Azriel Clary was one of the survivors who testified against R. Kelly during his recent sex trafficking trial — where he was found guilty of racketeering and Mann Act violations, but two years ago she was interviewed on CBS This Morning and passionately defended the R&B singer to co-host Gayle King. On Thursday, Clary returned to the newly renamed CBS Mornings and told King the singer had “control” over her in March 2019.
“I was lost. And I felt invisible,” Clary said, describing her state at the time of the interview. “And I gave someone that control over me, to basically make me do whatever it was that they wanted me to do and act however they wanted me to act.”
During the trial, Clary testified that Kelly began abusing her when she was only 17. At the time of the previous interview, Clary had been living with Kelly for almost five years. According to CBS Mornings, she moved out of the Chicago apartment she shared with the singer seven months after the interview aired.
The now-23-year-old explained that since Kelly was interviewed by King first, he coached Clary and Joycelyn Savage, who also was interviewed by King, on how to respond to questions. “He came in and he told us to be angry and be upset and she’s gonna try to do this,” Clary shared. “And so we were — we came in angry.”
Kelly’s explosive interview with King went viral after he stood up and screamed into the camera. He also claimed at the time that he had been “assassinated” due to the multiple reports that he was abusing women and underage girls.
When Clary had her interview with King, she echoed his claims of innocence and accused her parents of spreading lies to the media. The then-21-year-old called her father a “manipulative liar.” She added, “He’s the one you need to watch out for.”
When King asked Clary what she was dishonest about in the interview, she replied, “Everything.”
Clary continued, “Before that interview, you know, he had us practicing every single day, … answering questions. … And if he didn’t like our answers, he would tell us exactly what to say and how to say it.”
King shared that Clary’s father contacted the journalist after seeing his child on television and said, “That is not my daughter. That is not who she is. That is not how she speaks. That is not what she believes.”
Clary said Kelly was “happy” after he saw her responses to King. “‘He was, like, ‘You guys did amazing. You know, you did so well. You carried yourself so well,’” she recalled. “I believe he even, like, got food and wanted to celebrate.”
King questioned if Clary or any of the other women she lived with tried to rally together and say they weren’t being treated properly. Clary answered, “I feel like a lot of people tried, but everyone always got beat over it because he was very good at manipulating the situation.”
She explained, “So even if he knew or not, he would basically say — he could come in this room right now and he would say, ‘You know, I’ve already spoken to Joy. She already told me exactly what you guys have been talking about. You have five minutes to be honest or you’re going to be thrown around this entire room.’”
Clary said that the environment felt “normal” to her: “It was not only me, it was other women who were older than me. You know, when I met him at 17, he had four other women. And so these women are all normalizing his actions. And then you have assistants normalizing his actions,” she said. “And you have workers and security and everyone else that normalizes it. So, me being very young at that time, I just learned to normalize it.”
Clary detailed the abuse by Kelly at his trial. She called reliving the moments “disturbing” but added, “A piece of me was happy because I felt like this person no longer has control over me, you know? 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.”
She ended the interview saying she learned, “It’s OK to reevaluate your life. It is OK to change your mind, you know? You are never too old to wake up and say, ‘Hey, I thought this was good for me, but it’s actually not.’”
Watch the interview below.