He Tried To Break Me: Dominique Gardner, R. Kelly’s Girlfriend Of 9 Years, Shares Her Truth
It would be hard to forget Michelle Kramer. Even if you don’t know her by name, you remember her as the mother who went out of her way to rescue her daughter, Dominique Gardner from R. Kelly’s clutches.
Last week, we reported that Kramer shared her thoughts on Kelly’s interview with Gayle King. She said that Dominque almost threw the remote at the television as she recognized the lies he was telling on tv. When we shared the story on Facebook, one of our readers asked why Dominque wasn’t speaking for herself. After all she’s been through and endured, dating R. Kelly on and off for a decade, she might be taking the time to heal.
But our reader wasn’t the only one who wondered what Dominque had to say. And Jim DeRogatis, the man who has been following R. Kelly’s sexual abuse allegations for decades, has been in communication with Gardner since July of 2018. Finally, she agreed to speak publicly. Pieces of their conversation ended up in The New Yorker , where the two spoke about her experience with R. Kelly. Turns our Gardner was eager to give her truth.
She told The New Yorker that she was one of six women living with the singer, the one who was made to dress and appear like a boy. Her story was one of the more dramatic parts of the documentary, a documentary Gardner has not seen.
She said, “What’s the point of seeing it when I lived it? People are using it as entertainment, when it wasn’t entertainment for me, you know?
At the conclusion of the documentary, we see Gardner being reunited with her mother. Later, we learned that she returned to Kelly three days later and stayed for two more weeks before she decided to leave for good. Now, she’s living with her mother, working and saving money to move into an apartment of her own.
Gardner share the tipping point that sent her home.
“I would probably still be there if he would have let me go to my little brother’s graduation. I’d still be there, but when he told me no…I’m like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ You don’t let people see their families, I guess because we might realize how much freedom and happiness we have out there with our families.”
There were moments, particularly after she just left the singer that she was worried that he would track her down.
“I wouldn’t put it past him to have his guys following me.”
When asked if she regretted spending so much time with Kelly, Gardner said no.
““I loved him to death, you know what I’m sayin’? But he needs help. Who doesn’t need help?”
Gardner doesn’t use the word cult and she won’t say that she was brainwashed. “I’m not about to spread lies about him.” But she wasn’t able to find a better way to describe the situation. She simply said that people don’t understand it the way the people in the situation do.
“I wouldn’t even say ‘mind games.’ It was just the fact that he tried to break me. 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.”
As her mother stated, Gardner could not watch the full Gayle King/R. Kelly interview. But she took particular issue with R. Kelly saying he’s not Lucifer.
“That’s not genuine. That’s the devil talking. Talking about ‘I’m not Lucifer.’ Yes, you are.” Still, she claims that there’s another side to Kelly. “…he is a giver, because when everything between me and him was good—- oh, my God, it was like perfect. But as soon as he gets mad, he turned into a person like, oh, what up, the new Rob.”
Gardner says she does not want to be perceived as a victim.
“At the end of the day, I am not playing victim. I done did some shit.” She admitted to sleeping with two other men while she was with Kelly—and he was with five other women. “Maybe he did hurt. Maybe he was in love with me. But I never gave him a fair chance.”
Jim DeRogatis said that after nearly a year of asking Gardner if she’d enrolled in therapy, she shared that she finally spoke to a counselor earlier this month.
Gardner pinpoints a particular shift in Kelly’s demeanor when he moved to Atlanta.
“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.”
Gardner did refute some of the common narratives surround Kelly’s “cult.”
She said she was allowed to watch television and connect to the internet. She said there were no locks on the doors. “If them two other girls, Joy and Azriel, wanna walk out, they can do that.” Gardner did say that Kelly replaced all of his girlfriends’ phones and gave them new ones that they could only use with him. They were not allowed to contact family members or friends. They had to adhere to a dress code so other women wouldn’t look at their bodies. They were not allowed to look at or speak to other men and they did have to ask permission to eat or go to the bathroom.
“I couldn’t even have a drink without his permission,” Gardner said. “I’m a grown-ass woman, and I’ve gotta ask you if I want a drink? Everything you do, you have to ask him. That’s not living, that’s not normal. I’ve got to ask to use the fucking bathroom? Are you serious? I’m about to pee on myself if I can’t get in contact with you. What the fuck is this?”
Gardner said she was known for rebelling and had to suffer consequences as a result, consequences that included spankings, slapping, beatings and being hit with an extension cord. She said one time, she threw a carrot at Kelly and “he grabbed me and he pulled my hair out, and I had, like, patches torn from my hair.” Consequences came when Kelly “felt as [if] we disrespected him or disobeyed him. It’s like a parent when your children go against your word.”
DeRogatis said that he’d asked her several times why she’d stayed with him for so long and what did she believe was his hold on women. Gardner was unable to answer the question for a while. But during their last conversation, she recalled an image of Kelly in his most recent mug shot.
“It’s, like, I know them eyes,” she said. “Every time I looked in his eyes, I knew he was sorry. Like, when he hit us, hit me, he was, like, he apologized. Like, he said, ‘I done did some things, and I apologize for it.’ I’m, like, you did, you did! But enough was enough. Yes, you did say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ O.K. But, then again, you do it again when shit don’t go your way…At the end of the day, he’s a victim, too, because he went through some shit, and people—they don’t understand.”
When asked why she didn’t speak out or come forward sooner, Gardner said, I just want to heal. I just want my privacy.” “People may disagree or hate me for what I’m saying,” she continued. “That’s the reason why I never wanted to come out. Because I’m not trying to defend him and what he has done, but, at the end of the day, you don’t understand what he’s been through, as a child.” She said that she does not believe Kelly should be in jail. “I feel like he should be on house arrest in a studio, because, like I said, his music makes him get through the situations, what’s he going through. Jail time, no. He needs to have a twenty-four-hour therapist at his house.” And, she added, he needs to be honest about his behavior. Here, she addressed the man whom she claims to still love. “You can stop the cycle,” she said. “Just be honest. People don’t want you in jail.”
You can read Gardner’s full interview with DeRogatis, here.