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Aaliyah

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Also Known As: Aaliyah Haughton, Aaliyah Dana Haughton Died: August 25, 2001
Born: January 16, 1979 Cause of Death: plane crash
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: singer, actor, dancer, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After landing a record deal at age 12, glamorous singer-actress, Aaliyah became a star after working closely with mentor â¿¿ and rumored husband â¿¿ R. Kelly on her debut album, 1994â¿¿s triple platinum Age Ainâ¿¿t Nothing But a Number. Cultivating a "street but sweet" persona to match her silky vocals, Aaliyah added Missy Elliott and Timbaland to her list of mentors/producers, scoring again with 1996â¿¿s multiplatinum One in a Million After singing the Oscar-nominated song "Journey to the Past" for the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997), Aaliyahâ¿¿s allure to people of all ages and races earned her a starring role opposite Jet Li in the action romance "Romeo Must Die" (2000), which yielded her smash single "Try Again" on the movieâ¿¿s soundtrack. On a definite roll, both on the big screen and the Billboard charts, the down-to-earth performer, beloved by everyone working in the R&B/hip-hop world, filmed the title role in the Anne Rice adaptation of "The Queen of the Damned" (2002), followed by being cast in the back-to-back sequels to the monster hit "The Matrix" (1999). Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Shortly after the release of her third album, Aaliyah, on Aug. 25, 2001, the 22-year-old and...

After landing a record deal at age 12, glamorous singer-actress, Aaliyah became a star after working closely with mentor â¿¿ and rumored husband â¿¿ R. Kelly on her debut album, 1994â¿¿s triple platinum Age Ainâ¿¿t Nothing But a Number. Cultivating a "street but sweet" persona to match her silky vocals, Aaliyah added Missy Elliott and Timbaland to her list of mentors/producers, scoring again with 1996â¿¿s multiplatinum One in a Million After singing the Oscar-nominated song "Journey to the Past" for the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997), Aaliyahâ¿¿s allure to people of all ages and races earned her a starring role opposite Jet Li in the action romance "Romeo Must Die" (2000), which yielded her smash single "Try Again" on the movieâ¿¿s soundtrack. On a definite roll, both on the big screen and the Billboard charts, the down-to-earth performer, beloved by everyone working in the R&B/hip-hop world, filmed the title role in the Anne Rice adaptation of "The Queen of the Damned" (2002), followed by being cast in the back-to-back sequels to the monster hit "The Matrix" (1999). Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Shortly after the release of her third album, Aaliyah, on Aug. 25, 2001, the 22-year-old and her entourage were killed instantly when the small plane they had chartered after filming a music video in the Bahamas crashed after takeoff. Posthumously, her eponymous album topped the charts while millions of fans, family and friends grieved over her premature loss. Although her charmed life was cut short, Aaliyah left behind a tragic legacy of what might have been, based on an already distinguished career that had showed no signs of slowing down.

Born Jan. 16, 1979 in Brooklyn, NY, Aaliyah Dana Haughton was blessed with a smooth singing voice and exotic beauty, due in part to her African-American and Native American lineage. Early on, she decided she would go by just her first name professionally, adding to her later mystique. Aaliyah moved with her family to Detroit, MI when she was five and was promptly enrolled in voice lessons. Performing at weddings, in church and wherever else she could manage, the young singer had the fortune to be born into an entertainment industry-connected family: her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment lawyer who had once been married to the legendary singer Gladys Knight. As a child, Aaliyah â¿¿ nicknamed "Baby Girl" â¿¿ cut her professional teeth touring with Knight, gaining valuable experience and making connections. Not even an unsuccessful appearance on "Star Search" (syndicated, 1983-1995; CBS, 2003-04) could slow her ascent, and she successfully landed a record deal at age 12 on her uncleâ¿¿s Blackground Records, which had ties to Jive Records.

Aaliyahâ¿¿s uncle would also introduce the young singer to another powerful mentor, singer/producer R. Kelly, who would not only serve as a guiding force for Aaliyah, but also perform lead songwriting and producing duties on her debut album, 1994â¿¿s Age Ainâ¿¿t Nothing But a Number. Going triple platinum, the album spun off the R&B No. 1 "Back & Forth," the No. 6 hit "At Your Best (You Are Love)," and the title track which was a minor success. An immediate sensation because her adult lyrics and persona belied her age, Aaliyah stood out from her peers with a glamorous, almost mysterious persona, often wearing baggy clothing and sunglasses, nearly always clad in black and sporting a Veronica Lake-inspired peekaboo hairstyle. Still, she found herself making unwanted headlines when rumors began to swirl that the then-15-year-old had married R. Kelly, who was more than 10 years her senior. A marriage license issued in the state of Illinois with the pairâ¿¿s names on it, a record of her parents annulling the marriage and Kellyâ¿¿s refusal to comment only fueled the fires of scandal, and the two were unceremoniously booed at that yearâ¿¿s Soul Train Music Awards.

