XXXTentacion’s Family Says They Believe His Abuse Victim Geneva Ayala in New Hulu Doc

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XXXTentacion’s Family Says They Believe His Abuse Victim Geneva Ayala in New Hulu Doc

The day musician XXXTentacion was shot dead in broad daylight outside of a motorcycle shop in Florida, he was scared.

The 20-year-old, real name Jahseh Onfroy, had just had a tense conversation with his legal team over the best plan of action in his defense against a domestic violence case that was brought against him by his former girlfriend, who told police how X savagely beat her to the point that her eyes were “leaking blood” while she was pregnant.

It was June 18, 2018, nearly two years after the alleged assault. In the interim, X’s star had skyrocketed. A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar were fans, he had beef with Drake, riots frequently broke out at his packed shows, and his breakout track “Look at Me” went certified platinum while “Sad!” hit No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

But as X toured the country and celebrated his newfound success, the trial for his domestic abuse case loomed over his head. He had been adamant that his ex was lying about the abuse, claiming that she had been jumped by unknown parties and for some reason was trying to pin it on him.

That particular summer morning, X was anxious. His mother Cleopatra “Cleo” Bernard said he floated the idea of possibly trying to go on the run. “He was like, ‘I don’t understand what’s happening or why,’” she recalls in a new documentary about her son’s life, Look at Me: XXXTENTACION, which premiered at SXSW on Tuesday.

It was then that X decided he wanted to go buy a motorbike, despite already owning several he barely used. Bernard said she would typically argue with him over his impulse purchases, but this time, she didn’t try to fight him. “I knew it was because he was so worried, he was so scared,” she says, wiping away tears. “I knew what that was.”

Hours later, the rapper was shot and killed in an attempted robbery outside the bike shop.

Director Sabaah Folayan’s Look at Me, which will be available on Hulu in June, offers the first in-depth look into X’s life story, with unseen footage and interviews with family members and close friends who want X’s fans, critics, and anyone in between to know that while X was a troubled young man, they believed he was on the precipice of change.

They attempt to explain away or justify his “mistakes” and “situations” in order to champion his legacy, pointing to his devout fanbase. To his supporters, X was much more than another stunt-pulling Gen Z rapper with outrageous hair and face tats—he was their voice, giving voice to the same pain that many of them also felt.

He was vulnerable and honest, admitting to struggles with suicidal ideation, mental health, and his frustrations with his family and love life. Their allegiance and appreciation to X ran so deep that the hundreds of people who showed up to his memorial service credited his music for saving their lives.

But it’s hard to come to terms with an idealistic portrait of the rapper’s legacy when X and members of his camp downplayed and denied the horrific testimony of X’s former girlfriend Geneva Ayala.

And for the first time, Ayala sits down and tells her side of the story.

Ayala has long been vilified by X’s fanbase, largely stemming from his insistence that Ayala was lying about the alleged assault. After the report was made public, she claims that she was harassed by fans at her workplace, her social media accounts were hacked, she was kicked out of his vigil, and fans even had a GoFundMe she started for her eye surgery briefly suspended.

“Everyone was like, you are ruining his career, but at the same time I felt my whole life was ruined because nobody even cared,” Ayala says. “After that I was homeless, I lived in a hotel almost a year after that. I was just trying to say what happened. If you are going to think I’m a liar, I’m a liar. How am I supposed to fight that? I’m only one person. It was a really dark moment for me. There was no way to stop it. He had the power to do all that.”

Ayala recalls to Folayan how the couple first met online in 2014, bonding over mutual feelings of being lost and abandoned. “When I first met [X], I had cuts on my thigh, like five lines and under that I had the word that said ‘alone,’” Ayala explains, noting that she was practically homeless at the time. “When he noticed that, he was like, why did you do that, because I felt alone. He was like, ‘Oh, me too. I feel that we are the same in that aspect.’”

They began dating around two years later in May of 2016. “It was kind of a romantic feel in the beginning, it was a mesh of always taking care of each other and trying to better ourselves,” she says. The alleged abuse started about two weeks later, according to Ayala.

Geneva Ayala

Instagram

In a deposition given to police in October of 2016, Ayala claimed that shortly after they started dating, X became infuriated that she sang along to one of his songs that featured another artist. When they returned home, he allegedly threatened to sexually assault her with barbecue tools, with Ayala passing out in fear.

Talyssa Lee, who was dating one of X’s friends, recalls on camera another incident where X became irate when Ayala laughed at another man’s joke. Back at the house, the couple

went into X’s room, where Lee heard them fighting and “eventually” Ayala being hit.

