Lisa Van Allen, the star witness in R.Kelly’s child pornography trial spoke exclusively to Essence.com about her relationship with the singer and why she decided to step forward to testify against the star.
Essence.com: How did you meet R. Kelly?
Van Allen: I met him in Alpharetta, Georgia, at the “Home Alone” video shoot, probably in ’98. I was 17, and he was 31. I was fresh out of high school. My friend’s girlfriend was going to the video shoot, and he didn’t want her to go by herself. I just tagged along with her and ended up being an extra in it.
Essence.com: So how did you go from being an extra to meeting him personally?
Van Allen: He sent his cousin over to me. This guy told me his cousin wanted to talk to me. I asked him who his cousin was, and he said, “R. Kelly.” I said, “Okay,” and he arranged for me to be taken back to his trailer. In between the scenes, he came back to the trailer and talked to me. I was very flattered. Out of all the girls at the video shoot, he picked me out of everybody to talk to. We ended up having intercourse.
Essence.com: You had sex with him in the trailer that same day?
Van Allen: Yes. He started with a kiss, and from there we leaned back, and I just didn’t stop him. I was kind of worried that he wouldn’t want to see me again after that, but I wasn’t worried about the actual act at that time because I was just honored that he picked me. Being a young girl, I was like, “Wow.” I wasn’t thinking as a woman would. Now that I’m older, things are different. I would never go that route today. As a child, you don’t make all the right decisions. That’s why young girls shouldn’t be involved with grown men.
Essence.com: Did you feel emotionally connected with him, or was it mostly a sexual relationship?
Van Allen: I thought we were really good friends and were really close. Once I moved up there, we did everything together. He’d be in the studio recording; I’d be there. He’d go to video shoots; I’d be there. He even went to get a colon cleanse, and I went with him. It wasn’t only sexual, but sex was a major part.
Essence.com: Was he very controlling when it came to sex?
Van Allen: Yeah. He would always tell you what to do. You’d come into a situation where he’d want to have sex, and he’d coach you through the whole thing. He’d tell you which way to lie, which way to turn, what noises to make, how loud to moan, how to roll your body around. It was weird, but being that I was so young I still didn’t know what was the right way to do things sexually. I was still learning. He was a man, so I just followed his lead. I figured he knew more about this stuff, and that this is how it’s supposed to go.
Essence.com: One of the more appalling aspects of the tape at the center of the trial is that the man peed on the girl in the video. Is that something R. Kelly did with you?
Van Allen: No, he never asked me to do that. We had never had a conversation about it, and he never tried to do that with me.
Essence.com: Given the age difference, I’m curious about what you felt you had in common with him.
Van Allen: See, that’s the thing—he doesn’t act his age. His conversations are pretty much on a 17- or 18-year-old’s grade level. He would crack jokes a lot. We would go to McDonald’s all the time. He liked to go to Hoops, a basketball gym, every night. He would go to the mall a lot. So he was basically doing what kids that age were doing.
Essence.com: Did you consider him to be your boyfriend?
Van Allen: In my head I did, until I found out later that he was married.
Essence.com: When did you meet the girl alleged to be in the video?
Van Allen: I met her in ’98 also. I was 18 when I met her. My birthday is in June, so half of ’98 I was 17, and the other half I was 18. I met her at his house for a threesome. That was the first of three times we all had sex together. He videotaped it. He would tell us what to do—to kiss and touch each other, do oral on each other, oral on him. Things like that. It seemed like it was pretty routine for her. She seemed to know what to do. Not to say anything bad about her, but it didn’t seem to bother her. [R. Kelly has denied these allegations in court and was acquitted of all charges against him. ]
Essence.com: Did you know how old she was?
Van Allen: He told me that she was 16. With me having just turned 18 at that time, it didn’t seem like a big age difference. I didn’t look at it as, “I’m 18, I’m a grown woman.” I saw her as being my age.
Essence.com: How did you find out how old she really was?
Van Allen: I didn’t find out until after we’d had our sexual encounters. We were heading to a video shoot in a car together, and she was speaking about her birthday. And she was saying that when she turned 16 she wanted to get a PT Cruiser. She was supposed to have already been 16. And at this time, it was like a year after we had already done what we had done. So it led me to believe she was at least two years younger than she was supposed to have been back then. I was shocked. I felt betrayed because of how close I thought he and I were. I thought he would have been able to be honest with me. I didn’t bring it up or say anything to him about it. I just knew that was a situation I didn’t want to be put in again. [Read the entire interview at Essence.com]