Born 1979 in Brooklyn, New York, American singer, actress, and model Aaliyah first gained recognition at the age of 10, when she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight.
At the age of 12, Aaliyah signed with Jive Records and her uncle Barry Hankerson’s Blackground Records. Hankerson introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. The album sold 3 million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with Kelly, Aaliyah ended her contract with Jive and signed with Atlantic Records. She worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott for her second album, One in a Million, which sold 3 million copies in the United States and more than 8 million copies worldwide.
In 2000, Aaliyah appeared in her first film, Romeo Must Die. She contributed to the film’s soundtrack, which spawned the single “Try Again”. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay, making Aaliyah the first artist in Billboard history to achieve this goal. “Try Again” also earned Aaliyah a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocalist. After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah filmed her role in Queen of the Damned, and released her self-titled third and final studio album in 2001.
On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas after filming the music video for the single “Rock the Boat”. The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and toxicology tests revealed that he had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system.
Aaliyah’s music continued to achieve commercial success with several posthumous releases, and has sold an estimated 24 to 32 million albums worldwide. She has been credited for helping redefine contemporary R&B, pop and hip hop, earning her the nicknames the “Princess of R&B” and “Queen of Urban Pop”.
Billboard lists her as the tenth most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years, and the 27th most successful in history.
These beautiful photos captured portrait of Aaliyah in the mid-1990s as she was still a teenager.