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R. Kelly Mugshot

Source: Cook County Department of Corrections / Cook County Department of Corrections

Viewers of the six part documentary Surviving R. Kelly will recall the story of Dominique Gardner and her mother, Michelle Kramer. Gardner was one of R. Kelly‘s girlfriends and Kramer rescued her from a Los Angeles-area hotel in the documentary. Later, the doc revealed that Gardner had temporarily gone back to be with Kelly before leaving for good.

In a new interview with Jim DeRogatis , the journalist who first broke the R. Kelly story in 2000, Gardner speaks of the trauma she allegedly suffered under Kelly, including the revelation that she has two tattoos of the 52-year-old singer, one on the back of her calf and another on her rib cage.

“I loved him to death, you know what I’m sayin’? But he needs help. Who doesn’t need help,” Gardner tells The New Yorker, detailing her complicated relationship with the singer. “I am not just about to spread lies about him. I wouldn’t even say ‘mind games.’ It was just the fact that he tried to break me,” she said. “I couldn’t be broken. He wanted that control over me, and I wouldn’t give him that power. So, he figured, like, If I don’t give her food, she’ll come around. Nope. I’d rather die than come around and give you my soul.”

Gardner lived with Kelly beginning in 2015 before he and a few “girlfriends” moved to the Atlanta suburb of Johns Creek. “Atlanta is where he changed,” Gardner said. “It was like something switched. [Before that] I used to go home on a regular basis. I was able to call my family. Then, all of a sudden, it was no.”

Among the rules Gardner states happened at the house:

  • No contact with parents or friends
  • Be given a new cellphone, only to contact him
  • All girls must wear baggy gym clothes
  • Had to ask permission to eat or go to the bathroom

Gardner says she was the “rebellious” one amongst Kelly’s girlfriends, resulting in beatings, spankings, slapping and being hit with an extension cord. In her words, disobeying Kelly came with consequences. It “felt as [if] we disrespected him or disobeyed him. It’s like a parent, when your children go against your word.”

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Dominique Gardner, One Of R. Kelly’s Ex-Girlfriends Speak Out: “He Tried To Break Me”  was originally published on