Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born on January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York. Her name was said to be the female version of the Arabic name; "Ali". Actually the name "Aliya" is derived from the Hebrew word "aliyah", and means "highest, most exalted one, or the best one.
Aaliyah really liked her unique name growing up, calling it "beautiful" and expressing that she was "very proud of it". And for her entire life, Aaliyah tried living up to her special birth name every day of her life.
Aaliyah's mother was a vocalist, and her uncle was prominent entertainment lawyer Barry Hankerson, who had once been married to the Soul Singing Legend; Gladys Knight.
As a child, Aaliyah traveled with Knight and auditioned for commercials and television programs, including Family Matters. Later she went on to appear on Star Search at the age of ten.
Aaliyah's family moved to Detroit when she was young and she attended Detroit schools. Other students were jealous of her talent and some kids openly disliked Aaliyah, but she did not focus on them.
Aaliyah recounts; "You always have to deal with people who are jealous of you for one thing or another, but to me it didn't even matter. The majority of kids supported me in my dream."
"And those people who didn't, were invisible to me."
Even in her adult life she had to learn to accept and love herself as is, and added: "the most important thing is to think highly of yourself, only because if you don't, no one else will".
Aaliyah maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average when graduating from The Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts.
She saw fit to keep her grades up despite the pressures and time constraints brought on from auditions in the early parts of her career.
She labeled herself as a perfectionist and a really focused person, and recalled always being a good student.
Aaliyah reflected: "I always wanted to maintain that GPA, even when I first started to travel. I wanted to keep that 4.0. I think it's very important to have an education."
Aaliyah always said that if her dreams of stardom did not materialize she would teach music history, or open her own school of the Arts to teach others. She said that if she didn't make it in show biz she would go on to teach others in the Arts so they could reach their creative goals and dreams.
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