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It’s been 15 years since we lost Aaliyah. I was only seven when Aaliyah died, and spent most of my childhood listening to the singer’s music, watching my older sister learn her dance routines and hear my brother fawning over how gorgeous she was.
I remember my sister teaching me the dance routine from “Try Again” and “More Than A Woman.” I would bring my Aaliyah CDs outside and play it on my stereo to show all my friends what I learned. When Romeo Must Die came out, we watched it religiously. Aaliyah was, and still is, a major part of my life.
I remember the day Aaliyah died vividly. It was August 25, 2001. “I was laying on the bottom bunk watching TV,” my sister recalled. We used to share a room at this time and I was on the bunk above her. “I thought it was a joke at first and then I bawled when I found out it was real.” As a child, I was confused. How could someone so beautiful and full of life be gone in the blink of an eye?
We were all in tears as if a family member had died. My brother convinced himself that he was going to marry Aaliyah. My sister thought she’d grow up to be her best friend. And me? I had just hoped to be a beautiful star like her one day. Even as a child, I knew that the world had lost something huge. Today as an adult, there still feels like there’s a gaping hole in R&B music where Aaliyah would be situated on her throne.
It’s weird to think you’ve outlived someone you look up to so much. She was my age when she died, which makes me look back at her untimely death with even greater realization about how young she truly was. If she lived a normal life, she would’ve just finished college and been looking forward to her first full-time job. Despite her young age, it feels like she’s lived so much longer than she did.
Aaliyah was and will always be known as the princess of R&B. If she were alive, would Beyoncé be the Queen B? Would R&B artists Ashanti, Ciara and Tinashe have gained the relevancy they have? To this day, young stars like Keke Palmer, Zendaya and Tink have imitated the late singer’s outfits or sampled her music. Even Drake cites Aaliyah as his major inspiration and had her picture on his ear pieces. Beyond these major nods and public displays of affection, many stars have mimicked things Aaliyah has done in her past. Many of which you may not have known she did first.
Everyone remembers Britney Spears’s iconic 2001 VMA performance, when a snake sat on her shoulders as she performed “I’m A Slave 4 U.” If Aaliyah would’ve been alive to see it, she would’ve scoffed. If you look back to Aaliyah’s 2001 “We Need A Resolution” music video, you would see that she had already been there and done that, months before Spears’s performance.
Shakira and Beyoncé have incorporated belly dancing into many of their music videos in the 2000s. When Shakira came onto the American music scene with “Whenever, Wherever” in 2001, her belly dancing wowed mainstream media. Beyoncé’s 2003 “Baby Boy” solidified its popularity and prompted girls everywhere to learn her choreography. Little do they know, Aaliyah was belly dancing in her music videos since the ’90s and even created the below tutorial on how to belly roll like her.
Belly’s “Might Not” and Naughty Boy’s “Runnin’” were two solid music videos from last year. Both included underwater scenes which wowed viewers as they wondered how these actors could hold their breath for so long. Aaliyah’s last music video “Rock The Boat” in 2001, shot mere hours before her untimely death, featured the singer floating majestically underwater like the angel she is.