R&B singer R. Kelly’s ‘anxiously clenched fist, fake sad noises’ and contradictory head movements betrayed his guilt during his explosive interview with Gayle King, a body language expert has claimed.
In a new documentary R. Kelly: A Faking It Special – available now on discovery+, Dr Cliff Lansley suggests the tiny signs in Kelly’s body language undermine his denial in hysterical talk with the CBS This Morning host in 2019.
The disgraced Ignition singer, 55, tearfully and angrily denied accusations of sexual abuse and even appeared to have to be physically restrained during his emotional and infamous TV interview three years ago.
However, Cliff notes that when Kelly says ‘no’ to strongly deny the allegations, there is a ‘little head movement – up and down – of “yes”, and insists that when added to the musician’s use of a clenched fist and ‘anxious foot movements’, it all points to Kelly’s guilt.
The body language expert adds: ‘[Kelly’s] trying to play the victim, but there’s no genuine emotion. He’s trying to make noises as if he’s sad, but he’s raising his voice as if it’s anger…
‘He’s still clearly focused on giving his speech to the camera lens. He’s controlling a message that he’s trying to look angry and look upset, but it’s a poor performance.’
Kelly, who has been jailed since 2019 and remains held in a federal prison in Brooklyn, faces decades behind bars when he is sentenced on June 16 after being found guilty of all nine counts of racketeering and sex trafficking by a federal jury in September 2021.
During his sex trafficking trial, prosecutors accused the I Believe I Can Fly hitmaker of exploiting his stardom over a quarter-century to lure women and underage girls for sex.
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R&B singer R. Kelly’s ‘anxiously clenched fist, fake sad noises’ and contradictory head movements betrayed his guilt during his explosive interview with Gayle King (pictured), a body language expert has claimed
In a new documentary R. Kelly: A Faking It Special – available now on discovery+, Dr Cliff Lansley suggests tiny signs in Kelly’s (pictured) body language undermine his denial in hysterical talk with the CBS This Morning host in 2019
In the new documentary, Kelly’s behaviour is analysed for the first time by a trio of experts in body language, linguistics and forensic psychology who attempt to answer one question: were the clues to the singer’s guilt obvious all along?
In February 2019, Kelly was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.
After posting bail, the musician appeared on CBS This Morning to try and ‘control public opinion’, according to Jim DeRogatis. author of Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly.
Sitting down with Gayle, Kelly, who at the start of the interview appeared calm, insisted the accusations against him were ‘lies’.
But Professor of Linguistics Dawn Archer suggests in the documentary that clues in Kelly’s speech show he was anything but relaxed, and far from convincing.
‘He’s telling us he’s the victim. So that is why you get the next question, “Have you broken any laws when it comes to women?” And his response is an emphatic denial,’ she says.
The disgraced Ignition singer (pictured right), 55, tearfully and angrily denied accusations of sexual abuse and even appeared to have to be physically restrained during his emotional and infamous TV interview three years ago
‘What I want us to focus on is the breathy voice quality, and the volume drops to whisper. Breathiness is more associated with resignation, but this is something he’s wanting to categorically deny.
‘So why aren’t we getting a volume increase at that point? For me, it’s like he’s performing for the cameras; it doesn’t come across as genuine,’ she concludes.
Elsewhere in the interview, Gayle asked Kelly if he had ever had sex with anyone under the age of 17, the legal age of consent in Illinois.
Kelly strongly denied that he had, emphatically saying ‘no’ – but for body language expert Dr Cliff, tiny signs in Kelly’s body language undermine this denial.
‘If this was on the radio, then that’s credible. However, we’ve got the benefit of body language, and what we’re seeing when he says “no” is a little head movement – up and down – of “yes”,’ Cliff says.
Cliff further highlights a combination of behaviours that suggest Kelly was lying during the interview.
However, Cliff (pictured) notes that when Kelly says ‘no’ to strongly deny the allegations, there is a ‘little head movement – up and down – of “yes”, and insists that when added to the musician’s use of a clenched fist and ‘anxious foot movements’, it all points to Kelly’s guilt
‘We’ve also got manipulators showing on the hands as he’s clamping his hands together,’ he begins. ‘You see the little fingers on his left hand clamping into a fist, and we see the tension in the legs being released with the foot movements to show us the level of anxiety he’s facing with this question.’
