TMZ has leaked parts of the scrapped video for Lady Gaga's "Do What U Want," and it's clear why the singer decided not to have the video released. Not only is R. Kelly featured in the song and video, but photographer and the video's director, Terry Richardson, also makes an appearance. Both men have been accused multiple times of sexual harassment and assault.
And the images from the video itself are just as concerning: in it, Gaga plays patient while R. Kelly plays doctor. After the "medicine" he's apparently given her kicks in, Gaga passes out cold, unable to feel the lavish party that's going on on top of her. And by "party," I mean simulated sex. Richardson makes a brief appearance snapping photos of Gaga.
The scenes in the video are certainly problematic. But the bigger problem is that artists continue to work with R. Kelly and Terry Richardson in the first place. R. Kelly came up in the news as recently as last year for the dozens of lawsuits that have been filed against him for the sexual assault of underage girls (many of which were settled out of court). Many models who have worked with Terry Richardson have spoken out both publicly and anonymously about how he routinely sexually harasses models.
All of this is to say that Richardson and R. Kelly's actions aren't some Hollywood secret. They're widely available, public knowledge. And to continue to work with men like this is to implicitly support them.
In a best case scenario, aligning with Kelly or Richardson causes an uproar and brings deserved, negative attention to the work and furthers the national conversation about abuse and sexual assault. Worst case, working with these two men changes the conversation entirely, and audiences forget about the accusations, and focus solely on the "hit song" of the moment, or the cool fashions, or what have you.
So why would Gaga take that chance? There are no doubt many photographers out there more talented than Richardson who know how to work with professionalism and respect. And while R. Kelly is certainly a talented singer, no one is talented enough to merit this kind of vehement defense of his predatory history. When it comes down to it, the only true benefit from choosing to work with these artists over others is the amount of press they bring from the controversy that follows them.
Fortunately, Gaga has pulled the video because she recognized this problem. Originally, the video's release was reported to have been halted due to budget and time constraints, but sources claim that Gaga has recently learned of the accusations against Richardson and decided not to release the video. Hopefully, Gaga's decision will influence other entertainers, since everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Beyonce has continued to work with Richardson.
And hopefully one day, the names of sexual harassers and abusers will only be in the crime reports... not in the entertainment section.