Aaliyah's Big Brother On Her Legacy, Beauty & How She Stole His Clothes

Last August, MAC announced that, following countless calls and petitions from fans, it would be dropping a collection dedicated to '90s R&B singer Aaliyah – and now it’s here. The makeup giant has released the first details of the line, made up of an eyeshadow palette, bronzing powder, four lipsticks and four lipglass shades. Named after her legendary hits – think "More Than A Woman", "Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number" and "Street Thing" – the collection is an homage to Aaliyah’s beauty look, poppin’ lip gloss and all.
From her canary-yellow Tommy Hilfiger tracksuit and matching crop top to the zebra and fur-trimmed bodycon dress she wore at the MTV VMAs, Aaliyah’s bold get-ups were always paired with super strong makeup, too. Never short of a taupe or russet lip (strong lip liner mandatory), ice-cool eyeshadow and a heavy dose of cheek-sculpting bronzer, the "I’m So Into You" singer’s look has been referenced and replicated since the ‘00s.
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Ahead of the hotly anticipated collection launch on 21st June, we spoke with Aaliyah’s brother Rashad Haughton, who has worked to keep her legacy alive since her tragic death in 2001. Back in the day, Rashad joined Aaliyah on the red carpet and recorded a song with her, and has had a major creative hand in MAC’s collection. Below, he shares his favourite of Aaliyah’s beauty looks, how his sister always stole his clothes, and how she paved the way for today’s strong young women.
Hi Rashad! How would you sum up your sister’s style?
I would say street but sweet – completely unique and groundbreaking.
Athleisure has been such a huge trend for the past few seasons, and your sister pioneered that back in the day with her oversized sports jackets, crop tops and tracksuits. What was her signature piece?
I think you’re absolutely right, you can see now with brands moving more into lifestyle, streetwear has become high fashion. I think it's really bringing the ‘90s style back. It really all started with her wearing my clothes even before she started singing. I think the iconic Tommy Hilfiger tracksuit was her signature piece, but all those oversized jackets and jeans were incredible. Then her style evolved into more form-fitting clothes like halternecks and dresses.
I love that she stole your clothes! How do you think her style legacy has continued through to today?
So I think what you see in a lot of young women now is combining that – wearing a big jacket with a halter top and elasticated athletic pants. We’re seeing that juxtaposition, that synthesis.
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Aaliyah’s beauty look was so of-the-moment in the ‘90s. How would you sum up her attitude towards beauty?
She knew when to be minimal, and she had those highlight points. Obviously she’s really known for the bold lip, but she was really innovative with highlight – in the early 2000s she was doing the highlight that you see now. She did the smoky eye, a balance of masculine and feminine. What we see in the world right now is everyone being really upfront with who they really are. They’re not afraid to cross those lines of masculinity, femininity, androgyny. I think she was way ahead of the curve in that, and her attitude towards beauty was about breaking boundaries, taking risks, but at the same time being measured, and really thinking about the message she wanted to send with her beauty.
She was completely ahead of the curve – I wonder if it's because she was such a strong woman in a very male-dominated industry.
For sure, I think so. I think that was a lot of the attraction when she first came on the scene; it was such a juxtaposition to see this ingénue come out with street swag but still have this sweetness. I think that characteristic is obviously attractive to girls – it was like wow, this is strong, this is taking a real risk. And to the guys who she collaborated with, like DMX, I think they were drawn to that because men are drawn to strong women.
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Tell me about the creation of the collection.
I was there from the very beginning. I was my sister’s creative consultant for her entire career, working with her incredible glam team – Eric Farrell, Eric Foreman, Trey Major and Derek Lee – on music videos, on the movie sets. I collaborated with MAC, and we took what I remember from back then and created something that really represents the archival images and looks. It’s also something that represents the next generation, too.
A lot of the people who are going to be buying the products weren’t alive when your sister was making music. How do you hope the collection brings her legacy to a new generation of beauty fans?
I think even if they don’t know the names of her songs, when they see the products, they’ll realise that these represent her life and her art and her music. They'll go and find those videos and songs online. This collection will just be a boost to what they are already hungry for, though, this generation is smart. They’re walking encyclopaedias of what's now, what's yesterday and what’s tomorrow.
How can a woman in 2018 emulate Aaliyah’s attitude?
A lot of people have said this: 2018 is the time of the woman, they’re taking control of their future and speaking up for what they really want. I think that one of the things that so many young girls love about my sister was how effortlessly she had a tomboy style but was also feminine. This paradox represents this ability to be any type of woman you want to be. I think the challenges she faced in her career, her perseverance, her dust-yourself-off-and-try-again-attitude – all of that is in her lyrics. What MAC did was recognise that that energy permeated everything, including her beauty.
You get that sense even through watching her music videos or listening to her lyrics. Of the looks your sister turned out, which was your favourite?
That’s so hard! She really was a chameleon. I remember being in my dorm room in college and seeing the "One in a Million" video for the first time and being so blown away by the minimalism of that. She was able to use matte, use a bold lip, use powder and eyeshadow, but make it all seem like it was there and it wasn't at the same time. Obviously then there’s Queen of the Damned...there’s too many to choose from!
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