Aaliyah Haughton details Biography

Get to know the life and legacy of Aaliyah Haughton, the iconic R&B singer, actress, and fashion icon. Discover the story of this talented star

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Birth name : Aaliyah Dana Haughton

Date of birth : 16 January 1979 - 25 August 2001

Place of birth:  Brooklyn, New York, USA

Nickname:  Liyah, Li Li, Lee, BabyGirl

Height: 5' 7½" (1.71 m)

Spouse: R. Kelly (30 August 1994 - 7 February 1995) (annulled)

Aaliyah Haughton details Biography

Famous Quote

"It is dark in my favorite dream. Someone is following me. I don't know why. I'm scared. Then suddenly I lift off. Far away. How do I feel? As if I am swimming in the air. Free. Weightless. Nobody can reach me. Nobody can touch me. It's a wonderful feeling. I want people to remember me as a full-on entertainer and a good person."


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Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), better known as Aaliyah, was a mutiple Grammy-nominated American Music Award-winning American singer, dancer, actress, model, and teen idol. Introduced to audiences by R&B/hip hop singer R. Kelly, Aaliyah became famous during the mid-1990s with several hit records from the songwriting/production team of Missy Elliott and Timbaland. 

She has been nominated for exactly nine Grammy Awards, and won three AMAs as well. Brooklyn-born and Detroit-raised R&B singer Aaliyah hit the big time in her early teens with a spate of hit records before she embarked at the ripe old age of twenty on a film acting career. A losing appearance on "Star Search" at age eleven failed to hold back the young dynamo, who performed later that same year with Gladys Knight (former wife of her uncle/manager Barry Hankerton), singing with the legend for a five-night Las Vegas engagement in 1990. Within four years, Aaliyah would have two gold singles to her credit and was a proven multitalented performer, starring in compelling music videos that showcased her dance moves as well as her songs.

Despite her short career, she sold approximately 32 million records worldwide. In addition to commercial success, her collaborations with Timbaland helped shape the sound of R&B in the latter half of the 1990s. She also modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and starred in two motion pictures before being killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas.

Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City, New York to Michael and Diane Haughton, and was raised in Detroit, Michigan. Her name means "Highest, Most Exalted, The Best" in both Arabic and Hebrew. Her maternal grandmother, Mintis L. Hicks Hankerson, gave her the middle name Dana. Aaliyah was brought up as a Catholic with her older brother Rashad Haughton. Diane Haughton, Aaliyah's mother, also a vocalist, encouraged her daughter's career.

In 1991, she appeared on the TV talent show Star Search at age ten, singing her mother's favorite song, "My Funny Valentine". Although she did not win, she remained a good sport and continued to perfect her skills. Aaliyah worked with an agent in New York and auditioned for TV shows, including Family Matters.

Following her appearance on Star Search, an eleven year old Aaliyah performed on stage in Las Vegas, Nevada with Gladys Knight, her aunt by way of Knight's marriage to her uncle, Barry Hankerson. Knight recalled, "She was still quite young, but she already had it--that spark the world would later see and fall in love with." In her early teens, Aaliyah attended the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, and graduated as a Dance major with a 4.0 GPA.

As her debut album "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number" headed up the charts on the strength of the hits "Back and Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)", Aaliyah, whose sultry voice and adult image belied her tender age, found herself the target of some less-than-positive attention when it was reported the then fifteen-year-old had wed friend and producer R. Kelly (a man over ten years her senior). A marriage license issued in the state of Illinois with the pair's name on it and Kelly's refusal to comment only fueled the fires of scandal, and the two were unceremoniously booed at that year's Soul Train Music Awards.

At age 15 Aaliyah was signed and secured a debut, as well as produce the album. "Age aint Nothing But a Number" went platinum within months and featured the singles "Back and Forth" which hit number one for 8 weeks, "Down with the Clique," and the album-title single "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number." The lone track not written by R. Kelly, a cover of the Isley Brothers's "At Your Best" hit number 2 for 10 weeks. By 1995, the album had gone double platinum in the US, having sold over 2 million units. "Back and Forth" and "At Your Best(You are Love" was certified gold by RIAA in 1994.

Rumors began to surface that the 15-year old singer and the 27-year old R. Kelly had secretly married. Both artists' camps initially denied the rumor, but Vibe magazine published a copy of their Illinois marriage license dated August 31st, 1994, which showed that Aaliyah's age was falsely eighteen. The rumors, combined with the name of the third single, propelled "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number", to number seventy-five on the Billboard Hot 100. The marriage was annulled by February 7, 1995. In addition to the mystery of her personal life, fans were drawn to Aaliyah's image as a cool, aloof songstress. Her trademark looks during this era were wearing baggy Tommy Hilfiger men's clothing and concealing her left eye behind her hair.

Following this upheaval, Aaliyah changed record labels, hooked up with producers Jermaine Dupri and Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliott and recorded her follow up, the successful and critically-lauded "One in a Million" (1996). The album introduced the singer's new, more mature sound and focused on her undeniable talent and range, fusing hip-hop beats with R&B grooves in a way that harkened back to a younger Mary J. Blige. Although Aaliyah was managed by her parents, the teen singer's videos and appearances were marked by a non-overt sexuality that she carried with easy confidence. 

One in a Million was released on August 27, 1996 when Aaliyah was 17 years of age. The album became a landmark in Aaliyah's career, garnering her mass critical acclaim. The album was certified double-platinum within a year, making Aaliyah a major R&B star and igniting the successful careers of then-unknowns Missy Elliott and Timbaland. One in a Million featured the international hits "If Your Girl Only Knew", "One in a Million", "Got to Give It Up", "4 Page Letter", "Hot Like Fire", and "The One I Gave My Heart To" The single "The One I Gave My Heart To" was certified gold by RIAA in 1997.

Remarkably, her sensual image was altogether natural, where such attempts at more adult fare by contemporaries like Brandy smacked of forced Lolita-like precociousness. In 1997, Aaliyah contributed her vocals to the animated feature "Anastasia", singing the Oscar-nominated theme "Journey to the Past" over the end credits, and subsequently on the Academy Awards telecast in March 1998. Her performance of that same song on a 1997 episode of "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" so impressed producers of the then-developing Broadway musical "Aida" that she was invited to audition. While Aaliyah didn't land that stage role, film would continue to offer her hit-making opportunities; she scored with the Grammy-nominated "Are You That Somebody?" from the "Dr. Dolittle" soundtrack in 1998.

The self-titled album represented a mature artist, embracing her identity as an adult woman. "Loose Rap" was the first chosen to be her first single but when "We Need a Resolution" was released, it featured a signature production from Timbaland, an eerie electro-goth skittering rhythm over which Aaliyah breathily sang about needing an end to a confusing relationship. The video showed a grown-up and sexually confident Aaliyah, writhing with a snake in slick modern backdrops. During an April 2001 interview with MTV, she explained:

"I first dealt with snakes when I was in Australia and I did the photo shoot for the album. We used five pythons in the shoot. At first, I was a little nervous, but once I started to handle them, I totally fell in love and felt an affinity toward them. They're very mysterious creatures. They live in solitude, and there are times in my life when I just want to be by myself. There are times I can't even figure myself out. I feel they are very complex creatures, but at the same time, they're sexy, too. That's why they represent Aaliyah pretty well. They're dangerous, but quite beautiful. I thought that it would be an animal that could represent me on this album, so I wanted to take it from the photo shoot to the video and probably throughout the whole project."