Cliff claims the combination of the head nod, shaking leg and the manipulation of the fingers all point to the singer being guilty.
‘Now, which do you trust: the words that are very easy to manipulate or the body which leaks the truth subconsciously? I’ve given it away: you trust the body. So, this suggests that he is having relationships with under 17s,’ concludes Cliff.
As the 2019 interview continued, Kelly became increasingly agitated with the line of questioning – and Dawn Archer claims Kelly continued to signpost his guilt by evading Gayle’s questions.
‘What we’ve got is he is asked something specific, and he’s answering it with questions instead,’ she says. ‘This is another type of evasion strategy he uses. But he’s doing it in order to frame it as ludicrous.’
Becoming emotional, Kelly eventually erupted into an apparent fit of rage and tears in a moment that quickly went viral once aired.
R. Kelly tells Judge Ann Donnelly that he does not wish to testify during his sex abuse trial at Brooklyn’s Federal District Court on September 22, pictured
For Dawn, Kelly’s over-the-top reaction and attempt to shift the narrative casts further doubt on his claims of innocence.
‘At this point, it suddenly takes a different turn. It’s not good, is it? It isn’t good. And it makes him sound all the more unconvincing, because it’s about him and not other people.’
Examining Kelly’s outburst further, Cliff Lansley identifies micro-gestures in the singer’s body language that suggest the scene is purely performative.
‘He’s trying to play the victim, but there’s no genuine emotion,’ he begins. ‘He’s trying to make noises as if he’s sad, but he’s raising his voice as if it’s anger. These are contraindications, and we don’t get that recipe in terms of sadness and anger mixes.’
Cliff continues: ‘It’s almost an evangelical speech, but we can see he’s still clearly focused on giving his speech to the camera lens. He’s controlling a message that he’s trying to look angry and look upset, but it’s a poor performance.’
As Cliff explains, Kelly displayed a cluster of three behaviours in quick succession which showcased his outburst as more performative than genuine.
R. Kelly was found guilty of all nine counts of racketeering and sex trafficking by a federal jury late September 2021 during his sex trafficking trial where prosecutors accused the R&B singer of exploiting his stardom over a quarter-century to lure women and underage girls for sex
‘So, there’s three things going on here. We’re getting the head shake “no”. We’re getting the shoulder shrug, which is saying you’ve no conviction or connection to the statement you’re making,’ he says.
‘And another thing that happens when we tell lies is the pitch of our voice increases. The pitch rising gives us the reliable cluster of three to say this is a lie.’
For Cliff, Kelly’s guilt is apparent. ‘So, Kelly says, “I’m telling the truth.” No, you’re not.’
Four months after his infamous CBS interview, Kelly was arrested again, this time on a string of federal charges that included bribery of a government official, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour.
In 2021, Kelly was found guilty of all charges. He is due to face sentencing later next month. He continues to appeal against convictions.
R. Kelly: A Faking It Special is available to stream from Wednesday 4th May exclusively on discovery+
Timeline of R. Kelly’s downfall from R&B superstar to ‘sexual predator’
August 1994: At age 27, R. Kelly marries 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah D. Haughton. The couple weds in a secret ceremony arranged by Kelly at a hotel in Chicago. The marriage is annulled months later because of Aaliyah’s age. Aaliyah dies in a plane crash seven years later at age 22.
February 1997: Tiffany Hawkins files a complaint against Kelly alleging intentional sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor. The lawsuit is reportedly settled for $250,000 the following January.
August 2001: Tracy Sampson files a lawsuit against Kelly, alleging their sex was illegal under Illinois law because he was in ‘a position of authority’ over her. The case was reportedly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
February 2002: The Chicago Sun-Times reported that it received a videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a minor. The paper reported Chicago police began investigating allegations about Kelly and the same girl three years earlier. At the time, the girl and her parents denies she was having sex with Kelly.
June 2002: Kelly is indicted in Chicago on child pornography charges stemming from the sex tape. He pleads not guilty and is released on $750,000 bail.
January 2003: Kelly is arrested at a Florida hotel on additional child pornography charges after investigators said they found photos of him having sex with a girl. Charges are later dropped after the judge ruled police didn´t have a warrant to search Kelly’s house.
September 2005: Kelly’s wife Andrea Kelly asks for an order of protection from her husband, accusing the singer of hitting her when she said she wanted a divorce. The couple confirm they have divorced in 2009.