Following this upheaval, Aaliyah changed record labels, hooked up with producers Jermaine Dupri and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and recorded her follow-up, the acclaimed, multiplatinum 1996 disc One in a Million. The album introduced the singerâ¿¿s more mature sound and focused on her undeniable talent and range, fusing hip-hop beats with R&B grooves in a self-described "sweet but street" way that harkened back to the early work of Mary J. Blige. She earned another R&B No. 1 with "If Your Girl Only Knew" and notched additional minor hits "Hot like Fire" and "4 Page Letter." Although she was managed by her parents, Aaliyahâ¿¿s videos and image were defined by a natural sensuality rather than a calculated sexiness, and her slinky vocals helped distinguish her from up-and-comers of a similar age like Monica and Brandy. She graduated from high school in 1997 and lensed her first acting role that same year, playing herself in an episode of "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-98).

Critics further took note of Aaliyahâ¿¿s gifts when she sang the Oscar-nominated song "Journey to the Past" for the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997), a performance she reprised at the actual Academy Award ceremony. In fact, her performance of that same song on "The Rosie Oâ¿¿Donnell Show" (syndicated, 1996-2002) so impressed producers of the in-development Broadway musical "Aida" that she was invited to audition. While Aaliyah did not land that stage role, she did book a prestigious Tommy Hilfiger endorsement and recorded what became perhaps her signature song, "Are You That Somebody?" on the "Dr. Dolittle" (1998) soundtrack. Not only was the film a smash, but the song was as well, hitting No. 1 on the R&B chart and becoming one of the most ubiquitous singles of the era, earning universal praise from critics for its dark sound and creative sampling, including a babyâ¿¿s surprisingly melodic cooing.

Aaliyahâ¿¿s enigmatic persona made her a natural to tackle film, and in 2000 she landed the female lead in the action romance "Romeo Must Die" (2000), inspired by equal parts William Shakespeare and the martial arts mastery of its male lead, Jet Li. The tale of two warring gang families, one African-American and the other Asian-American, was a hit and provided the multitalented entertainer the opportunity to executive produce the soundtrack as well as contribute four songs. The best of these, "Try Again," became Aaliyahâ¿¿s biggest chart hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100, earning her the honor of becoming the first act to top the charts based solely on airplay, and nabbing her a Grammy nomination. The singleâ¿¿s sexy, action-packed video won Aaliyah two MTV Video Music Awards and the soundtrack itself went platinum. In her personal life, she had reason to celebrate as well, when she became engaged to Damon Dash, the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records.

Quickly building on her film success, Aaliyah landed the titular role of an ancient vampire goddess in the Anne Rice adaptation of "The Queen of the Damned" (2002) and began filming. In the meantime, she was also subsequently cast as Zee in the back-to-back 2003 sequels "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions." In July 2001, she released her long-gestating third studio album, Aaliyah, which debuted at No. 2 on the album charts, spawning the hit "We Need a Resolution." In August of that year, Aaliyah and members of her team traveled to The Bahamas to film a music video for the albumâ¿¿s second single, "Rock the Boat." After finishing early, the singer and her entourage decided to take an earlier flight back to the United States in a plane that was smaller than the one in which they had arrived, resulting in a situation where the craft was over its maximum takeoff weight by 700 pounds and carrying one more passenger than its certification allowed.

On Aug. 25, 2001, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing Aaliyah and the eight other individuals onboard. An investigation showed that the pilot was not approved to fly, had falsely obtained his license and credentials, and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. As a result of the accident, Aaliyahâ¿¿s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit that was later settled out of court. Response from Aaliyahâ¿¿s fans and friends was immediate. More than 800 mourners â¿¿ including Sean "Puffy" Combs, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, Mike Tyson, Jay-Z and Lil' Kim â¿¿ turned out for her private funeral, held on Aug. 31, culminating with 22 white doves being released â¿¿ one for every year of her life. A public funeral drew 3,000. Accordingly, her self-titled album topped the album charts, and the video and single "Rock the Boat" were released, reaching No. 14 on the Hot 100 charts and No. 2 on the R&B charts. The album sold almost three million copies and spun off the hits "I Care 4 U" and "More than a Woman," with the latter single going to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart. In the midst of the public mourning, however, her death was suddenly eclipsed in the news by the attacks of Sept. 1, 2001.

