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From a Superfan: Rest in Peace, Chris Kelly

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Chris Kelly
Chris Smith and Chris Kelly (L to R)
Photo Credit: Getty Images

One tweet on my Twitter timeline derailed my productivity yesterday evening. It was from NewsOne, and it was a simple, one-sentence shocker: RIP: Chris Kelly Of 90′s Group Kris Kross Reported Dead.

Updates throughout the night and a statement from his mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, have confirmed that it isn’t one of those ugly rumors that grew legs on the internet. It’s true. It’s hard to know for sure anymore since there’s routine fallout from the most random celebrity death hoaxes. A spokeswoman from the Fulton County Police Department announced that authorities found evidence at Kelly’s home in south Atlanta pointing to a possible drug overdose. An autopsy is scheduled for this morning. Chris Kelly was just 34 years old.

My prayers, my thoughts and my genuine sympathy go out to his family, especially his mom. I know the pain that comes with the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one, even one who may be struggling with unhealthy behaviors, but you can’t rightly understand the magnitude of losing a child unless you’ve weathered that tragedy. I don’t pretend to know that particular agony, but I trust that God will comfort and keep her when she needs it the most.

I woke up this morning thinking about Chris after I went to bed last night thinking about him. Every public figure has fans, and even if they’ve stepped out of the limelight to live a life of relative normalcy, the people who loved them always appreciate what they gave of themselves for however long they gave it. They’ve been forever frozen in time in that space, so to me—to many of us, I’m sure—he’ll always be the round-faced, brown-skinned, full-lipped cutie with his ultra baggy jeans on backwards. Sounds corny now, especially in the era of vacuum-suctioned skinnies, but it was a gimmick that made them stand out.

Twelve-year-old girls are almost obligated to have some kind of celebrity crush and mine was Chris Kelly. (And Hakeem and Tajh from The Boys and Tony Thompson from Hi-Five, but Chris Kelly was my main squeeze.) Posters of Kris Kross wallpapered my bedroom, my cousins and I choreographed dance routines to their songs in my grandparents’ basement and my aunt, bless her benevolent heart, sacrificed her eardrums to take me and two cousins to a concert in Baltimore. We screamed that piercing, hysterical, tween-girl scream from “I Missed the Bus” to “Jump,” then cackled in the car about it all the way home.

Sometimes people are a part of your childhood and they never know it, but you have a connection to them despite their total unawareness that you even existed. So when I heard that he’d passed away, it felt like someone I knew as a kid, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile, was gone. I’ll never be Mrs. Chris Kelly like my notebook doodles suggest—let’s be real, I was more than likely never going to be Mrs. Chris Kelly anyway—but it was always fun to dream.

I still get hype when I hear Kris Kross in some throwback mix on the radio or they shuffle into one of the playlists on my phone. It’s good music: clean, cuss-free and likeable. Even my mama and my grandmother got a kick out of them. So thank you, Chris, for being the love of my 12-year-old life, for the joy of swooning and giggling and crushing and dancing and of course, jumping.

Writer, blogger and editor Janelle Harris resides in Washington, D.C., frequents Twitter and lives on Facebook.

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