Too Much Too Soon: The Life and Death of Aaliyah

The singer died in a plane crash at 22.

By the time Aaliyah was 18, the R&B singer was on top of the world with a successful string of critically acclaimed, best-selling albums and singles. But her life was cut short when she died suddenly at 22. 

Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born in New York City in January 1979 to Diane and Miguel Haughton. Her family moved to Detroit when she was 5, and by 8, she was already well on her way to stardom.

“My first performance was at 6, I was in the play ‘Annie’ at school, I wasn’t Annie, but I was an orphan, and from that moment I knew that I loved the stage and loved to entertain,” she told Inside Edition in 1997.

The singer eventually went on to bigger stages, appearing on “Star Search” when she was 10. She didn't win, but at 12, she landed a record deal with Blackground and Jive Records. 

By 14, she had released her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” which eventually went double platinum. During the making of the album, she was introduced to R. Kelly, who became her mentor and was a producer of the record. 

Now in the spotlight, Aaliyah was plagued by rumors that she secretly married Kelly, who would later be arrested and charged in sex crimes cases against other women in multiple states, when she was 15. 

Speaking to Inside Edition in 1997, though, Aaliyah shot down the rumors. “I am not married,” she said. “[Kelly] is doing his thing, I’m doing my thing. He’s a great producer, great artist who I do admire and there’s nothing there at all.” Kelly also denied they ever married. 

But their relationship came into further question in January following the release of the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” in which a backup singer for Kelly said Kelly and Aaliyah had a sexual relationship when she was underage. Court documents obtained by the show's producers appear to show they did marry after Kelly allegedly had documents forged claiming Aaliyah was 18, according to the docuseries. Kelly’s alleged marriage to Aaliyah was reportedly annulled two months after it took place.

Aaliyah’s mom, Diane Houghton, vehemently denied that Kelly had a sexual relationship with Aaliyah while she was underage after “Surviving R. Kelly” was released. 

As her fame grew, Aaliyah left Jive and signed a massive deal with Atlantic Records, which released her second album, “One in a Million." The record also went double platinum. 

During her 1997 interview with Inside Edition, the then-18-year-old Aaliyah said she was too busy for a relationship, saying, “when that guy comes along, I’ll know it and it will happen. But I am really busy with a career.” 

Months after her interview with Inside Edition, she released her biggest single, “Are You That Somebody?” from the “Dr. Doolittle” soundtrack. The single earned her a Grammy nomination and has been ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the best songs of the 1990s

During her interview with Inside Edition, she expressed that she wanted to make sure she branched out of music. 

“I plan to venture off into other aspects of the industry, I’d like to try acting, try some behind-the-scenes work. As long as I am successful, I am happy,” she declared. 

She got her wish, becoming the face of Tommy Hilfiger and acting in films like “Romeo Must Die” and “Queen of the Damned.” 

In 2000, she met Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Damon Dash and the two began a relationship. In July 2001, she released her third and final album, “Aaliyah.” 

Weeks after the album’s release, she was aboard a small Cesna 402B plane filming a music video when it crashed in the Bahamas in August 2001 shortly after takeoff. Everyone on board perished. The investigation into the incident concluded that the plane was overloaded, causing it to crash. 

Her funeral was held in Manhattan on Aug. 31, 2001, just 11 days before the attacks on the Twin Towers. It was attended by some of the biggest names in music including Dash, Sean Combs, Lil Kim, Timbaland, Missy Elliot, and Gladys Knight. Kelly did not attend. 

It was a fitting send-off for a woman who lived life so fully.

“The secret to life is just living,” she told Inside Edition 1997. “Just being free, enjoying life. When you choose your career, it's gotta be something you love, so you want to get up and do it every day, and you just have to love yourself, love what you do so you can enjoy life.” has reached out to Kelly's attorney, who declined to comment. Kelly denies all the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.