We recreated some of Aaliyah’s greatest looks and reflect on what she’s taught us

When we hear the name Aaliyah, we all think of one woman.

Nearly 17 years after her death, the late entertainer’s legacy persists and continues to inform music and culture — a musician, actress, and entertainer, she transformed more than one industry over the course of her 12 year career and was not one to be pigeonholed.

Though there never will be another quite like Aaliyah, it’s important for us to consider her legacy and all that we’ve learn from her success as a woman in entertainment. The icon has taught us many a thing about fashion and beauty (like, for example, that the side bang is actually incredibly cool, or that baggy clothes are the sexiest clothes). But she’s also taught us all about creativity, womanhood, and what it truly means to be an artist.

That being said, we wanted to pay homage to the late singer by recreating some of her most iconic looks from throughout her career (yes, the Tommy Hilfiger two-piece does make an appearance) as we reflect on some of those lessons.

Photographer and creative director, Joshua Renfroe, recreated these looks with model, Sidnee Michelle. Check out the exclusive photos and lessons from Aaliyah below!

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1. You don’t have to fit into a box to be successful.

As mentioned before, Aaliyah was the ultimate Jane of all trades. She sang, acted, danced, and more. She tapped into her creativity in countless ways — something characteristic of many young creative people nowadays. Being a singer doesn’t make you any less of an actress, or a psychiatrist, or a politician, or whatever it is you may want to be.

Be them all!

2. You’re never too young to be taken seriously.

Aaliyah began her career when she was 10 as an actress on the show “Star Search”: by age 12 she was signed with Jive Records. Aaliyah is the perfect example of how age should never define or limit you — she talks even more about this on her album “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.”

3. People will always respond to somebody being their authentic self.

Aaliyah didn’t let anybody tell her who she was — she switched up her style from sexy and sultry to casual and natural, explored her musical sound, and did so unapologetically.

Though it can be hard to embrace oneself in this way (especially when already in the spotlight), it’s always rewarding for people to see others be themselves. Just as we can look to her as an inspiration to do so, you doing the same could help inspire others.

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4. Women help reshape and revitalize male-dominated industries.

At the time of Aaliyah’s success, R&B was a male-dominated field, and arguably still is. That said, the artist didn’t let that stop her from making her own unique contribution that’s helped shape R&B as a whole to this day.

Even if you’re entering an industry that happens to be male-dominated at the time (which, unfortunately, is still the majority of industries), Aaliyah’s shown us that your voice is valid and, even more so, necessary. Each person brings a different perspective to the table, and yours counts just as much as the most well-represented one at the time.

5. Be sure to find a trustworthy mentor in the industry you’re in.

It can definitely be daunting heading into uncharted territory when beginning a new career endeavor. And in the music and entertainment industries, like with all vocations, there is always the risk of being taken advantage of.

From age 12,  R. Kelly was somebody Aaliyah viewed as a mentor. He helped produce and write her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.”

Shortly after though, Kelly married Aaliyah when she was 15, allegedly without her parents’ knowledge. Naturally, speculation followed regarding Kelly and his intentions, which proved questionable at best and predatory in nature.

That said, it’s important to have knowledgable people to look up to in your field: but it’s also important that, above all, you look out for yourself.

6. You can do a lot in a small amount of time if you work hard enough.

Though Aaliyah was born in 1979 and gone far too soon in 2001, she accomplished more in her career than some will in their entire lives. Not to mention, her influence is still very much present.

One major takeaway is that it isn’t always about how much time you have so much as it’s about how much work you’re willing to put in.

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7. Your ideas are never too big.

Aaliyah came in to each of her respective industries with a new perspective, one that had not necessarily been executed in the same way. She had a unique sound and a unique style. She made each song her own, each film role her own, and each performance her own.

Her vehement individuality is an example of how if you can think like nobody else can, you can be like nobody else — and that’s what makes a great artist.

Creative Director/Photographer: Joshua Renfroe 

Model: Sidnee Michelle

Stylist: Sydnee Paige

Makeup: Joslyn Spurlock

Project Manager: Tyler Chavers

Assistant: Meagan Bryant

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