Water began to run in the bathroom, leading Lee to believe someone was taking a shower. But it soon became clear to her that wasn’t the case. “He was literally drowning her in the tub,” Lee says. “Putting her under. You could hear her screams being muffled by the water and being pulled up and then being put back under the water. I was banging on the door.”

Lee was ultimately talked out of calling the police, and she admits in the film that she regrets it. “Later that night, she finally came out again,” Lee adds. “She was marked up with bruises like a Dalmatian. A bruise behind her ear, behind her neck, literally everywhere. It was very clear that he was avoiding hitting her face so that she wouldn’t have clear injuries when you were talking to her. I’ve never seen anyone bruised up so bad.”

Ayala does not get into specifics about the October 2016 incident that led to X’s domestic abuse arrest, although the film displays photos of the then-19-year-old with extensive bruising on her face, with her left eye bloodied. According to testimony given to police, Ayala was pregnant at the time and X threatened to kill because she had cheated on him. He allegedly punched, head-butted, and strangled her repeatedly until she nearly blacked out.

She was marked up with bruises like a Dalmatian. A bruise behind her ear, behind her neck, literally everywhere. It was very clear that he was avoiding hitting her face so that she wouldn’t have clear injuries when you were talking to her. I’ve never seen anyone bruised up so bad.

After a few days, Ayala was finally able to escape by crawling out of the house. “I had nowhere to run,” she says in the documentary. “I don’t have any brothers. I don’t have a father figure. No one was going to come save me. I had to leave, I thought it was going to get worse… I didn’t want anyone to go to jail, but I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t aware that it was all going to crumble down onto him like that.”

Before his death, X was adamant that he didn’t physically assault Ayala. “This is the full story,” he told Fader in a video interview in 2017. “She was already bruised on her face, all while she was staying with me. The severe bruising, I don’t know how fucking severe bruising came about. I think she jumped… ‘cause the way she was fucked up; I think she got jumped. That bitch got whooped, bad. I didn’t beat her, nor do I give a fuck about who beat her because now I know she’s an evil bitch.”

Bernard says that X even claimed to her that Ayala was lying. “A part of me took that and ran with it,” she offers. When asked what she believes now, Bernard pauses and takes a deep breath. “That’s my son, even if he’s hitting her, that’s my son,” she says. “If he’s a devil, that’s my son, I birthed him. Wrong, right or indifferent I’m going to have his back no matter what. I’ll always have his best interests at heart, protect her. Any mother would have done the same thing.”

But four years later after the rapper’s death, as X’s family and close friends hope to paint his memory in a more positive light, some seem annoyed that the conversation is turning back to Ayala.

Rapper XXXTentacion attends the BET Hip Hop Awards 2017 at The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater on October 6, 2017, in Miami Beach, Florida.

Bennett Raglin/Getty

“It doesn’t matter how many times he spoke about helping each other, or something like that, it was always, ‘Okay but he beat Geneva up,’” his aunt says. “Like, he can never have a conversation without that being, going back to being the topic.”

“He acknowledged that there was a situation, you know,” she adds. “But self-acknowledgement and accountability—do I have to hold myself accountable and admit it to the world, just for you guys to judge me anyways… He can release a No. 1 album, you can love his songs but they were still judging him based on that situation. It wasn’t something he was able to escape even though he was holding himself accountable.”

His former producer, John Cunningham, attempts to justify X not publicly apologizing by arguing that it would have resulted in “taking his whole life away.”

“I think it makes sense that that is an apology that needs to be more planned out, and has an actual beneficial result and not result in someone’s entire freedom and life being taken away,” he maintains.

But Bernard sees things differently. “I would have liked to think he would have gotten there,” she says of X eventually publicly apologizing and taking ownership for what he did to Ayala. “He just never had a chance.”

The documentary also shows an emotional sit-down Bernard had with Ayala a year after X’s death, with the two women meeting at Bernard’s home. “My son is no longer here, and I feel like it’s up to me now to make amends and try to right his wrongs as much as I can,” Bernard tells Ayala.

“I would actually like to hear you tell your story because like I said, my son died, and he’s never admitted it to me—I don’t think he would want me to see him in that light or know that side of him,” she says. “Jahseh was wrong for what he did. There’s no excuse for that, period. But I just want the world to know that he wasn’t that same person anymore, but the past is still part of his story.”

Ayala shares that their conversation meant so much to her, feeling that a weight had finally been lifted by knowing that his family doesn’t hold a grudge against her.

“I’m not going to hate her,” Bernard concludes. “And my son is not here, and I don’t think she should be mistreated in any way. This is about his legacy, and she was the love of his life, and she was a part of that legacy.”

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