In 1994, VIBE Magazine broke the story about Robert Kelly marrying his then-protégé, Aaliyah Haughton, in a secret ceremony. On the marriage certificate, her age was listed as 18, despite her being only 15 at the time. Many always assumed there was more to their working relationship, yet, in the great words of Mikki Kendall, “we all noticed, but nobody cared because we were Black girls.” R. Kelly met a budding Aaliyah at age 12 through his manager and her uncle, Barry Hankerson. According to Kelly’s former backup singer Jovante Cunningham, she and the rest of Kelly’s former team “taught [Aaliyah] her street thang, gave her her vibe, taught her how to be an artist, in the sense of having a stage presence.”
Based on witness statements from the Pied Piper’s former tour manager and personal assistant, Demetrius Smith, “I had papers forged for them. Aaliyah was underage. It was just a quick lil ceremony. Nothing elaborate.” While laughing, he continued, “Robert said, ‘I do.’ Him and Aaliyah.”
“Aaliyah looked worried, scared,” Smith mentioned. “I wanted so much to grab Aaliyah, and talk to her... She gave me a look like she wanted me to talk to her. I failed them. Both of them. I knew that it would change the course of everything.” Just days ago, it was reported that Cunningham witnessed the Chicago native having sex with Aaliyah, and Smith reflected back, saying that R. Kelly only married the Detroit-bred singer because he believed she was pregnant.
The show’s host, Leslie “Big Lez” Segar, recalled, “seeing them dressed alike was really like dangling candy in front of a baby… We’re gonna kinda leave you wondering, ‘Are they a couple?’"
Within months, the marriage was annulled and he paid Aaliyah $100 to "not pursue legal action."
Many wondered where her parents were. They claimed that they were always present throughout the ordeal.
(Photos from left: Johnny Nunez/WireImage, Fred Duval/FilmMagic)