Joycelyn Savage, one of two women known to have been living with R. Kelly, has claimed she was impersonated last month on social media accounts containing posts describing her as a victim of the singer.
“I am truly tired of all the lies that they are saying about the man that we love so much and our best friend: R. Kelly,” Savage said in a video provided to TMZ on Wednesday.
“Please do not believe what you see and hear on social media,” she added. “That is not my Instagram. Someone is impersonating me. I just want everyone to know we still support him and we will never betray him.”
The confusion stemmed partly from an Instagram account that appears to have belonged to Savage at some point but which was subsequently hacked.
On Nov. 22, an Instagram account purporting to belong to Savage and with the handle @joycelynsavage uploaded a post with the words, “There’s something I need to reveal, something I should’ve talked about a long time ago. This is my story!”
Savage did previously use that account, according to Gerald Griggs, an Atlanta-based attorney representing her estranged family. “She had access to that Instagram and was using it in 2017,” he told BuzzFeed News in a text message on Thursday.
The most recent post on the account was made more than two years before the Nov. 22 message.
A spokesperson for Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday, “The account in question was hacked some time ago. We’ve placed a hold on the account that will allow the rightful owner to regain access the next time they try to login.”
On Nov. 23, another post purporting to be from Savage claimed she had “partnered” with Patreon, a crowdfunding membership platform, to share her story in installments with paying subscribers. The posts portrayed Kelly as controlling and demanding and described Savage as his victim.
Since then, the account has posted an old selfie, as well as two advertising posts promoting online clothing retailers.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, appeared to believe the posts were authentic, telling Variety, “We know the real facts, and it was not until the money ran out that she decided anything was wrong. Hopefully people will see it for the obvious profiteering it is.”
Savage’s family, who have long expressed fears she was brainwashed and was being held in Kelly’s “cult,” also expressed cautious optimism, with Griggs telling the New York Times, “We are attempting to make contact with Joy and the family is ready to welcome her back with love and open arms.”
But just days later, Patreon announced it had removed the account because of “potential impersonation,” adding it was not able to make contact with Savage and confirm she was the person behind the posts.
“After multiple unsuccessful attempts to verify the identity of the account holder, we closed the Patreon page allegedly associated with Joycelyn Savage due to potential impersonation. All patrons who signed up for the membership page were refunded and the creator did not receive any funds,” the company said in a statement.
Katie Uhlman, Patreon's head of communications, told BuzzFeed News that staff reached out to the email address linked to the account and asked for proof of identification, but what was provided was unsatisfactory.
In her video to TMZ, Savage angrily denied that she would ever “betray” Kelly.
“I would never in a million years hurt him like this. I would never do that,” she said. “It’s just really, really, really sad that somebody would pretend to be me — pretend to be me! — and put it out in the world that I’m a victim, that I am brainwashed, I’m a sex slave. Lord have mercy! It doesn’t get worse than that.”
Despite previously appearing to believe the social media posts as authentic, Greenberg, Kelly’s attorney, lashed out at media on Wednesday following TMZ’s publication of Savage’s video. “As we suspected, the account was false!” he wrote. “The original post most fooled us. Shows why it is crucial to keep an open mind.”
“All the media was burning up my phone to talk about the FAKE Joycelyn account-why are they silent now?” he later wrote. “Admit you were wrong and tell the true story.”
Reached by phone Thursday by BuzzFeed News, Greenberg said his original statement to Variety had been cut down erroneously by his staff. “I was in Cuba and the statement got truncated,” he said. “The original said, ‘We can’t verify it’s her, but if it is…”
Asked about why he had attacked Savage as seeking to cash in now that “the money has run out,” Greenberg declined to speak further and said he would let his tweets Wednesday serve as his statement.
Kelly has been held in a Chicago jail since July pending trial on federal charges in Illinois and New York that include sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor, trafficking women and girls interstate for sex, and conspiracy to defraud the US.
On Thursday, prosecutors in New York announced they were adding another charge for bribery, alleging the singer bribed an Illinois government employee in 1994 for a fake ID for the singer Aaliyah, that listed her as 18 when she was, in fact, 15. Prosecutors said Kelly bribed the official so he could obtain a marriage license.
Savage told TMZ she talks to Kelly every day in prison and visits him every two weeks.
Griggs, the Savage family attorney, said in a statement they were “saddened and disappointed” that she had disavowed the posts as fake. “Although we can now verify that it wasn’t her [Patreon] account, the allegations still remain,” he said.
“We are also concerned about who gained access to Joycelyn’s personal Instagram account to mislead the public and her family,” he said.
This post has been updated with confirmation from Facebook that the @joycelynsavage Instagram account was hacked.