February 6, 2013: Singer, actress Aaliyah was born Dana Haughton, on January 16, 1979, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
She was the youngest child of Diane and Michael Haughton. Her first name means "highest, most exalted one" in Swahili. When she was five years old, her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she was raised along with her older brother, Rashad.
She attended a Catholic school, Gesu Elementary. After landing a part in the stage play "Annie" in the first grade, she was determined to be an entertainer. Aaliyah's mother was a vocalist, and her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment lawyer who was previously married to Gladys Knight.
As a child, Aaliyah traveled with Knight and worked with an agent in New York auditioning for commercials and television programs. She appeared on Star Search at the age of nine. By age 12, Aaliyah was signed to Jive Records and Blackground Records, with the help of Hankerson. He introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, lead songwriter and the producer of her debut album.
In 1994, at the age of 15, Aaliyah catapulted onto the R&B charts with her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, produced by Kelly. The album quickly sold a million copies and eventually earned platinum status based largely on the success of two hit singles, "Back and Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)."
After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with Kelly, Aaliyah left Jive and signed to Atlantic Records.
While a student in the dance program at Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts (she graduated in 1997), Aaliyah released her sophomore album, One in a Million (1996).
Helmed by the well-known pop producer Timbaland and featuring rap performer Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, One in a Million portrayed the 17-year-old singer as a sultry hip-hop chanteuse with a self-confidence well beyond her years. The album garnered favorable reviews and sold two million copies.
Her next soundtrack effort, "Are You That Somebody?" for 1998's Dr. Dolittle, starring Eddie Murphy, went to No. 1 on the R&B charts, was a pop crossover hit, and earned Aaliyah her first Grammy Award nomination.
In 2000, Aaliyah made her acting debut in the surprise action hit Romeo Must Die, starring opposite martial arts star Jet Li in a Romeo and Juliet-inspired story set in modern-day Los Angeles.
She was also an executive producer of the movie's soundtrack and performed the hit single "Try Again," which netted her a second Grammy nomination as well as two MTV Music Video Awards for “Best Female Video” and “Best Video From a Film.”
Her third album, Aaliyah, was released in July 2001 and reached No. 2 on the Billboard album chart. Also in 2001, she played the title role in Queen of the Damned, based on the bestselling novel by Anne Rice and set for release in 2002.
Tragically, Aaliyah was killed on August 25, 2001, when a small Cessna passenger plane carrying the singer and her video crew crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff from Abaco Island in the Bahamas, where they had just completed work on a video.
The plane was headed for Miami, Florida. Aaliyah and seven other people, including the pilot, were believed to have died instantly, while a ninth passenger died later at a Bahamian hospital. Aaliyah was 22 years old at the time of her death.
Following her death, her eponymous album, Aaliyah, went from number 19 to number one on the Billboard 200. The album was certified double Platinum by the RIAA and sold 2.5 million copies in the United States.
In 2001, the United States Social Security Administration ranked the name Aaliyah one of the 100 most popular names for newborn girls. Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine hip hop in the 1990s.
Her second studio album, One in a Million, became one of the most influential R&B albums of the decade, and Ernest Hardy of Rolling Stone dubbed her as the "undisputed queen of the mid-tempo come on".
Aaliyah was voted one of "The Top 40 Women of the Video Era" in VH1's The Greatest. 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".
In May 2008, The Detroit School of Arts, Aaliyah's alma mater, named a recital hall in honor of the late songstress. Aaliyah has sold 8.1 million albums in the United States and over 24 million albums worldwide.
Aaliyah, we acknowledge your vast accomplishments, and we honor your contributions.