Gayle King and R Kelly: What this photo tells us

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So much to unpack in one photograph

The interview between CBS News host Gayle King and R Kelly about the allegations of sexual assault against the singer lasted for more than an hour.

However, it is a single second, captured in a dramatic photograph, that has caught the attention of many.

Ms King is seated with a neutral expression looking at the floor. Mr Kelly stands next to her with his hand in the air, in the middle of speaking.

The image quickly went viral and has moved many to praise the poise and professionalism of Ms King, and sparked a debate around perceptions of race and gender.

The photograph was taken during an explosive moment of the interview where Mr Kelly, speaking directly to the camera, hits his chest while professing his innocence.

Many on social media praised Ms King for remaining focused and composed during the outburst.

Ms King’s good friend Oprah Winfrey was among those who applauded the journalist for retaining a “calm and steady focus”, while TV producer and writer Shonda Rhimes called Ms King’s reaction a “master class in poise and determination”.

Many suggested that the fact Ms King is a black woman played a part in her reaction to Mr Kelly.

One person wrote that they wanted an oil painting of the photograph because it exemplified “what being a black woman is”.

Others suggested the photo spoke to the universal experience of black women in America.

However, others said that lauding Ms King’s reaction was problematic.

“Black women should not have to always be unflinchingly brave,” one Twitter-user wrote. “A society requiring this much of them needs a complete overhaul.”

After the interview aired on CBS News on Wednesday morning, Ms King’s co-host Norah O’Donnell said she was “worried” about Ms King’s safety during the interview.

Ms King responded that she “never felt in danger talking to [R Kelly]. I felt he had a lot of emotion and he wanted to release it”.

Some on social media suggested that the different perceptions of how threatening Mr Kelly’s behaviour had been were based on race.

While not defending R Kelly, one Twitter-user wrote that the different reactions are an insight into how black people expressing their emotions are perceived.

Another suggested that it is “nothing new” for people to feel intimidated by emotional displays by black people.

A number of people drew a comparison between Mr Kelly’s emotional behaviour to that of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court hearing.

One person suggested that Justice Kavanaugh’s emotional display was “seen as righteous outrage”, while R Kelly’s was perceived as “abusive anger”.

Many commented on the gender dynamic they felt was on display in the photograph, and throughout the interview.

One person wrote that Mr Kelly’s response to being challenged by a woman was problematic.

Others suggested that the image of “R Kelly standing up to loom over Gayle King, while screaming at the top of his lungs at her” is evidence of his “treatment of and demeanour towards women”.

While another wrote that Mr Kelly speaking over Ms King was disrespectful.

On Wednesday, Cook County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that R Kelly was taken into custody for failure to pay child support.

Mr Kelly owes $161,663 (£122,718) and will be held until payment is made.

The singer is next due in court on Wednesday 13 March.

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