Aaliyah: Remembering the singer 20 years after her tragic death

The singer, born Aaliyah Haughton, was just 22 years old and in the midst of shooting a music video for her third and final self-titled album, “Aaliyah,” when she died. 

On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah boarded a twin-engine Cessna in the Bahamas bound for Florida when it crashed moments after taking off. Eight others also perished. After an investigation, the plane was found to be overloaded by 700 pounds.

In a lawsuit filed by her parents, Michael and Diana Haughton, reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount with the plane’s operator, owners and flight broker, per Fox11 News

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At just 12 years old, Aaliyah signed for a record deal with her uncle in Detroit.

Two years later, she teamed with R. Kelly to make her first record “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” She became involved with R. Kelly and the two were secretly married when Aaliyah was just 15. Her parents discovered this and quickly annulled the marriage.

Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001 in a plane crash in the Bahamas. 

Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001 in a plane crash in the Bahamas.  (Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

But the scandal tarnished Aaliyah’s reputation more than R. Kelly, who is currently on trial for sex trafficking charges stemming more than two decades. She was portrayed as a teen seductress rather than one of the first of R. Kelly’s many victims.

After her relationship with R. Kelly went public, Aaliyah became extremely private but kept recording hit records. She teamed with then-unknowns Timbaland and Missy Elliot for her second record “One in a Million,” which has sold 8 million copies worldwide.

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Meanwhile, she was making her mark in the fashion and movie industries. Her signature style of a crop top or bandeau top paired with baggy jeans, with long hair partially covering her left eye, is emblematic of her “sweet but street” style and still emulated today. 

Aaliyah performing at KMEL 106 Summer Jam at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View Calif. on August  29th, 1998. 

Aaliyah performing at KMEL 106 Summer Jam at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View Calif. on August  29th, 1998.  (Tim Mosenfelder/ImageDirect)

She also had roles in the movies “Romeo Must Die” and “Queen of the Damned” and was set to act in the “Matrix” sequels before she died.

Aaliyah’s “Try Again” beat out Britney Spears’ “Oops!… I Did It Again” video and Christina Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants” to win best female video at the MTV video awards in 2000, another sign she was poised for superstardom.

Her music is now available to stream after a fan campaign on social media gained attention.

Blackground Records said it plans to release the albums to streaming services on Aug. 20, in time for the 20th anniversary of Aaliyah’s death. The move is not without controversy. Aaliyah’s family estate does not support the release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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