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“One In A Million”: The Legacy Of Aaliyah, 20 Years After Death

A fan holds a sign in memory of actress and R&B singer Aaliyah  outside of the MTV studios in New York City on August 28, 2001.
A fan holds a sign in memory of actress and R&B singer Aaliyah outside of the MTV studios in New York City on August 28, 2001.

R&B icon Aaliyah died tragically in a plane crash on Aug. 25, 2001.

Twenty years later, her contributions to popular culture, music, and fashion are ubiquitous. And a devoted fanbase of those who remember the day she died, and those who discovered her decades later, are pushing to keep her legacy alive.

But much of her short career has been eclipsed by her personal and professional relationship with disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly when she was a minor.

In her new biography, “Baby Girl: Better Known As Aaliyah,” music journalist and super-fan Kathy Iandoli sets out to capture Aaliyah’s full life and legacy.

Over the course of twenty years, the life of Aaliyah Haughton has transformed from fact to fan fiction. We have pieced together this super-icon of sorts, based upon the parts of what we knew about her during her short time here, mixed with what we hoped she’d become had she not died at the age of twenty-two. Since Aaliyah was always wrapped in this air of mystery, it’s easy now to idealize every aspect of her. She didn’t provide ample information about herself while on earth, so we know about as much in the afterlife as we did back then. It’s only now that we are starting to learn more about her, both good and bad.

We talk with Iandoli about the princess of R&B and the much-anticipated release of some of her music on streaming platforms.

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5