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Vibe editor: Aaliyah's death 'a shock'

Vibe magazine editor-in-chief Emil Wilbekin  

(CNN) -- As fans and friends mourn the death of 22-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah in a weekend plane crash, Vibe magazine editor-in-chief Emil Wilbekin talked with CNN anchor Carol Lin about the music community's reaction to the tragedy.

LIN: I know this is a tremendous loss, and you have said about her that she was a true entertainer. She was all about perfection. What did you mean by that?

WILBEKIN: Well, Aaliyah was very hard-working. She first appeared on the scene, believe it or not, on "Star Search" when she was a little girl. And ever since then, she really just worked really hard. Her first album came out when she was 15 years old, and it went gold. Her second album came out two years later and went double platinum. And her latest album just came out, you know, a month ago, and she just was in "Romeo Must Die" last year with Jet Li and she was signed up to do "The Matrix", too.

So this was a very hard-working young woman, and at 22, that's pretty phenomenal.

Investigators probe Aaliyah crash  

LIN: And really leading a career and doing it her own way. She managed to stick to a really clean-cut image, to present a very moral base. And I was even surprised to read that her mother managed her career.

WILBEKIN: Yes, her mother was one of her managers, and her uncle was her other manager. And she was also related to Gladys Knight. So she had a very tight infrastructure in her family, and I think they have protected her and guided her and helped her just have this great celebrity image that was clean and inspiring to young people, and especially young women.

LIN: You know, this plane crash is a loss to so many families, eight other people on board this plane. Aaliyah, in particular, though, seemed to really symbolize the future for so many people. I mean, people are talking about her not only as a beautiful young woman, someone with such a promising career, but someone who also really beat the odds.

WILBEKIN: Right. And that's the one thing. I think she was such a positive role model for young urban people, and a lot of these hip hop kids grew up listening to her.. you know, when they were 15, she was 15. And they just really feel this connection to her as if a friend of theirs has gone.

LIN: How did you first meet her?

WILBEKIN: Well, I worked with Aaliyah. We did several photo shoots with her in 1998. I did a photo shoot with her, and she and her mother came to the shoot. She was very professional. She, you know, wouldn't dress too scantily. She, you know, had a very clear image of how she wanted to look. Her mother was very supportive and very fun.

And then she is very good friends with Quincy Jones' daughter, Kidada. And so they were always hanging out, having a great time, you know, making prank calls on people and just being very normal young women, but also very professional.

LIN: When you say a very clean-cut young woman, it seems to me what you're sort of implying in today's world is that there is a lot of pressure on a beautiful young woman like her to trade in on her looks, on her sexuality.


LIN: Did she feel that kind of pressure? And how did she fight against it?

WILBEKIN: Well, she was very strong and convicted about, you know, not selling out her beauty or her sexuality, but being strong. And in hip hop and in the music world, which is very male-dominated, that is very impressive for a young woman to be so focused and so strong and to represent women in such a positive way.

LIN: How are friends and family of Aaliyah doing now?

WILBEKIN: Everyone is devastated. I mean, this is such a shock, especially, you know, her album, which is just out. She was selling her video. She had movies in the works. No one expected this. In her career, you know, everyone expected it to be so huge. I mean, you think of Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez -- these are the types of people that, you know, she was going to be one day. And for her just to be gone overnight, it's really scary and sad. And to be so young, I think it really just affects people in a very powerful way.

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