Aaliyah emerged as a star in 1994 at the age of 14. But her second album, 1996’s 1 in a Million, built it clear that she was in a class of her have. No matter whether clad in leather though lying atop a classic convertible, reclining on the iron throne of some subterranean hideaway or slinking alongside to Timbaland’s hypnotic syncopation in an all-white area, Aaliyah experienced an incomparable attract. She turned an icon by daring to press past the norm, and in the 20 a long time due to the fact her tragic death, the singer and actress’s affect has turn out to be ubiquitous, proving she was always light several years in advance of the rest of us.
“She was attractive and polished in her presentation,” says Chrissy Murray, her previous publicist at Atlantic Records. “She was a tomboy with this great, feminine sex attraction. There was just something about this girl—but what I liked most about her professionally was that she came prepared. She realized what she needed.”
Unafraid to experiment, Aaliyah refined her fashion in the course of her profession. Even her well known tomboy aesthetic went through several phases, from the leather-based camo pants and different shade Clarks Wallabees she wore in the “Hot Like Fire” movie to the snake-skin sweatsuit observed in the visuals for “Back in A person Piece.” Aaliyah could pull off a sci-fi–heroine appear, then glam it up with a crystal choker accentuated by entire-face makeup—the latter of which would inspire a posthumous MAC Cosmetics collection in 2018.
“She was the variety of lady who experienced to are living it, really feel it and be it,” claims Derek Lee, who began styling Aaliyah in 1996. “She could not just throw it on, because it would not translate.” Still even as her style matured—as with the tiger-print Roberto Cavalli gown she wore to the 2000 MTV Video clip New music Awards, which design Paloma Elsesser a short while ago paid out homage to—it often appeared effortless. “She was that somewhat unconventional pretty lady, but with out attempting so tough,” Lee claims.
That down-for-whichever spirit prolonged to Aaliyah’s audio. Her perform with Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Static Key propelled each and every facet of her occupation ahead, welding hip-hop and R&B in an eccentric style leading up to the millennium. The basis for Elliott’s path to virtuosic artist is built on her operate with Aaliyah, who also breathed life into some of Timbaland’s most abstract compositions. To this day, almost nothing is a lot more ambitious than “Are You That Someone?” showcasing Aaliyah’s comfortable soprano gliding about an off-kilter drum-and-bass mix and, of all matters, a sampled child coo.
Decades just after blazing trails creatively, the five-time Grammy Award nominee and 3-time American Tunes Award winner has birthed artistic daughters and sons. Search at Syd Tha Kyd. Kelela. Tinashe. FKA Twigs. Ciara. Even Drake. And there is been no lack of covers, samples and tributes from contemporary artists encouraged by her oeuvre— even as the bulk of her discography remains absent from streaming and electronic platforms.
Aaliyah and her artistry live on as a image of perseverance. As a single of R. Kelly’s alleged victims, she survived an market that forces youthful gals to increase up fast when infantilizing and excusing the adult men accused of exploiting them. But Aaliyah has hardly ever been the sum of her trauma. Rather, she seized autonomy in her lifestyle, using control of her audio, appear and impression. “Now you have younger females who are like, ‘Yo, I can do this,’” Murray claims, attributing their self-assurance to the illustration established by Aaliyah. “Her boldness is quite appealing to females.”
In the past ten years, Aaliyah’s image has develop into a favourite across social media. Even from the afterlife, she’s captivating audiences that now contain folks who did not develop up hearing her music in the instant. “The adore that your mother, auntie, or more mature sister or brother experienced for her is passed down to youthful individuals who are curious,” Murray claims. Aaliyah’s contributions depict a massive swatch of modern day pop culture’s material. She is more than a woman, in that perception: She was the foreseeable future. And now she is almost everywhere.
This posting appears in the September/Oct 2021 challenge of ESSENCE on newsstands now.