R. Kelly Survivor Azriel Clary Admits Singer Coached Her Prior to Infamous 2019 Interview

Over two years after R. Kelly survivor Azriel Clary first appeared on a CBS interview with Gayle King to defend the singer against allegations of sexual abuse, Clary returned to CBS Mornings Thursday to once again speak with King. However, this interview came weeks after Clary testified against Kelly at his Brooklyn federal trial, where he was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking.

“I feel like that interview was a blessing,” Clary told King of their March 2019 conversation. “For five years, since I was 17, I didn’t have any relationship with any other woman except for the women that [Kelly] had been intimate with. And so when I did that interview with you, I instantly regretted immediately how I reacted.”

Clary said that the interview was an awakening of sorts, as after she talked with King, she thought to herself, “I used to be that poised, I used to be that calm, what happened to that girl? Where did it go?” She then realized her relationship with Kelly “wasn’t love. Love doesn’t hurt.”

Clary added that Kelly coached her and fellow Kelly survivor Joycelyn Savage prior to that interview, where Kelly himself broke down in an unhinged rant during his conversation with King; Kelly also told Clary and Savage to “be angry” when they first faced King, Clary said.

In the 2019 interview, Clary accused her own parents of introducing her to Kelly and telling her to lie about her age — she was only 17 at the time — and then blackmailing the singer. “Okay, so when I first met Robert, my parents told me to lie about my age,” Clary said at the time. “So when I met him, he thought that I was 18. On top of that, when I was 17, my parents were actually … trying to get me to take photos with him, take sexual videos with him, all kinds of stuff… [A]nd they said, because if they ever have to blackmail him, what they’re trying to do now, they can use it against him, which is exactly what they’re doing.”

Popular on Rolling Stone

“Before that interview, you know, he had us practicing every single day,” Clary told King Thursday. “Answering questions. And if he didn’t like our answers, he would tell us exactly what to say and how to say it, so any time you mentioned anything about sexual preference, we already know to say, ‘I’m not here to talk about that,’ because that’s what he told us to say every single time.”

Clary noted that Kelly was “so happy” with her and Savage’s performance during that first King interview; Kelly also thought he “made a great reflection of himself” during his now-infamous interview with King.

King then asked Clary about what it was like testifying against Kelly; as King noted, some of Clary’s testimony against the singer was “so graphic” that the judge wouldn’t allow it to be released to the public.

“I feel like it was very disturbing to have to relive those moments,” Clary said, adding however, “A piece of me was happy because I felt like this person no longer has control over me. You don’t tell me what to do and what to wear and where to go and how long to be in a room anymore.”