The singer posthumously won two American Music Awards, and had completed enough of "The Queen of the Damned" for it to be released, thanks to some creative editing and Aaliyahâ¿¿s brother dubbing some of her lines. Not surprisingly, it became a modest success. In 2002, a collection of previously unreleased material was compiled as I Care 4 U, Aaliyahâ¿¿s first posthumous album, which partly supported a memorial fund in her name that benefited cancer research. The albumâ¿¿s lead single, "Miss You," went to No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart and topped the R&B chart. Aaliyahâ¿¿s "Matrix" role was recast with Nona Gaye, but a few scenes the late performer had filmed were included as an extra on the DVD. As with many talented performers who died much too young, fans and critics could only speculate as to the full extent of Aaliyahâ¿¿s professional and artistic potential. Even though her life and career were cut short, she left behind an impressive body of work that would live on forever.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Queen of the Damned (2002) Queen Akasha
2.
 Romeo Must Die (2000) Trish O'Day
4.
 Sizzlin' Sixteen 2001 (2001) Interviewee
5.
 2001 Essence Awards, The (2001) Presenter
9.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1984:
Moved with family from Brooklyn to Detroit at age five (date approximate)
1990:
At age 11, competed on "Star Search" (date approximate)
1990:
Performed with Gladys Knight in a five-night Las Vegas engagement
1994:
Released the album <i>Age Ain't Nothing But a Number</i>, featuring the hit singles "Back and Forth," "At Your Best (You are Love)" and the title track
1994:
Was rocked by scandal when reports leaked that the then 15-year-old had been wed to her 27-year-old producer, R&B crooner R. Kelly
1996:
Released her critically acclaimed follow up LP <i>One in a Million</i> on Atlantic Records, produced by Missy Elliot and Jermaine Dupri
1997:
Guest starred as herself in an episode of Fox's "New York Undercover"
1997:
Was invited to audition for a role in the Broadway production of "Aida" after a performance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show"
1998:
Performed the Academy Award-nominated song "Journey to the Past" from the film "Anastasia" at the Oscars telecast
1998:
Scored a hit single and a Grammy nomination with "Are You That Somebody?" from the "Dr. Dolittle" motion picture soundtrack
1999:
Was named one of the "21 Hottest Stars Under 21" by <i>Teen People</i>
2000:
Made feature acting debut as co-star to Jet Li in the action-romance feature "Romeo Must Die"
2001:
Released third album, the self-titled <i>Aaliyah</i>
2002:
Played the title role in the film version of Anne Rice's "Queen of the Damned." Released posthumously
:
Had been cast in a featured role in the sequel "The Matrix Reloaded"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts: Detroit , Michigan - 1996

Notes

Aaliyah means highest, most exalted one in Arabic.

Aaliyah to Vibe (December 1996-January 1997) upon the release of her second album, the multiplatinum "One in a Million": "I just think this is the next level for me. I'm 17 now, so I've grown in a lot of ways -- artistically, vocally and the whole bit. I'm very creative and always thinking of what I can do next, like songwriting, dancing and acting. I'm having fun and enjoying the fruits of my labor."

On her decidedly adult image: "My mom will say 'There is something about her that is always sexy.' My image isn't a put-on. When you listen to me and hear the smooth tones -- that's what I'm giving off. As a child, I didn't really notice. Now I'm in tune with it. It can definitely be a power, and I use it to my advantage." --quoted in Elle, August 1999.

"People try to bring negativity my way, especially with Brandy and Monica. If I'm competing with anybody, I'm competeing with myself to be original." --Aaliyah to Elle, August 1999.

"Sometimes, when it's just my mom and me kicking it, I say, 'I'm 22, and I've accomplished so much.' I just know I have to appreciate every moment." -- Aaliyah quoted to E! Online in their "Sizzlin' 16", January 2001.

Aaliyah on her involvement in the creative process: "This is my life, this is my work, so I like to have the final say, but, on the creative side, I was trained as a singer, actress and dancer -- the interpreter, bringing other people's words to life. If all artists wrote, what would writers do?" --to London's Daily Telegraph, July 19, 2001.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
R Kelly. Musician, producer. Born c. 1967; married in August 1994; annulled in February 1995; Aaliyah denied the union and Kelly refused to comment.
companion:
Damon Dash. Recording executive. Born in May 1971; works for Roc-a-Fella Records.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Michael Haughton. Survived her.
mother:
Diane Haughton. Survived her.
uncle:
Barry Hankerton. Manager, record executive. Once married to singer Gladys Knight, managed singer and producer R Kelly; survived her.
brother:
Rashad Haughton. Filmmaker. Born c. 1977; survived her.
cousin:
Jomo Kenyatta Hankerson. Record executive; survived her.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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