February 2006: Kelly’s brother, Carey Kelly, says his brother offered him $50,000 and a record deal to say he was the person on the sex video.
May 2008: Kelly’s child pornography trial begins. He is acquitted on all counts the next month after less than a full day of deliberations.
July 2017: BuzzFeed reports on parents’ claims that Kelly brainwashed their daughters and was keeping them in an abusive ‘cult.’ One woman says she was with Kelly willingly. Following the BuzzFeed report, activists launched the #MuteRKelly movement, calling for boycotts of his music.
April 2018: The Time’s Up campaign, devoted to helping women in the aftermath of sexual abuse, joins the #MuteRKelly social media campaign and pushes for further investigation into Kelly’s behaviour, which had come under closer scrutiny over the previous year as women came forward accusing him of sexual coercion and physical abuse. Kelly´s camp responds: ‘We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.’
May 2018: Spotify cuts R. Kelly’s music from its playlists, citing its policy on hate content and hateful conduct. Shortly after, Apple and Pandora also stop promoting his music. Kelly’s team pushes back, noting other artists on Spotify had been accused or convicted of crimes.
The same month Faith Rodgers, 20, files a lawsuit accusing R. Kelly of sexual battery, mental and verbal abuse, and knowingly inflicting her with herpes during a yearlong relationship.
January 2019: Lifetime airs the documentary ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ which revisited old allegations against him and brought new ones into the spotlight. The series followed the BBC’s ‘R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes,’ released the previous year, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will.
Lady Gaga apologizes for her 2013 duet with Kelly, saying she intended to remove the song, ‘Do What U Want (With My Body),’ from streaming services.
Faith Rogers says Kelly had written a letter the previous October to one of her lawyers, threatening to reveal embarrassing details of her sexual history if she didn’t drop her May 2018 lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse.
Multiple media outlets reports Kelly and his label, Sony subsidiary RCA Records, part ways. Lady Gaga and Celine Dion remove their duets with Kelly from streaming services, and French rock band Phoenix apologizes for collaborating with Kelly in 2013. Kelly continues to deny all allegations of sexual misconduct.
February 2019: Attorney Michael Avenatti says he gave Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of Kelly having sex with an underage girl, and that it is not the same evidence used in Kelly’s 2008 trial.
Kelly is arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Kelly’s attorney enters not guilty pleas on the singer’s behalf. Hours later, Kelly posts bail and is released from jail in Chicago.
March 2019: CBS airs interview in which Kelly vehemently denied the sexual abuse charges against him. Later, authorities in Cook County take Kelly into custody after he tells a judge he couldn´t pay $161,000 in back child support he owed his children’s mother.
May 2019: Kelly is charged with 11 new sex-related counts in Chicago. They involve one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.
July 2019: Kelly is indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on charges including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York included charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child. He is again arrested in Chicago.
A federal judge orders Kelly held in jail without bond after a prosecutor warned he would pose an extreme danger to young girls if set free.
August 2019: Kelly pleads not guilty to federal charges accusing him of sexually abusing women and girls who attended his concerts, as his lawyers continue to label the alleged victims disgruntled ‘groupies.’
Kelly is charged in Minnesota with prostitution and solicitation related to an allegation that he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.
October 2019: Kelly is denied bail in his New York City sex abuse case after a judge agreed with prosecutors that freeing him from jail would create a risk of him fleeing or tampering with witnesses.
December 2019: Kelly is charged by federal prosecutors with paying a bribe in exchange for a ‘fraudulent identification document’ for an unidentified female a day before he married R&B singer Aaliyah. He later pleads not guilty.
March 2020: Kelly pleads not guilty in Chicago to an updated federal indictment that included child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser, while prosecutors say more charges alleging yet another victim were upcoming.
August 2020: Federal prosecutors announce charges against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused R&B singer Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.
Kelly’s manager is arrested in California on charges that he threatened a shooting at a Manhattan theater two years ago, forcing an evacuation and the cancellation of the screening of a documentary addressing allegations that the singer had sexually abused women and girls.
July 2021: Federal prosecutors in Kelly´s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an underage boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming trial to hear those claims.
August 2021: Kelly’s long-anticipated federal trial begins in New York with opening statements on August 18.
September 2021: After a six-week long trial, the jury find Kelly guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking.