Aaliyah Biography

Aaliyah, the American singer, captivated audiences with her debut album ‘Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,’ which sold three million copies in the United States. She quickly became one of the hottest youth icons of the 1990s, inheriting her singing talent from her vocalist mother. With the guidance of her close relative, recording artist Gladys Maria Knight, Aaliyah embarked on a journey in show business from a young age. Signing deals with ‘Jive Records’ and ‘Blackground Records’ at just 12 years old, she released her debut album at 14, defining R&B in the 1990s. Aaliyah’s success extended beyond music as she ventured into films, making her acting debut in ‘Romeo Must Die.’ Tragically, her rising star was cut short when she died in an aircraft crash at the age of 22 in 2001.

Quick Facts

  • Nick Name: Babygirl
  • Also Known As: Aaliyah Dana Haughton
  • Died At Age: 22
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: R. Kelly
    • Father: Michael Haughton
    • Mother: Diane
    • Siblings: Rashad Haughton
    • Partner: Damon Dash (2000–2001)
  • Born Country: United States
  • Died Young
  • Died on: August 25, 2001
  • Place of death: Marsh Harbour, The Bahamas
  • Cause of Death: Airplane Crash
  • City: Brooklyn, New York City
  • U.S. State: New York

Childhood & Early Life

Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born on January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York, to Diane and Michael Haughton. She had one brother and shared a strong bond with him. She was very family oriented and had close relations with her parents and grandmother. She was of African-American descent.

Her mother was a vocalist and young Aaliyah began singing when she was a child, performing at weddings, charity events, and for the church choir. Her uncle Barry Hankerson was married to recording artist Gladys Knight who played a major role in introducing Aaliyah to show business.

She attended a Catholic school named ‘Gesu Elementary,’ where she was cast to play a role in a stage play titled ‘Annie.’ With support from Gladys, Aaliyah auditioned for commercials and television programs, and also for several record labels. She started appearing in concerts alongside Gladys when she was 11.


Aaliyah signed with ‘Jive Records’ and her Uncle Barry Hankerson’s ‘Blackground Records’ when she was just 12. Her debut album ‘Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,’ which was recorded when the singer was just 14, was released in 1994.

In its very first week, the album sold almost 74,000 copies. Soon, it reached from 24th to 18th position on ‘Billboard 200,’ eventually selling over three million copies in the United States, where it was certified double platinum by the ‘RIAA.’

The tremendous success of the album catapulted Aaliyah to international stardom. During this time, rumors of her illegal marriage with her mentor and recording artist and producer R. Kelly began circulating.

In order to silence the rumors, Aaliyah left ‘Jive Records’ and signed a contract with ‘Atlantic Records,’ under which she released her second album ‘One in a Million’ in 1996. This album was also a major success. It peaked at No. 18 on the ‘Billboard 200,’ and sold over 3.7 million copies in the United States and over eight million copies worldwide. It was certified double platinum by the ‘RIAA.’

During this time, she attended the ‘Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts,’ where she majored in drama and graduated in 1997. Following her graduation, she began her acting career with the television series ‘New York Undercover.’

In 1997, she contributed to the soundtrack of the animated feature ‘Anastasia,’ performing a cover version of ‘Journey to the Past.’ She then performed the song at the 1998 ‘Academy Awards,’ becoming the youngest singer to perform at the event. The song ‘Are You That Somebody?’ featured on Dr. Dolittle’s soundtrack earned Aaliyah her first ‘Grammy Award’ nomination.

In 1999, she was selected to play her first film role in the action movie ‘Romeo Must Die,’ where she starred opposite martial arts star Jet Li. The film, released in 2000, was a huge commercial hit. Along with acting, she also served as the executive producer of the movie’s soundtrack and performed the hit single ‘Try Again’ among others.

Her third album ‘Aaliyah,’ which was released in July 2001, reached No. 2 on the ‘Billboard’ album chart. The album sold more than 190,000 copies in the first week. Within five weeks, it was certified gold and later double platinum by ‘RIAA.’

Her singles ‘More than a Woman’ and ‘I Care 4 U’ were released posthumously and reached the top 25 of the ‘Billboard Hot 100.’

Major Works

Aaliyah’s debut album ‘Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number’ spawned the hit singles, ‘Back & Forth’ and ‘At Your Best (You Are Love),’ both of which were certified gold by the ‘RIAA.’ The album went on to sell over six million copies worldwide.

Awards & Achievements

At the ‘American Music Awards’ in 2002, Aaliyah won two posthumous awards: ‘Favorite Female R&B Artist’ and ‘Favorite R&B/Soul Album.’

In 2003, she was named one of the ‘Top 40 Women of the Video Era’ in VH1’s series ‘The Greatest.’

Aaliyah was ranked No.70 in ‘Billboard’ magazine’s ‘Top Artists of the Decade,’ while her eponymous album claimed the 181st spot in the magazine’s ‘Top 200 Albums of the Decade’ in December 2009.

‘Billboard’ has listed Aaliyah as the 10th most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years, and the 27th most successful R&B artist overall.

Personal Life & Legacy

It was once rumored that Aaliyah had wed R. Kelly in an illegal marriage that was later annulled. The pair, however, denied the rumors. She was dating Damon Dash, co-founder of ‘Roc-A-Fella Records,’ at the time of her death.

Aaliyah, along with her crew, flew to the Bahamas on August 25, 2001, to shoot the music video for the song, ‘Rock the Boat.’ Completing the shoot early, the crew decided to return to Florida instead of waiting for the next day as per schedule. For their return, they boarded a small private airplane.

The plane was smaller than the one the crew had arrived in. However, the whole party and the equipment were accommodated on board, overloading the plane with a surplus of 320 kg and one excess passenger. The plane crashed soon after taking off, killing everyone on board.

Aaliyah’s funeral services were held on August 31, 2001, at the ‘Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel’ and ‘St. Ignatius Loyola Church’ in Manhattan.

Credited with redefining R&B and hip hop in the 1990s, Aaliyah was paid tribute at the 2001 ‘MTV Video Music Awards.’ She is also often regarded as the “Queen of Urban Pop” and “Princess of R&B.”

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