When I was growing up, I idolized Aaliyah. I loved everything about her. She was my first friend-in-my-head (cue in Wendy Williams). Her style, the way her hair flowed, the swoop over the eye, her fluid choreography, her music and videos-EVERYTHING….Not to mention that she was such a down to earth star at a young age.

I bought every magazine she was on the cover on. I drew pictures of her. I watched her music videos a trillion times, trying but failing miserably to learn her dances. I dressed like Aaliyah at school. I remember being in middle school, shopping in the boys section of department stores, wearing baggy jeans and tees and K-Swiss’s and Nike Air Maxes. I wore so many jerseys everyone at school thought I played for the basketball team.



On Halloween in my senior year in high school I came to school as her. Once I find the pic I’ll post it. I was so serious. That was my first time getting a weave. Though my hair was already long, I felt like if I was going to be Aaliyah, I had to come correct. I got my 18-20 inches glued in (yes glued), and layered cut, with the part on my right side, swoop over the left and I was feeling myself. Add to that, my olive green mesh long sleeve shirt over a black tank tied up to show some midsection, boxers hugging my waist, and jeans sagged low, and I looked like I was straight out of “Are You That Somebody?”.

I begged my mom for a $98 pair of Tommy Hilfiger overalls with one leg red and the other white and Tommy’s logo splashed across it. She said “Avia, I’m not paying $98 for you to advertise for someone else. You’re going to look like a walking billboard.”


‘She doesn’t understand!!’ I thought, I wasn’t trying to look like a billboard, I was trying to look like Aaliyah.

I remember seeing a dedication to her grandmother Mintis L. Hicks Hankerson (who she is now laid to rest beside) on the inside cover of one of the booklets that came in her last cd, and thinking “Could we be related?” My last name is Hicks. Yeah, I know it was a longshot.

In college, my boyfriend at the time got me a tattoo for my birthday since I had wanted one since I was 17. and what did I get? The “A” from her last album.

Am I ashamed to tell you all this? Nope, TRUE stans for anyone aren’t ashamed. I’m sure there were several girls out there that wanted to be her at some point. She was flawless. She was just that girl.

I still remember the day I heard of her passing 12 years ago  (I can’t believe it’s been that long). I flew back to Chicago because my grandfather was in the hospital. After a few heart wrenching weeks of visiting him seeing his condition not progressing, my grandfather ended up passing away.

On August 25th we attended my grandfather’s funeral. After the service and reception, my family and I went back to my grandfather’s house, where I got a call from my best friend at the time:

Her: “I have to tell you something. And it’s really bad.”

Me: “What…what happened?”

Her: “Okay, this is hard for me to say….but…”

Me: “Just tell me..”

Her:”……………………………………………” (long azz pause)

Me:” What are you waiting for…what happened??”

Her:”……Aaliyah died.”

Me: “WHAT?!”

Her: “Yeah, she died.”

Me: “I don’t believe you…you’re joking with me.”

Her: “I wish I could say I was but I’m not joking with you, I’m so serious right now..”

Me :”You know this is not funny, I don’t believe you.”

Her: “I would never lie to you about this, I’m really not joking….I’m sorry.”

Me: “Are you for real…I mean really for real……what?….I can’t believe this…..”

Her: “She died in a plane crash…I’m sorry…”

I got off the phone with her. I was standing in the driveway outside my grandfather’s house shocked by what she had told me, not really being able to move. I then ran into the house and turned on the tv. The story was on all of the news channels. All I remember seeing was the video of the Cessna plane smashed into a number of pieces in the middle of trees and brush and a lone passenger seat out a few feet away almost in tact, with no one in it. I kept wondering if that was her seat? For some reason I kept searching for a glimpse of Aaliyah, squinting my eyes at the tv thinking that if I was actually inside the sight I was seeing, that I could actually find her. I looked for any sign of her. I even looked for someone pulling her away on a stretcher to a hospital taking her into safety. But there was nothing….nothing but the voice of news reporters saying she had died amongst the others.

I sat there in complete shock.

It took me a couple of hours for it to all really register . I watched every channel with news stories on her on from MTV to ABC just to be sure that it was real. Once I realized that my best friend wasn’t joking, I cried.

Just hours before, I had come back from my grandfather’s funeral. My grandfather’s death affected me more than anyone’s else’s death in my family since I was closer to him than other relatives who had deceased. And now I was dealing with the death of someone who I admired from afar. I felt empty.

It was very weird for me to say the least. I was still dealing with the overwhelming feelings for my grandfather who knew me since I was born, who I had spent time with, whose house I’d been to every weekend growing up, who my mother got her laugh from, and who I loved and cherished. Add to that the dichotomy of feeling loss for someone I’d always wanted to meet.  And though did not know Aaliyah personally, she was very real to me in the realm of my world because I had such great love for her as a fan, and felt I knew so much about her. Looking back on how I was after learning of her death, it kind of surprised me that I reacted the way I did because I did not know her.

But I guess it’s like when Michael Jackson died. I’m not talking about how much MJ’s death affected millions of fans worldwide, I’m speaking of the specific impact it had on the fans who really loved him from a fan base level. I’m talking about loving someone as much as you can without actually knowing them because they have impacted your life in such a positive way. That’s how Aaliyah’s death affected me.

Sometimes I sit and think of how the music industry would be different if she were still here. who wouldn’t be popular in the industry if she were still here Ciara? Would her and Damon Dash still be together?

Would they have 2 or 3 kids by now?

I used to be so adamant about them making a movie of her life similar to Selena but now I really hope they don’t (can the rumors please stop about Keshia Chante and Solange playing her in her biopic?).

While I don’t mind people featuring her on their songs as long as it’s good, I’d really rather everyone just let her legacy BE.

R.I.P. Aaliyah Dana Haughton

We love you, we miss you. Happy 35th Birthday!

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January 16, 1979-August 25, 2001

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