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She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Detroit, Michigan.
She and her brother became close with their cousin Jomo Hankerson, since growing up, they lived "about five blocks apart".
When she was growing up, Aaliyah attended Detroit schools and believed she was well-liked, but got teased for her short stature.
She recalled coming into her own prior to age 15 and grew to love her height.
At age 12, Aaliyah signed with Jive Records and her uncle Barry Hankerson's Blackground Records. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.
The album sold three million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).