1979–1990: Early life Brooklyn to Detroit
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born on January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York City, New York. Born of African American and Native American descent, she was the second and youngest child of Diane and Michael Haughton. Enrolled at a young age for voice lessons by her mother, Aaliyah would perform at weddings, church choir and charity events.When she was five years old, her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she was raised along with her older brother, Rashad. She attended a Catholic school, Gesu Elementary, where she received a part in the stage play Annie in first grade. From then on, she was determined to become an entertainer. Aaliyah’s mother was a vocalist, and her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment lawyer who had been married to Gladys Knight.As a child, Aaliyah traveled with Knight and worked with an agent in New York to audition for commercials and television programs, including Family Matters; she went on to appear on Star Search at the age of nine. She then auditioned for several record labels and appeared in concerts alongside Knight at age 11.