One of the sweetest and most heartbreaking moments in Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docuseries revolves around a mother, Michelle Kramer, reuniting with her daughter, Dominique Gardner, who moved to Atlanta to live with R. Kelly in 2013. Over time, Gardner stopped coming home and was reportedly unable to contact her mother.
In the docuseries, the two are shown running out of the hotel where Gardner was staying and into a van. After that scene, Kramer told Rolling Stone in a new interview, they drove to a hotel over an hour away—“I didn’t get no sleep. I was watching her like a pitbull,” Kramer explains. Although Gardner went back to Kelly three days after leaving the hotel, she thankfully returned home again later.
Kramer shared what led up to that reunion and how she strategized from afar during the years that her daughter lived with Kelly. Kramer told Rolling Stone that Gardner “just fell in love with” him after attending one of his concerts at age 11 or 12. She eventually found that Gardner was spending time at Kelly’s house as a teenager and described how it felt as a mother:
What happened next?
She told me she was done messing with him, but she wasn’t. I found that out later — I asked her some questions and she confessed to me. As a mother, what can I do? I can tell her, don’t talk to him, that he a grown-ass man, he just got off of trial — I said all of it. And she was like, “Mama I just love him. I want him to be my first.”
And how did you feel about her continuing to see him?
I just accepted it. I knew how she loved this man. So if I had got mad and got upset, fighting her, all that was going to do was prove [what] he’s been saying. He’s telling girls, “Your parents don’t want you. Your parents don’t like you.”
What’s so sad about Kramer’s description of that time is how powerless she also felt. She told RS:
He’s a musical genius, he’s not a mind genius — let’s get that straight. You have to outthink him. So just as much as I didn’t like it, how many women can say they like their son-in-law or daughter-in-law? You just deal, because what you see, she will eventually see it. It might take a little longer than you expected, but I promise you, she’s going to see it. And she did, and that’s why she home now.
Kramer says she realized that securing her daughter’s well-being was a long game, and that her best strategy—given what Kelly was allegedly telling Gardner—was to wait it out. When she did make contact with Gardner, Kramer says her daughter would get beaten afterward. Via Rolling Stone:
How often did you talk to her?
Probably about once or twice a month. She would always say she was fine, but I knew she wasn’t. Meeka told me every time I sent him a nasty message, and she couldn’t calm him down, she got a beating for it. Or she got punished for it.
She told you this after?
Yes. Because he tries to convince the girls to tell they parents to chill out or don’t be talking. I didn’t know this — I heard about from other families — but once she got home she told me that anytime I would send a message, she got a beating.
In the documentary, Kramer shows up at Gardner’s hotel and sees her face-to-face for the first time in three years. Kramer told Rolling Stone she was conscious of the fact that there was a limit to what she could do to bring her daughter home (emphasis mine):
I was very — overjoyed. I was happy. I can’t even describe it. I can’t even get the words together. I hadn’t seen her in three years, and she was so scared because she was scared that if he found out… She was like, “What you doing here?” “I came to see you. I just want to have lunch with you.” My intention was not to take her. I can’t take a grown woman; she grown, she 26. So I don’t want her to hate me; I just wanted to see her. She said, “I asked God if it’s time for me to leave here, please give me a sign.” And I showed up at the hotel, so she knew it was time to go then.
Gardner has been home for seven months now. Read the full interview with Kramer here.