Aaliyah Haughton was meant to be a huge star but met with an abrupt end after a airplane crash when she was 22 years old.
Trigger warning: Child abuse
Once known as the King of R&B, the now disgraced R. Kelly was a musical genius with some of the biggest chart-topping hits in the 90s, the most notable ones possibly being I Believe I Can Fly and Step in the Name of Love. While he may have achieved staggering success on the big stage, the musician's personal records are stained with sexual misconduct towards children. Did you know that he was married to a 15-year-old child?
As per Biography, the singer met his protégé, Aaliyah Haughton when she was a 12-year-old, child through her uncle Barry Hankerson, who was Kelly's manager at the time. The singer was not only the writer and performer at Illinois' Chicago Recording Company, he was also the producer of Haughton's debut album. Kelly, in fact, played a major role in shaping her career.
While recording Age Ain't Nothing But A Number in 1993, the then 27-year-old's relationship with Aaliyah, who was just 15 at the time, turned from "fun" and "really close" to something more inappropriate. From rumors of them being romanticially, there were confirmed reports of R.Kelly having married the underage girl, which was first exposed in a bombshell report by Vibe in 1995.
The article was accompanied by an alleged copy of Aaliyah and Kelly's marriage certificate which stated that the two got married on August 31, 1994, but there was one thing that stood out more than anything else. Aaliyah's age was mentioned as 18, while she was actually 15 at the time.
25 years later, in 2019, the Eastern District of New York filed a new charge against Kelly stating that on the day of the wedding, the Grammy winner and his people bribed a public official in Illinois to create a fake ID for "Jane Doe #1" who turns out to be Haughton. Even though there are multiple allegations against Kelly he faced charges related to marriage with Aaliyah only in 2019.
In a book published by journalist Jim DeRogatis, Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly, the singer's former tour manager, and personal assistant, Demetrius Smith revealed that he was the one who received a fake ID on Aaliyah's behalf, as per NPR. But their marriage wasn't the one to last. It was annulled within 6 months. According to Biography, Aaliyah gave into her parents' demands and filed to annul the marriage in late 1995. She was also made to cut out both personal and professional relationship with Kelly.
Until 2016, Kelly never spoke about his relationship with Aaliyah and called it a bond of "deep" friendship. It's only during an interview with GQ that he said, "Well, because of Aaliyah's passing, as I've always said, out of respect for her mother who's sick and her father who's passed, I will never have that conversation with anyone. Out of respect for Aaliyah, and her mother and father who has asked me not to personally. But I can tell you. I loved her, I can tell you she loved me, we was very close."
Haughton too had never spoken about their relationship in public. During an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, when she was asked about her marriage to Kelly, she said, "I don’t really comment on that because I know that’s not true. When people ask me, I tell them, 'Hey, don’t believe all that mess.' We’re close and people took it the wrong way."
Kelly's lawyer, Steven Greenberg, didn't see anything wrong with their relationship. In fact, during an interview with Good Morning America, Greenberg brushed away the allegations and said, "He was married to her when she was 15. Elvis [Presley] was married to Priscilla but my understanding is that she [Aaliyah] did not claim to be 15. And in order to get married, she had to lie about her age." He added that Kelly had "no idea" about Aaliyah's age.
After the whole ordeal, she stayed away from talking about Kelly altogether. As per Metro, her spokesperson said, "When R. Kelly comes up, she doesn’t even speak his name, and nobody’s allowed to ask about it at all."
The R&B singer and actress was meant to become a huge star but her life came to a sudden end in 2001. Haughton had flown to the Bahamas for shooting a video for her track Rock The Boat, however, while flying to Miami, the 10-seat twin-engine Cessna 402B private jet bound for Opa-Locka, Florida, crashed 200 feet from the runway and after only a minute of take-off. Unfortunately, no one survived, as reported by Mirror.
According to Distractify, Kelly's crimes came to light only after the docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly in 2019, was released following which he faced ten counts of felony aggravated criminal sex abuse and was arrested in the same year. The charges included sexual abuse, enticing minors into sexual activity, and producing and receiving child pornography. Kelly, now 53, is in jail at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in Chicago, but he continues to deny all allegations against him.