and agreed to join him for dinner.
“When I met him I felt like I was hanging out with someone who was in high school,” Martinez tells GQ. “He’s a jokester. He’s very likeable when you don’t know his dark side. He uses his power and who he is to lure little girls in.”
Despite Martinez telling the then 28-year-old Kelly that she was 17, below the age of consent in Florida, she claims he took her virginity soon afterwards. She describes how, over the next four years, she became trapped in an increasingly manipulative, controlling and abusive relationship with him, during which she says he dictated what she wore and when she ate, repeatedly physically assaulted her and forced her to perform sex acts in front of his friends. “It doesn’t start that he’s going to control you completely, but that’s what it goes into,” she says. “I was expected to just sit in a dark room and wait for him.”