Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn, and named after a Swahili word meaning "most exalted one." Her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was a manager and entertainment lawyer who was married to Gladys Knight for a time, and her mother, also a singer, enrolled Aaliyah in voice lessons before she'd even started school. Still very young, she moved with her family to Detroit, where she sang in several school plays. At age nine, she successfully auditioned for the TV show Star Search, where she performed "My Funny Valentine" (and lost). Two years later, thanks to her uncle Hankerson's connections, she spent five nights in Las Vegas performing as part of Gladys Knight's revue. In addition to his niece, Hankerson was also managing a rising R&B star named R. Kelly, and introduced the two in 1992. Kelly soon took Aaliyah under his wing and began writing and producing songs for her.