It was August 25th, 2001. I was back to school shopping with my friend Emma. I remember I bought this Asian-inspired long sleeve top with a tiger on it. In the era of Chinese symbol tattoos, puka shell necklaces, and frosted tips, I see so much cultural appropriation here, but not the point. Anyhow, we head home and hear that singer and actress Aaliyah's plane went down heading home from Barbados. Nine people died shortly after takeoff, including the pilot. She was 22.
She was angelic, a bright light. Although she had been active in the music industry for years, she was only beginning her career and on her terms as a woman blossoming after darker experiences. I liken her to the lotus flower that grows in the mud and holds such purity.
Beloved by those who knew her and her fans, it was one of those shocking moments that stuck with me. Her posthumous influence (along with others who seemingly died before their time) holds immense weight as we all gain further clarity on this thing called life, of which death plays it's part.
"More Than A Woman" is off of her self-titled 3rd studio album Aaliyah, also known as The Red Album, with its simple yet impactful cover aesthetic. I realized as I was already committed to the release of this piece that the Aaliyah album is not available yet on Spotify. Due to issues with her estate, (Amazon link here) they do not hold the rights to stream the album. However, because today is Friday the 13th, and I have had this song stuck in my head for quite some time, I am making it work for her.
The lyrics are confident and grandiose in their feminine bravado. Like a phoenix rising through the ashes, Aaliyah redefined herself on her terms with grace. The song distinctively holds the sound of producer Timbaland, her frequent collaborator and friend. This is one of those anthems for those have us who have been told we are "too much" at different times in our lives. It's far better than being brainwashed into thinking we are not enough, am I right?
However you identify in the world, I dedicate this to not only the memory of Aaliyah, but those who are specifically figuring out their feminine presence. Those who are not trying to be boxed into the mold created for them, and seeing through the imposed BS. Remember to always amplify kindness, self-respect, and holding space for others with integrity. Also to become self-aware of your own impact, please strive toward inspiring others with positivity.
There is a gross way in which the world can operate where people sell themselves short for the sake of 'love' sought externally or prey upon the weakness of others as a result of their own insecurities. I think of multiple things and instances when I say this, so choose your own adventure.
I recently rewatched the music video and remembered how I loved the white Chanel bodysuit she wore. Moving into the black outfit in the latter half of the video, it was a visual embodiment of her dark and light sides as a well-rounded woman, with a maturity beyond 22 and having a sense of class amidst all the campy ass shaking of that musical era. I'm pretty sure you can spot Mark Ronson as the DJ in the background too. It certainly makes you wonder what else she had to offer the world, she had a very bright light. We think in times like we are in now, how if someone were still present, how would they react and positively influence things. Just like how some of us are anxiously awaiting a Kendrick album to discuss the state of the world...
My answer to this is to focus on the legacy left, not behind, but as a paying it forward. The impactful nature of Aaliyah transcends her physical presence because her integrity was imprinted upon those who knew her personally and her fans alike. In a way, we are able to share her story to each generation that follows and we don't have to be wearing ultra low-rise Brazilian jeans to do it. Those were a challenge to navigate in daily life, let me tell ya. She held a feminine archetype that is inspirational in the way she carried herself and rose above things to define herself on her terms.
So, since I cannot add "More Than A Woman" to the playlist, but I snuck the music video above, I am including perhaps her most famous song. From the Romeo Must Die soundtrack, her first movie role, "Try Again." If you can't clue into the wise words from the title alone, I can't help you much further. But remember folks, If at first you don't succeed,
Dust yourself off, and try again.