Aaliyah's next film project "Romeo Must Die" (2000) not only featured her hit song "Try Again", but marked the singer's film acting debut. She starred opposite Jet Li in this modern day multicultural crime world reworking of Shakespeare's tragic romance, playing Trish O'Day, daughter of an African-American crime lord (Delroy Lindo) at odds with a rival Chinese gang whose allies include the vengeance-bent Jet Li. Soon Aaliyah and Jet Li's characters fall in love, much to the disapproval of their warring families. Aaliyah brought a crucial toughness and quiet grace to her role, making an auspicious film debut in this music-infused actioner. Her relatively mysterious real-life persona (routinely dodging age questions and nearly always donning sunglasses) made her transition to the screen all the more seamless, allowing the public to readily believe her portrayals, where an artist with a more realized personality would be less credible.

Aaliyah was released three months later on July 17, 2001 to excellent reviews. The All Music guide gave the album high praise. "Urban albums rarely come any better than this, and there haven't been many records better than this in 2001, period." Aaliyah introduced a darker and edgier side to her music and was noted as showcasing her growth both as an artist and as a person. She recorded much of the album while working on her second film, The Queen of the Damned. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart,. In the week following her death, the album sold 305,000 units and went double platinum in the US by October.

Landing a starring role in the Anne Rice adaptation "The Queen of the Damned" (2002) as the eponymous vampire royalty proved her acting career wasn't just a fluke. Aaliyah was subsequently cast in the back-to-back sequels "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix 3", set to have a small role in the former which would expand to a co-starring role in the latter and was also picked to head up the cast of the remake "Sparkle". The release of her long-awaited self-titled third album in 2001 spawned the hit "We Need a Resolution" and debuted at number two on Billboards album charts. 

There was no shortage of confusion at the label regarding the next single from the Aaliyah album. Aaliyah had been promoting and performing "More Than a Woman", and she had shot a futuristic motorcycle video with director Dave Meyers during the summer of 2001.

The video for the uptempo "More Than a Woman" was ready to be released but the sleek, sexy come-on "Rock the Boat" began receiving huge amounts of radio-play, creating the need for a video to accompany its release. In late August, Aaliyah went to Miami to film the underwater sequences for the tropical-themed video and then flew on to the Bahamas to shoot with acclaimed director Hype Williams. The video included dance sequences shot aboard a catamaran and color-splashed beach scenes. "It's very ethereal and heavenly," said BET producer Kevin Taylor said, "There are lots of shots of water and clouds, and the video ends with Aaliyah swimming up from the bottom of a pool, almost looking like she's going into the clouds. It's really beautiful." The "Rock the Boat" music video landed in the 106 & Park: BET's Top 10 Live's Hall of Fame, for making the countdown over 75 times and it ultimately ranked #2 on BET's Notarized: Year End Video Countdown in 2001. The romantic ballad "I Care 4 U" was the fourth and final single from the album.

A posthumous greatest hits and rarities package, I Care 4 U was released on December 10, 2002. Along with her hit singles and a DVD of videos, a number of previously unreleased tracks were included, including "Erica Kane", "Don't Worry" and "All I Need" and the new singles "Miss You", "Don't Know What to Tell Ya", and "Come Over." I Care 4 U debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the R&B album charts (where it remained for 7 weeks). The album went on to sell over 2.6 million in the U.S. and 5 million worldwide. A portion of the proceeds from the sales went to the Aaliyah Memorial Foundation.

The video for "Miss You" took the form of a tribute, featuring Missy Elliott, Toni Braxton, Lil' Kim, Dallas Austin, MTV presenter and close friend Ananda Lewis, actor/singer Jamie Foxx, AJ Calloway, Free, Quddus, Tweet, U-God (of the Wu-Tang Clan), DMX, and actress Rosario Dawson, among many others. Following her death, her single "Miss You" made it to #1 on the US R&B Charts.

With an ethereal beauty, an angelic voice and agile dance moves, Aaliyah was able to parlay her skills into roles in movies and television. Early in her career, she appeared on the Nickelodeon series All That performing "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number". She returned again in 1996 to perform her hit "One in a Million". She also appeared as herself on a 1994 episode of the gritty cop drama New York Undercover.

