This Saturday, the controversial biographical film Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B will air on Lifetime. The family of the deceased singer, believing that her story should be told as a major feature film, has refused to grant the producers the right to use her songs. The film’s original star, Zendaya, dropped out of the film before it began production. Alexandra Shipp took over the role and talk show host Wendy Williams became an executive producer. The behind-the-scenes drama of the film is a stark contrast to Aaliyah’s polished, professional image. Though she was only 22 when she died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001, Aaliyah accomplished more than most people could in a century. She was a true triple threat – a singer, dancer and actress – who was poised to become a major star. Her three albums have sold over 32 million copies worldwide. Before you watch the movie, get the facts about Aaliyah.
Aailyah Was Secretly, And Illegally, Married to R. Kelly
R. Kelly produced Aaliyah’s first album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number in 1994 when she was just 14. The title proved apt. Rumors spread that the duo were married. Both vehemently denied that they were anything more than friends. In the mid-1990s, when the Internet was in its infancy, it was far easier for celebrities to keep secrets. However, in January 1995 the magazine Vibe published a copy of their marriage certificate. Aaliyah who was 15 at the time of the wedding, listed her age as 18. R. Kelly accurately listed his age as 25. Since she was too young to get married without her parents’ permission, the marriage was illegal and was annulled. Aaliyah never spoke publicly about her marriage, but after the news broke, she severed all personal and professional ties with R. Kelly.
Aaliyah’s Career Was A Family Affair
Aaliyah became successful at such a young age in part because of her family’s connections to the music industry. Her uncle Barry Hankerson was a music executive who founded Blackstreet Records and was married to music legend Gladys Knight. When she was just 11, Aaliyah performed with Knight for a week at Bally’s Las Vegas Casino. Hankerson also managed R. Kelly and introduced Aaliyah to him. Throughout her career she was managed by her mother Diane Haughton. Her cousin Jomo Hankerson executive produced her albums.
Aaliyah Was Falsely Rumored To Have A Glass Eye
Early in her career, Aaliyah always wore sunglasses in photographs. Fans began to speculate that she was deliberately hiding her eyes because she had a glass eye. When her second album dropped in 1996, she debuted a new look, perhaps to quell the rumors. She took off her sunglasses and combed her hair so that it covered her left eye. The style was inspired by classic film star Veronica Lake. Both of Aaliyah’s eyes were healthy. She kept them shrouded solely as a fashion statement.
Aaliyah Was The Youngest Musical Performer at the Oscars
In 1997, "Journey to the Past," a little remembered song she sang on the soundtrack of the little-remembered animated movie Anastasia, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song. It didn’t have a prayer of winning − it was up against the powerhouse Celine Dion song "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. Nonetheless, Aaliyah got to perform it at the Oscars. She was only 19. She is still the youngest person to have sung at the Oscars.
Aaliyah Was Poised to Become a Major Movie Star
In 2000, Aaliyah starred in the surprise hit action movie Romeo Must Die. She also produced the soundtrack, which included one of her biggest hits, "Try Again." Hollywood was impressed by her talent and she quickly booked numerous roles. She played the lead, Akasha, in the vampire film Queen of the Damned, which was released posthumously. She was in the midst of filming the role of Zee in The Matrix: Reloaded at the time of her death. (Noa Gaye took over the role.) She was also slated to be the lead in Honey, which was made with Jessica Alba in the title role, Sparkle, which was finally produced in 2012, and the love story Some Kind of Blue, which was never made.
Aaliyah Never Owned A Car
In her final television appearance, on BET’s 106 and Park, the show gave away a Cadillac Escalade to a fan. Aaliyah revealed that though she certainly could afford to drive whatever she wanted, she had never owned a car. She explained that, since she lived in New York City, it was not practical or necessary. However, she admitted that she hired a car and driver on a regular basis.
Aaliyah Was Engaged to Damon Dash at the Time of Her Death
After the R. Kelly scandal, Aaliyah did everything she could to keep her personal life private. Though gossip columns claimed she dated Ginwine and Jay-Z, she always claimed that it was not true. During 2001, she was linked to Roc-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash. Though she hosted his birthday party, and wore a necklace with a Rock-A-Fella logo pendant, she told Vibe, “Damon and I are very good friends. I’ll keep it at that right now.” After her death, Dash admitted that, though he had not formally proposed, they planned to get married.
"Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B" airs this Saturday at 8/7c on Lifetime.