Aaliyah Haughton: who was R&B singer, was she married to R. Kelly, what were her songs, and how did she die?

Before her death, R Kelly and R&B singer Aaliyah long denied that they had gotten illegally married when she was just 15-years-old

After more than two decades of accusations against R&B singer R Kelly, the musician has been issued a guilty verdict on counts including sex trafficking and racketeering.

Of all the allegations against Kelly, the one that most people will be familiar with is that of marrying singer and actor Aaliyah when she was just 15-years-old.

This is everything you need to know about Aaliyah - and the charges of which Kelly has been found guilty.

Who was Aaliyah?

Aaliyah Haughton, known professionally as just Aaliyah, was a prominent American singer, actress, dancer and model who earned the nickname the “Princess of R&B” after being credited with helping to redefine contemporary R&B, pop and hip hop.

She was born in New York on 16 January 1979, and first gained recognition at just 10-years-old, when she appeared on the TV show Star Search.

Two years later at 12-years-old she signed with Jive Records, and later her uncle Barry Hankerson introduced her to R Kelly.

R Kelly went on to become her mentor, as well as a lead songwriter and producer of her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.

Aaliyah was 14-years-old when her debut album was released, which went on to become two times Platinum certified, and her debut single Back & Forth was certified Gold.

In 1996, Aaliyah left Jive Records and then signed on with Atlantic Records, where she worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliot. She released her second studio album that same year, called One in a Million. Five years later, she then released her third studio album simply titled Aaliyah.

Some of her most popular songs included One in a Million, Are You That Somebody?, Back and Forth, and Miss You.

Over the course of her musical career, Aaliyah racked up a huge number of awards and  nominations.

Aaliyah also boasted an acting career, which began with playing herself in the TV series New York Undercover.

She landed her first film role in 1999, in Romeo Must Die, starring opposite Jet Li. After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah then began working on her second film called Queen of the Damned.

When did she die?

Aaliyah died at the age of 22, on 25 August 2001. After filming a music video in the Bahamas, Aaliyah was travelling to Florida via plane when the aircraft crashed.

The crash killed the pilot and all eight passengers that were on board, which also included the likes of Aaliyah’s hairdresser, bodyguard, and a record executive.

An investigation into the crash found that the aircraft had been heavily overloaded, and that the pilot did not have the correct qualifications required to fly the type of plane that they were travelling in.

The pilot had falsified documents in order to gain his pilot license, and he was later found to have traces of cocaine and alcohol in his body.

Aaliyah’s family filed a lawsuit against Blackhawk International Airways, the operator of the aircraft, for wrongful death. The case was settled out of court.

Was she married to R Kelly?

It was speculated for years that Aaliyah had married Kelly in 1994, when she was 15 and he 27, in a secret ceremony after the release of her album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.

Kelly refused to discuss his relationship with Aaliyah, and after her death he said in a 2016 interview with GQ: “Out of respect for her mother who’s sick and her father who’s passed, I will never have that conversation with anyone.”

During Kelly’s trial, his former tour manager Demetirus Smith, told the court that he had bribed a government official to get a fake ID card for Aaliyah so that they could get married.

Smith testified: “It shouldn’t have happened. It was wrong.”

The marriage was annulled by her parents in 1995, and the pair denied that they had ever been married.

An anonymous Jane Doe testified that Kelly had married the singer because she was pregnant. The marriage was carried out so that Aaliyah could get an abortion.

Doe, 23, told the court that Kelly had told her that he married the singer because only parents and spouses could legally give permission for a minor to get an abortion.

This year, Kelly admitted that he had “underage sexual contact” with Aaliyah, after years of denying the rumours.

In the 2019 documentary Surviving R Kelly, Jovante Cunningham, a former backup dancer, also claimed to have seen Kelly having sex with Aaliyah on his tour bus.

What has R Kelly been charged with?

A jury has now officially found Kelly guilty of being a ringleader of a decades long racketeering and sex trafficking organisation that exploited Black women and children.

He was found guilty of charges on Monday (27 September) which included the sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, racketeering and sex trafficking involving five victims.

Acting US attorney Jacequelyn Kasulis said: “To the victims of this case, your voices were heard and justice was finally served.”

Gloria Allred, the lawyer for a number of Kelly’s victims, said that of all the predators that she has gone after, including Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, that “Kelly is the worst”.

She said: “R Kelly thought that he could get away with all of this, but he didn’t.”

Kelly faces up to 20 years in prison, with sentencing scheduled for 4 May.

He has denied all wrongdoing, and his lawyer, Deveraux Cannick, said that the verdict was “disappointing”.

Kelly will also face a second federal trial on charges of child pornography and the obstruction of justice in Illinois.

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