She also garnered much success from her songs being featured on movie soundtracks. In 1997, Aaliyah appeared on the soundtrack album for the Fox Animation Studios animated feature Anastasia, singing the pop version of "Journey to the Past". The song was nominated for an Academy Award, and Aaliyah performed the song at the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony. Aaliyah had a massive hit in 1998 with "Are You that Somebody" (#4 airplay U.S. and #1 R&B airplay for eight weeks), from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack. Its video was the third most-played on MTV that year, and the song's success helped make Aaliyah a household name and crowned her as "Queen of Urban Pop".

In 2000, Aaliyah landed her first major movie role in Romeo Must Die, which debuted at number one at the box office. A loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Aaliyah starred opposite martial artist Jet Li, playing a couple who fall in love amid their warring families. In addition to acting, Aaliyah and Timbaland executive produced the film's soundtrack album and she contributed four songs: "Are You Feelin' Me?", "I Don't Wanna", "Come Back in One Piece," a duet with DMX which landed at #2 on BET's "Notarized" Top 100 videos of 2000, and the international number one hit "Try Again."

Aaliyah made history when "Try Again" became the first song to ever reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 based solely on the strength of its radio airplay, without any single sales factored in.[28] After the huge success of "Try Again" on radio, a 12" maxi single was released for consumer purchase. "Try Again" landed at #1 on BET's "Notarized" Top 100 Videos of 2000. The radio-only single, "I Don't Wanna", (which was also featured on the soundtrack for the film Next Friday) peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart.

In 2001, Aaliyah went to Australia to co-star with Stuart Townsend in the vampire film The Queen of the Damned, an adaptation of the Anne Rice novel of the same name. Released after her death, the Washington Post review encapsulated what many felt: "Aaliyah takes to the role with enough presence to make you think about what might have been."

Looking ahead, Aaliyah had a supporting role in the two sequels to The Matrix as Zee, the wife of Harold Perrineau Jr.'s character, Link. The directors initially tried to find a way to incorporate her footage into the movies but decided against it due to lack of material available. The role was recast with Nona Gaye playing the role. In 2004, The Matrix was released to DVD, tributes and footage of Aaliyah were found inside the special features.

Other films in which Aaliyah was signed to appear were Honey (Jessica Alba was eventually cast as the main character), a role in the movie State Property 2 (which was recast with Mariah Carey), and a Whitney Houston-produced remake of the 1976 film Sparkle which was canceled in 2007.

On August 25, 2001, at 6:50 pm (EST), just after finishing, filming of the "Rock the Boat" video, Aaliyah and various members of her record company boarded a twin engine Cessna 402B (N8097W) at Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island, Bahamas to travel to Opa-locka Airport near Miami, Florida. The crew had a flight scheduled the next day, but the video wrapped early. Aaliyah and her entourage were eager to return to the US and took their heavy equipment from the shoot on the plane rather than leave it behind.

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff about 200 feet (70 m) from the runway. Pilot Luis Morales III and all eight passengers were killed in the aviation accident. Her hair stylist Eric Foreman, Anthony Dodd, her security guard Scott Gallin, Douglas Kratz (a director of video production for Virgin Records), stylist Christopher Maldonado, Keith Wallace and Gina Smith (both employees of the Blackground label) all died along with Aaliyah.

According to findings from an inquest conducted by the coroners office in the Bahamas, Aaliyah suffered from "severe burns and a blow to the head," in addition to severe shock. The coroner theorized that, even if Aaliyah had survived the crash, her recovery would have been virtually impossible given the severity of her injuries. Aaliyah's funeral was held on August 31, 2001 at Saint Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan, New York City. She was interred at the Rosewood Mausoleum in Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.

