R&B singer Aaliyah was about to become a bona fide Hollywood star when she died in an airplane crash on August 25, 2001. Today, on the 20th anniversary of her death, fans are honoring the singer who was already beloved by so many for her music, but was just starting to make waves with her burgeoning acting career.
Aaliyah Haughton gained fame at age 10 after appearing on Star Search in 1989. She signed to a record label at age 12 and released her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number at age 15 in 1994, and her sophomore album One In A Million in 1996. In 1997, she was cast as herself in an episode of the Dick Wolf series New York Undercover. While that series is currently unavailable to stream, Aaliyah’s next two acting roles are.
In 1999, she starred in Romeo Must Die, the action film directed by Andreij Bartkowiak which also stars Jet Li, Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, and DMX. In the film, which is a modern-day take on Romeo & Juliet, two crime families in Oakland, California, are involved in shady business ventures together. Aaliyah plays Trish O’Day, a woman who falls in love with Han Sing, played by Jet Li, despite the fact that their families don’t trust each other and keep killing each other. The film marked action star Jet Li’s American debut, as well as Aaliyah’s acting debut on the big screen.
In 2001, Aaliyah filmed Queen of the Damned, a vampire movie co-starring Stuart Townsend and Marguerite Moreau. In it, Townsend plays Lestat, the character Tom Cruise portrayed in Interview With The Vampire, who has now become a famous rock musician. His music awakens Aaliyah’s character, Queen Akasha, a vampire herself — the queen of all vampires, actually — who will stop at nothing to make Lestat her king. A lot of vampire sex ensues.
Aaliyah died before Queen of the Damned was released (it came out in theaters in February 2002), but despite only having appeared in one released film at the time of her death, her star in Hollywood was on the rise. She had already signed on to co-star in the film Honey, with Jessica Alba, and Sparkle, which was to be produced by Whitney Houston. That film would later be made in 2012 with Jordin Sparks. Aaliyah was also set to star in The Matrix trilogy as Zee, a role that would later be recast with Nona Gaye. Aaliyah was killed as a result of her plane’s engine failure when she and eight others were flying from the Bahamas to the U.S. after filming a music video. She was 22 years old.
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