Actress-singer Aaliyah, 22, dies in plane crash in Bahamas while shooting video
NEW YORK (AP) – From the moment the 15-year-old Aaliyah burst onto the scene in 1994 – an R&B singer whose sultry voice, striking good looks and sexy attitude belied her young age – it seemed as if everything she touched became a success.
Her debut album sold more than 1 million copies, she was nominated for a Grammy twice and even her foray into the movies yielded a surprise hit.
”I was trained since I was a little girl to be able to do it all,” the 22-year-old artist said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Her career had barely begun to peak when she was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas on Saturday.
Eight others on board also perished when the twin-engine Cessna they were traveling in went down shortly after it took off; Aaliyah had been filming a video for the next single off her album.
A statement released Sunday by the singer’s publicist, PMK, said: ”Aaliyah’s family is devastated at the loss of their loving daughter and sister. Their hearts go out to those families who also lost their loved ones in this tragic accident.”
She is survived by her mother, father and brother. Calls placed by The Associated Press to some of her music collaborators were not returned Sunday.
Aaliyah (pronounced Ah-LEE-yah) Haughton was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 16, 1979, and was raised in Detroit.
She attended the Detroit High School of Fine and Performing Arts, whose principal, Denise Davis-Cotton, traveled to New York on Sunday to mourn with Aaliyah’s family.
”She was just a nice young lady,” Detroit Public Schools spokesman Stan Childress said. ”She was a straight-A student and an outstanding citizen.”
A career in entertainment appeared to be predestined: Her mother, Diane, was a singer, and her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment manager who was once married to Gladys Knight. By age 6, she was already on stage, appearing in a production of the musical ”Annie.”
”I was an orphan, I had one little line,” she recalled. ”But what I loved about it was just putting the production together, being in the chorus, learning the routines, singing, and doing a little bit of acting.”
”That’s when I said, I’ve got to do this forever,” she added.
By the time she was 11, she was polished enough to earn an invitation from Knight herself to perform with her in Las Vegas.
But the singer who would have the greatest impact on her career was R&B superstar R. Kelly, best known for hits such as ”I Believe I Can Fly,” and for writing and producing for performers such as Michael Jackson.
Kelly produced Aaliyah’s debut album, ”Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number,” which spawned hit singles like ”Back & Forth” and ”At Your Best (You Are Love).”
Her midriff-baring clothes and her suggestive lyrics (the album’s title track spoke of going ”all the way” with an older man) raised some eyebrows.
She didn’t understand the fuss.
”I didn’t feel I was too mature,” the singer said. ”I felt for my age, I was just right,” she said. ”Yeah, it was a bit sexy, but that was just me, and I’m not going to deny being a little bit sexy, I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
Her artistic pairing with Kelly allegedly turned romantic when the singer was just a teen; documents showed that the pair got married, but it was apparently without her parent’s consent and was later annulled. The pair severed their artistic ties and refused to comment about their relationship.
Aaliyah’s next disc, ”One in a Million,” did even better as she began a partnership with producer/rappers Missy ”Misdemeanor” Elliott and Timbaland. The hits off that album included the title track and ”If Your Girl Only Knew.”
Her latest record, the self-titled ”Aaliyah,” debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart when it was released last month.
The album had darker themes than her previous work; one of the songs on the disc included a tune about domestic violence.
”I got a chance to really grow into myself as a young adult, and I think you hear that on the album,” Aaliyah said. ”From the subject matter to the songs and the feel of it, even vocally, the whole nine yards, the album is very much Aaliyah, a young adult.”
In 1999, she was nominated for a Grammy award for best female R&B performance for ”Are You That Somebody?”; she was nominated once again this year for ”Try Again,” the song from ”Romeo Must Die,” her first shot at the movies.
The action film also starred Jet Li and was a surprise hit at the box-office, making her a much sought-after actress in Hollywood. She won a starring role in the film adaptation of Anne Rice’s ”Queen of the Damned,” and also landed coveted roles in sequels to ”The Matrix.”
Aaliyah lived on her own in Manhattan, picked her own movie roles and charted the direction of her music. But she was still very much a young adult, giggling during the AP interview as she talked about getting tattoos on her ankle and back, and the dating scene.
Aaliyah apparently already shot some scenes for the ”Matrix” sequels in the spring, but was due to film the bulk of her role next year; it is unclear what effect her death will have on the movies. Her latest album has already been certified gold.
Although her life seemed charmed, Aaliyah alluded to growing pains and struggles.
”The hardest part about being in this business is … the fact that your life isn’t your own anymore,” she said.
Still, she called herself a ”happy girl,” and said she was living out her dream.
”The most enjoyable part is to touch people all over the world,” she said. ”To be able to go all those places, and have people know your name, and know all of your songs, and for them to be so touched by you, that some may cry – there’s not words that can express how great that feels, and it makes all the hard stuff, it makes it worth it.”
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