The NTSB report stated "The airplane was seen lifting off the runway, and then nose down, impacting in a marsh on the south side of the departure end of runway 27." It also indicated that the pilot, Luis Morales III, was not approved to pilot the plane he was attempting to fly. Morales falsely obtained his FAA license by showing hundreds of hours never flown, and he may also have falsified how many hours he had flown in order to get a job with his employer, Blackhawk International Airways. Additionally, an autopsy performed on Morales revealed traces of cocaine and alcohol in his blood.

Further investigations determined the plane was over its total gross weight by several hundred pounds. Eddie Golson, president of Pro Freight Cargo Services at Opa-locka Airport, said workers carted "a pickup truck of freight" from the crash site. Two of the passengers weighed in the region of 300 pounds and sat in the rear of the plane, where the baggage was also stored. The NTSB report stated that "the total gross weight of the airplane was substantially exceeded." In addition, with heavy passengers and cargo in the back, the center of gravity was pushed too far aft. This caused an uncontrollable nose-up attitude, leading to a stall.

The day of the crash was Morales' first official day with Blackhawk International Airways, an FAA Part 135 single-pilot operation. In addition, Luis Morales III was not registered with the FAA to fly for Blackhawk. As a result of the accident, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Aaliyah’s parents and was later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Barry & Sons, Inc., a corporation .formed in 1992 to develop, promote and capitalize on the musical talents of Aaliyah and to oversee the production and distribution of her records, tapes and music videos, brought an unsuccessful lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Instinct Productions LLC, (a company hired by Barry & Sons, Inc. in August 2001 to produce the "Rock the Boat" music video). The case was dismissed since New York State's wrongful death statute only permits certain people to recover damages for wrongful death.

"Rock the Boat" went on to become a posthumous hit on radio (reaching number two on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles charts, number 14 on the Hot 100, and number 12 in the UK) and video channels, and the news of Aaliyah's death gave her album a notable sales boost, pushing it to number one on the Billboard 200. The album produced two other singles: "More Than a Woman" reached number seven on Billboard's Hot R&B singles chart, number 25 on Hot 100, and number 1 in the UK, and at number 11 on BET's "Notarized" Top 100 videos of 2002. "I Care 4 U" reached number three on Billboard's Hot R&B singles chart and number three on the Hot 100, the latter attaining success even without the promotional push of a music video. The Aaliyah album has gone on to sell over three million copies in the U.S.

Her last film Queen of the Damned was released in early 2002. Before its release, Aaliyah's brother Rashad Haughton was called upon to re-dub several of his sister's lines during the post-production ADR process. Upon its release, the film debuted at number one. The film was dedicated to her memory.

Aaliyah and former Beatle George Harrison made UK Chart history in January 2002 when they scored the first, and to date, only back-to-back posthumous number one hits (aside from the Elvis Presley re-releases in 2005). Aaliyah's "More than a Woman", released on January 7 and topped the chart on January 13, was followed by Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", re-released on January 14 and topped the chart on January 20.

Aaliyah was voted one of "The Top 40 Women of the Video Era" in VH1's The Greatest, also ranked number 36 on their list of the 100 Sexiest Artists. Aaliyah also made E!'s list on the 101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment, Juiciest Hollywood Hookups, and Best Kept Hollywood Secrets. Aaliyah recently ranked at number 18 on BET's "Top 25 Dancers of All Time" and ranked at number four on BET's "Top 25 Sexiest Women of all Time".

Aaliyah has been the topic of four books: Aaliyah: More than a Woman (2001) by Christopher John Farley, Aaliyah: An R&B Princess in Words and Pictures (2002) by Kelly Kenyatta, Aaliyah by Tim Footman (2003), and Aaliyah Remembered: Her Life & The Person behind the Mystique (2005) by William Sutherland. Her family created The Aaliyah Memorial Fund which will donate money raised to charities Aaliyah supported. Aaliyah's Cancer Awareness Angels participate in a Revlon Run Walk in which Aaliyah herself once participated. The hip-hop community has kept her memory alive by mentioning her name and referencing her songs in many of their lyrics.

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