Young R&B star Aaliyah was poised to become a dual threat in both the recording and film industries when her life was tragically cut short in an airplane accident in August 2001.
She was born Aaliyah Haughton on January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn and moved to Detroit when she was five. By the time she turned nine, Aaliyah was performing publicly, even turning in a five-day stint at age 11 in Las Vegas with Gladys Knight, her uncle's ex-wife. Four years later, under the tutelage of R. Kelly, she recorded and released her first album, Age Ain't Nothin' but a Number. During this time, rumors surfaced that the pair married despite their significant age difference (and Aaliyah's status as a minor), but neither party confirmed or denied them, although the music magazine Vibe printed what appeared to be a marriage certificate showing it to be true.
Aaliyah quickly ended the marriage and moved on to work with producers Missy Elliot and Timbaland, who helped get some of her work onto soundtracks -- including her hit single "Are You That Somebody?" from the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack. Her work on soundtracks -- including Anastasia and Next Friday -- led to an interest in film. She composed songs and made her acting debut in 2000's Romeo Must Die. The film was a financial success, raking in 55.9 million dollars in the U.S., despite receiving lukewarm reviews.
As for Aaliyah, many reviewers overlooked her performance to comment on Jet Li's first American leading role, but those who didn't gave her more-than-passable marks. This attention helped her win parts in the Anne Rice vampire tale The Queen of the Damned -- which turned out to be her second and final film appearance (with the film still in post-production at the time of her death) -- and in The Matrix: Reloaded (the first sequel to the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix), which was only one month away from beginning principal photography when her fatal accident occurred.
Aaliyah and eight other people were killed on August 25, 2001, when their chartered plane crashed shortly after takeoff. The group was returning to the United States from the Bahamas after having shot a music video for a song from her third album. An investigation into the incident revealed that the plane had been severely overloaded with luggage, thus causing what appears to have been an entirely avoidable and unmistakably tragic accident.