Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Although she was raised in Detroit, Michigan, Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born and spent the first five years of her life in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother Diane Haughton was a vocalist and homemaker and her father Micheal “Miguel” Haughton worked at a factory when they moved to Detroit. When she was killed in a sudden plane crash on August 25, 2001 off the coast of Bahamas after shooting her final scene for the music video "Rock the Boat," the singer’s body returned the New York for her final burial.
SHE WAS BORN INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
Aaliyah was the niece of entertainment lawyer Barry Hankerson and the legendary singer Gladys Knight. She was signed to her first record label at the age of 12 as a shy, tomboy with a silky-smooth voice well-suited for jazz. Aaliyah got her taste of an entertainer came from Gladys Knight. Aaliyah got her start performing professionally opening for Knight in Las Vegas at the age of 11.
SHE LOVED BALLET AND SCHOOL The ambitious singer studied dance at the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts. Even when she became a professional entertainer while in high school, Aaliyah always insisted her education came first, which earned her a 4.0 GPA.
SHE WAS SECRETLY MARRIED TO R.KELLY AT 15: This wasn’t the best-kept secret in the industry as it was widely reported the young singer had gotten married to R. Kelly in 1994 when she would have been 15 and Kelly, 27. Although neither Aaliyah or Kelly confessed to the crime, news outlets were able to obtain a marriage certificate showing her age was falsified. In the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series, Kelly’s former personal assistant Demetrius Smith admitted to obtaining the false documents and being present at the infamous wedding ceremony in Rosemont, Illinois.
HER FIRST ALBUM SHOW HER RELATIONSHIP WITH KELLY Several of the songs on her first album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number album raised some eyebrows, particularly when it was revealed that the then 15-year-old singer was married to the album's producer, Kelly. But none of the songs is most vilified today like the title track, which is now seen as an admission of Kelly's manipulation of Aaliyah.
SHE WAS BEST FRIENDS WITH QUINCY JONES’ DAUGHTER KIDADA JONES:
The two met at a Tommy Hilfiger fashion show in 1993 and fast became close friends up until the singer's death. They went on to model together for the brand's campaign. According to Jones, "She very much paved that way for girls. And then you see those girls go from girl to woman. From her first video to her last video, you see Aaliyah go from teenage girl to woman. She evolved at a really nice pace."To this day, she is one of the most recognizable faces for the Tommy Hilfiger brand. In 1998, she officially formed the unique brand ambassador partnership as a hip-hop/R&B artiste being the face of a mainstream brand.
AALIYAH WAS SERIOUS ABOUT HER ACTING : She started her acting training only two years before she passed away. Soon after she began working with acclaimed acting coach Harold Guskin, she was offered the role of Trish O’Day on Romeo Must Die. Guskin worked with her on the set. According to Guskin, Aaliyah started working with him in his living room.
HER ACTING CAREER WAS ABOUT TO TAKE OFF: When the starlet died in 2001, she was set to play the role of Honey Daniel on the dance movie Honey which was released in 2003. This would have been the third movie under the budding actress’ belt after her starring roles in Romeo Must Die (2000) and Queen of the Damned (2002).
BUT SHE WAS TOO YOUNG TO BE AN ANGEL: She was once considered for the role of Alex in the movie Charlie’s Angels. However, Lucy Liu was cast instead when producers decided Aaliyah was too young for the role.
AALIYAH WAS THE YOUNGEST PERSON TO PERFORM AT THE OSCARS IN 1998: Her version of "Journey to the Past," for the film Anastasia was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. She was also chosen to perform during the live awards ceremony and at the age of 19, she was then the youngest person to perform at the awards show.
SHE ONLY WON TWO AWARDS BEFORE SHE DIED: Although Aaliyah was nominated for many awards (about 84 throughout her brief career), she only won two awards before she died. They were the awards for Best Female Video and Best Video From a Film at the 2000 MTV Music Awards. She won 12 more awards in the four years after her tragic death.
SHE LOVED SNAKES Aaliyah had an "affinity for snakes," as she once told Carson Daly on TRL in 2001. She was given a small boa constrictor by her uncle Hankerson, whom Daly named Boots, and fans got to see just how much of a snake charmer she was in the video "We Need a Resolution."
SHE HAD JAMAICAN HERITAGE: Her grandparents were from the Caribbean island of Jamaica and she had native American heritage. Before she passed, her stylist decided to take some inspiration from Aaliyah's Jamaican heritage for her wardrobe. Lee started this transition in the "Rock the Boat" video with the dancehall clothing: red fishnet stockings, cut-off shorts, and red cap.
Although they were discretely placed, Aaliyah loved body art and had a dove tattooed on her lower back-a her tribute to her grandmother. She also had an Egyptian ankh on her inner wrist.
DOVES WERE RELEASED AT HER FUNERAL: Her family released 22 white doves from the steps of the church. Each dove represented a year of her life.
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