The sudden death of singer and actress Aaliyah, born Aaliyah Dana Haughton, saddened and stunned both her fans and her cohorts in the entertainment industry.
Along with eight others, Aaliyah, 22, died in a plane crash in the Bahamas after a video shoot for “Rock the Boat,” a single from her third, self-titled album.
The news of Aaliyah’s death profoundly affected her fans.
“I look at her picture, and I can’t believe it’s true,” said Temple sophomore and English major Todzsa Brown. “I sometimes get chills when I think about her deeply.”
“I was shocked when I heard the news … It was so sad to see someone who seemed to be enjoying her life so much go so early,” said Alyssa Sweet, 15, a high school junior from Newton, MA.
|“I look at her picture, and I can’t believe it’s true,”
— Temple sophomore and English major Todzsa Brown.
Some fans took inspiration from Aaliyah’s determination, success and personality.
“Aaliyah may have died young, but she accomplished her goals. She showed that since you never know when it’s your time to go, you should live your life to the fullest,” said Temple sophomore Jasmin Handon, a communications major.
“Aaliyah was a great role model, and a genuinely good person. She is one of the few stars who would never turn down a fan for an autograph, no matter how tired her hand was,” said Ashley Farr, 18, from New York.
Those who Aaliyah worked with in the entertainment industry also expressed sadness at her passing. In a phone interview with MTV’s TRL, music producer Timbaland said, “Me and her together had this chemistry. I kinda lost half my creativity to her … Beyond the music, she was a special person.”
In a statement issued last Monday, rapper DMX called her “talented, classy, warm, beautiful, compassionate, humble … [a] down-to-earth sister with enough energy to put anyone on a cloud.”
Damon Dash, CEO of Roc-A-Fella records and boyfriend to Aaliyah, felt immense pain because of her death.
“She was the best person I ever knew … Wherever we were was like our own little party, in our own little world,” he said in an interview with VH1.com.
Almost 1,000 fans showed up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side to pay their respects to the star on the day of her funeral, August 31. A horse-drawn carriage held her white casket, which was adorned with dozens of pink and white roses. At the conclusion of the funeral services at St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church, 22 doves were released into the sky, each representing a year of Aaliyah’s life.
|“She was the best person I ever knew … Wherever we were was like our own little party, in our own little world,
— Damon Dash, CEO of Roc-A-Fella records and boyfriend to Aaliyah
Throughout the day, a New York restaurant, Cipriani’s, held an open memorial service for Aaliyah, playing her videos continuously on television screens so that fans could watch and sing along.
Aaliyah made her debut on the music scene in 1995 at age 15 with Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. Her first single, “Back and Forth,” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts.
In 1996, she released her second album, One in a Million, which contained the hit songs “If Your Girl Only Knew,” “4 Page Letter,” “Hot Like Fire” and the title track. With assistance from hip-hop star Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott and producer Timbaland, One in a Million reached multiplatinum status.
Aaliyah also lent her voice to tracks by other artists, including Junior M.A.F.I.A, Kris Kross, DMX, Da Brat, and Treach from Naughty by Nature.
As an actress, she won widespread acclaim for her lead role alongside Jet Li in Romeo Must Die. She recently completed shooting the film adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, Queen of the Damned, scheduled for release in 2002. She also signed on to star in two sequels to The Matrix, with work scheduled to begin at the time of her death.
Aaliyah received two Grammy nominations, one in 1999 for “Are You that Somebody?” from the Dr. Doolitle soundtrack, and another in 2000 for “Try Again,” from the Romeo Must Die soundtrack. Additionally, she garnered an Oscar nomination for the song “Journey to the Past” from the soundtrack to the animated film Anastasia.
When asked by VH1.com about her latest album in one of her last interviews, Aaliyah said, “All I can do is leave [the success of the album] in God’s hands and hope that my fans feel where I’m coming from. I took the time to give my all.”
Judging by the inscription on a poster at Cipriani’s, her fans respect her immensely for her efforts. The poster read: “We Were Given a Queen; We Were Given an Angel.”