Earlier this week, critically acclaimed photographer Jonathan Mannion held an event at New York City's Fedora restaurant (of which he's a partial owner) in celebration of his collaboration with Viniq shimmering liqueur with an exhibit of "shimmering" Millennial women. The walls were adorned with classic photos of women from Mannion's 20-year career, from Lauryn Hill to Kelis, SZA and Cassie.
One piece in particular was especially poignant: an image of the late Aaliyah in a fur from her 2001 eponymous third (and final studio album). She passed away on August 25 of that year, just a month after the album's release. This photoshoot would be her last. "Everything that everyone always says about Aaliyah is 100% true," Mannion said of working with Baby Girl on her last shoot. "She was such an angel, her team was amazing. That was a gift of my career. People ask me what my favorite photoshoot was of all time — it's either Jay Z because it started my career with Reasonable Doubt or Aaliyah because nobody got her quite like I did." There is also a secret stash of photos from that shoot. "I did ten shots with her, so there's things that nobody's ever seen," he adds. "They're protected."
While that infamous shoot produced some well-known (and forever tucked away) shots, Mannion gifted one to a die hard Aaliyah fan that we know all too well.
"I knew Drake had a tattoo of Aaliyah on his back," Mannion explained. "I wanted to do something for him because he's had such a run, and I feel like he really changed music. I knew he loved [Aaliyah] and that was a really big part of him doing what he was doing." Mannion sent Drake a massive print of Aaliyah from that final shoot to decorate his bare walls. "I went to his house and was like, 'You got some empty wall space.' He was printing things that he liked but like photocopying them and hanging them up." Mannion wanted to change that. "I said, 'Yo you need originals. You've gotta start buying art. You're that guy now. We are looking to you to be a patron of the arts, so I'm gonna kick it off.'"
He sent Drake the Aaliyah portrait of her leaning against a car with flames on the side. A few months later, the two reconnected at a club in Los Angeles. "He just came up and he hugged me," Mannion recalls. "That's what the f**k I'm talkin' about. It was so much better than a phone call."
So it's safe to say, in the world of photography, Mannion's gift to Drake was the best he's ever had.
(Photos from left: Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Brenda Chase/Online USA)
Click here for a chance to win a trip to the 2015 BET Awards!