Happy birthday Aaliyah! 5 things you might not know about the late Princess of R&B

American R&B singer Aaliyah(Aaliyah Dana Houghton) poses for a photo backstage at Madison Square Garden, October 5, 1995 in New York City.
American R&B singer Aaliyah(Aaliyah Dana Houghton) poses for a photo backstage at Madison Square Garden, October 5, 1995 in New York City.
Image: Catherine McGann/Getty Images

If the talented the Princess of R&B Aaliyah had not died 18 years ago,she would have turned 40 today, January 16.

The singer died at the age of 22 when her plane crashed a minute after takeoff according to several reports, as it was leaving the Bahamas where she had filmed the music video for Rock the Boat.

Aaliyah’s legacy continues today through musicians such as Drake and Frank Ocean, who have both covered her songs. 

Her fashion sense also continues to influence pop culture with stars taking inspiration from her like Ciara and Boity. Yet, despite being a big star, Aaliyah was shrouded in mystery and liked to keep it that way.

“People feel like they own you in this business and, to a certain degree, they do,” she told Vibe magazine in 2001. “But there’s a part of me that will always be just for me.”

True! However, we can still reveal some interesting facts about Aaliyah.

She was Gladys Knight’s niece

The legendary soul singer Gladys Knight was her aunt through marriage. Knight was the wife of Aaliyah’s uncle Barry Hankerson, who at different points managed the careers of his niece, ex-wife, R. Kelly and Toni Braxton.

The R. Kelly stage

Aaliyah released her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number when she was 14 which sold over a million copies. The album’s name is contentious considering allegations R. Kelly married the starlet at the age of just 15. Although Aaliyah's family continues to deny the marriage took place, R Kelly has confirmed the allegations but denies knowing she was underage. The controversy resurfaced with the release of the documentary Surviving R. Kelly in 2018.

Jay-Z, Aaliyah, Bijou Phillips and Kidada Jones during Tommy Hilfiger Party at Bar North in Los Angeles, California, United States.
Jay-Z, Aaliyah, Bijou Phillips and Kidada Jones during Tommy Hilfiger Party at Bar North in Los Angeles, California, United States.
Image: J. Vespa/WireImage via Getty Images

Quincy Jones’s daughter and Aaliyah were besties

One of Aaliyah’s best friends was Quincy Jones’s daughter Kidada Jones. They met while shooting a Tommy Hilfiger ad campaigns in the 1990s. Aaliyah’s fashion influenced the label’s designs, while Kidada worked as a stylist for it. In a Rolling Stone feature after her death, Jones said Aaliyah was ready to start a family and the two of them “couldn’t wait to kick back with our babies”.

The Princess of R&B was a bit of a geek

In a 2001 interview with Vibe, Aaliyah revealed she was a fan of the Harry Potter books and played video games such as Time Crisis II.

A Hollywood star in the making

Just before her untimely death, Aaliyah was making her mark as an actress, starring opposite Jet Li in 2000’s Romeo Must Die, as well as in Queen of the Damned in 2001. Her Hollywood career was on the up and she was supposed to play the lead in the dance film Honey, released in 2003, and take the role of Zee in The Matrix sequels. The latter role went to Marvin Gaye’s daughter Nona Gaye, after Aaliyah’s death, while the former went to Jessica Alba.

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