She was a star: angelic, inspirational, a triple threat, poised, a workaholic, the princess of R&B, confident, sweet, and supportive. Ten years ago today, that all ended when Aaliyah's plane crashed in the Bahamas killing all nine people on board. The 22 year old had just finished filming the music video for "Rock the Boat". The pilot was unlicensed and autopsy results revealed that he had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Now her fans from all over the world look to the sky, that's how high her star would have been.
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was destined for stardom at the age of ten. Born in the Bronx and raised in Detroit, she was performing on stages with Gladys Knight at the age of 11 and by the age of 12, the natural born entertainer had a record deal. Her uncle, an entertainment lawyer with his own record label (Blackground Records), introduced her to R. Kelly. Kelly became her mentor and produced her first album "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number". What followed the success of her album, released in 1994 when she was only 15, were allegations that Kelly had illegally married the teenager. In 1995, Aaliyah's parents had the marriage annulled.
Two years later in 1996, her second album, "One in a Million" was released under the production of Timbaland and Missy Elliott who went on to be close friends of Aaliyah. It was during that time that she graduated from Detroit High School for the Performing Arts with a 4.0 gpa. "One In Million", meanwhile, enjoyed worldwide success garnering attention for the drama major from all different channels. She recorded a song for the movie "Anastasia" and become the youngest person to perform at the Academy Awards in 1998. Tommy Hilfiger gave her an endorsement deal for modeling his line,and she began an acting career in which she was and would have been very successful.
Aaliyah's final album, "Aaliyah", was released in 2001 the same year she earned her first major acting role in the film "Romeo Must Die". "Queen of the Damned" was released posthumously, and the triple threat had been tapped for roles in "The Matrix" sequels, the lead role in "Honey" (Jessica Alba took over the role), and the lead role in a remake of the 70s musical "Sparkle" (which was to be produced by Whitney Houston). Sources say that ten years later talks about the project have begun again. She had so much to live for, so many projects unfinished, so much life not lived; reports even say Aaliyah was engaged to record executive Damon Dash at the time of her death.
The legacy she has left behind is beautiful in and of itself but what is even more beautiful is who she was. Aaliyah had a soul that reached out and wrapped its arms around people. It's clear; people still listen to her music today. Those in the music industry look to her even now for inspiration. Missy Elliott is quoted as saying, "I’m constantly talking about her. I still watch her videos and listen to her music. She’s a major part in our lives and in music". Brandy remembers Aaliyah as being a ground breaker for young women in R&B music, a supportive presence, and a friend. Brandy said of her friend, "She didn't let anybody tell her what she needed to do or how to do it. It seemed like everything she was doing was coming from her. She moved in silence. She wasn't boastful. She was humble and unique. She wasn't afraid to express her individuality". Drake even wrote a letter to the late Aaliyah, addressing her by her middle name, on the ninth anniversary of her death. The letter moved me because it's amazing to think about how someone can love someone so much without even meeting them. Her aura, her passion for life was so strong that those touched by her couldn't help but feel it even though she wasn't with them.
I cannot help but to post the letter below:
I’ve never lost a parent, a friend, or a lover but I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. I remember getting the news that you had passed and it connected with my heart like a clean shot from Muhammad Ali. I was crushed. Not only was I one of your biggest fans but I was truly in love with you. I loved the way you carried yourself, the way you dressed, the confidence with which you addressed passion and relationships in your music. I said to myself that even if we never met, I wanted a woman in my life just like you. I am pained that we will never get to connect now that music ended up being my career path. But you should know, we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world. I hope I make the right life choices so I can end up in heaven where I know you rest your head. I’ll continue to make music in your honor until the day we finally meet. Dinner’s on me!
Love you always and forever,
Maybe the reason I love how she lived her life is because she lived it with fearlessness and contentment; I am beginning to believe that it's the best way to live.
In the MTV documentary series, "Diary", Aaliyah says, "I am truly blessed to wake up every morning and do something that I love. There's nothing better than that,"
Like musicians and music critics, I too believe Aaliyah would be a great influence in the music world if she were alive today. She was a trailblazer, unafraid of marching to her own beat, a risk taker, she dared to bring new musical concepts to the forefront, and she pushed not only herself but those in her field to take it to the next level. I will remember her as the quiet tomboy with the airy voice who blossomed into a beautiful woman with a beautiful spirit that just won't burn out.