With the release of the Surviving R. Kelly documentary last year, Aaliyah once again made headlines, unfortunately not for her musical legacy. At age 15 she married R. Kelly; the brief marriage was annulled in 1997. However, her fans and her friends in the music industry have ensured that her impact on the music industry remains her legacy.

Aaliyah’s talent was evident from a young age. At 10 years old she appeared on Star Search and from then on there was no turning back. When she was 12 years old, she signed a recording deal with Jive Records; her first album was released two years later. Age Ain’t Nothin but a Number went on to sell 3 million copies.

In 1996 she began working with Timbaland and Missy Elliot on her second album. One in a Million went on to sell 8 million copies around the world and led to Aaliyah becoming a crossover star. She led a modelling campaign for Tommy Hilfiger as well singing on the Anastasia soundtrack. This led to an Oscars performance for her and a win for the songwriters. All the while, she maintained a 4.0 grade point average in school, both for herself and to show her fans that education is important for everyone.

In 2000 she starred in first movie, Romeo Must Die, receiving excellent reviews from critics for her performance. Her third album, Aaliyah, was released in July the following year. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 18 but went to number 1 following her death the following month.

In August 2001 Aaliyah was returning from the Bahamas after filming had finished on her music video “Rock the Boat”. Seconds after taking off the plane burst into flames killing everyone on board. There was a huge outpouring of grief from her fans and colleagues.

Any death of a young person is obviously tragic but with Aaliyah’s death millions of people were left wondering about what could have been. Her death was the first celebrity death that affected me, I was a huge fan and it seemed like there was so much more to come from her. She was working on her second film at the time and there seemed to be no limit to where her music career would go.

Despite her young age, her legacy as a trendsetter is still clear today. In 2018 MAC Cosmetics released a make-up collection inspired by her. In 2019 Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas unveiled a new wax work of her, and earlier this year her music was made available for the first time on streaming services, including Apple Music and Spotify. This ensures that younger generations will be able to enjoy her music for years to come.

-MIchelle O’Brien
Contributing Writer
Girl Museum Inc.

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