Copyright 1994 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.Chicago Sun-TimesDecember 30, 1994, FRIDAY, Late Sports Final Edition
Aaliyah: Success Without a Hitch ;Singer Denies Marriage Rumors
By Jim DeRogatisT he word "protege" seems to follow Aaliyah's name in every article that's written about her, but the young R&Bdiva doesn't mind."It's always Aaliyah and R. Kelly, R. Kelly and Aaliyah," says the singer, who's appearing Saturday with KeithSweat at the UIC Pavilion. "I don't mind being called his protege because that's what I am."The Brooklyn-born, Detroit-raised Aaliyah (pronounced ah-lee-yah) is riding high on the success of her debutalbum, "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number." Her first single, "Back & Forth," was a No. 1 R&B hit, grabbing the top spotfrom Kelly, the Chicago phenom who's her producer, songwriter and mentor.But Aaliyah, who's listed as 15 on a press release issued with her album, may be more than that, and a report thatshe married Kelly, 27, in suburban Rosemont in September was one of the year's biggest pop-music scandals.Vibe magazine recently printed a copy of the couple's marriage license, signed and sealed by Cook County Clerk David Orr. It lists Aaliyah Haughton's age as 18. The County Clerk's office has verified the document.(Obtaining a marriage license doesn't mean a couple actually got married. And the minister listed on the license, Nathan Edmond, didn't return a call requesting comment.)Aaliyah refuses to comment on the Vibe article or the marriage license. She insists that she and Kelly aren'tmarried. She refuses to give her age, but says she's still in high school and tours with a tutor."I saw (the Vibe article), but I don't really comment on that because I know that's not true," Aaliyah says. "When people ask me, I tell them, 'Hey, don't believe all that mess. We're close and people took it the wrong way.' "The official statement from Aaliyah and Kelly's label, Jive Records, is "no comment." But Jive's Chicago branchmanager Wayne Williams adds some insight:"I'll tell you this, they ain't married," Williams says. "You don't see no ring on her finger, right? As far as all thatother stuff, I'm sure that's just media hype."Robert (Kelly) has reached a level now where he's going to get a lot of rumors. The more successful he is, thewilder they'll get. I know Robert and Michael Jackson were talking about this (when they recorded together in Chicago).Things get crazy, and they get out of hand after a certain point."Williams acknowledges that Kelly's image could be hurt if he were married and fans found out. "Female fans are allin love with him, and when any guy who's a sex symbol gets married, you're gonna have a lot of disappointment," hesays.And a big part of Aaliyah's appeal is that she's "young and youthful and she's connecting with her audience lyricallyas well as imagewise," Williams says. That could also be hurt if it turns out that Aaliyah is really 18 and married."We're really cool friends," is how Aaliyah characterizes her relationship with Kelly. "We've known each other for four years. But it's a friendship, and it will continue to be a friendship."The two met four years ago through Aaliyah's uncle and Kelly's manager, Barry Hankerson. Hankerson is theformer husband of Gladys Knight, and Aaliyah's first professional gig was singing backup for Knight.