Today in music history, R&B singer R. Kelly secretly married a then 15-year-old Aaliyah at Sheraton Gateway Suites in Rosemont, Illinois on July 31, 1994 (although there have been varying reports on the exact date of marriage).
Aaliyah never admitted being married, though Vibe published a copy of the marriage certificate. Unfortunately, she was only 15 at the time, so consequently the marriage was quickly annulled.
Aaliyah was introduced to Kelly in the early ’90s and quickly became Aaliyah’s mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, which was recorded when she was 14.
Aaliyah reportedly developed a friendship with Kelly during that time. As she recalled to Vibe magazine in 1994, she and Kelly would “go watch a movie” and “go eat” when she got tired and would then “come back and work.” She described the relationship between her and Kelly as being “rather close.”
In 2016, Kelly said that he was in love with Aaliyah as he was with “anybody else.” In December 1994, Aaliyah told the Sun-Times that whenever she was asked about being married to Kelly, she urged them not to believe “all that mess” and that she and Kelly were “close” and “people took it the wrong way.”
In his 2011 book, The Man Behind the Man: Looking From the Inside Out, Demetrius Smith Sr., a former member of Kelly’s entourage, wrote that Kelly told him “in a voice that sounded as if he wanted to burst into tears” that he thought Aaliyah was pregnant.
Aaliyah admitted in court documents that she had lied about her age. In May 1997, she filed suit in Cook County seeking to have all records of the marriage expunged because she was not old enough under state law to get married without her parents’ consent. It was reported that she cut off all professional and personal ties with Kelly after the marriage was annulled and ceased having contact with him.
Sadly, Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001, along with eight others, after filming the music video for the single “Rock the Boat.” The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Aaliyah’s family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackhawk International Airways, which was settled out of court. Aaliyah’s music has continued to achieve commercial success with several posthumous releases.