Zendaya cast as Aaliyah in upcoming biopic


Bay Area-born Zendaya Coleman is set to pay homage to one of her biggest musical influences later this year.

Known professionally by her first name, Oakland’s own Disney Channel star has been cast as the late R&B superstar Aaliyah in a Lifetime original biopic tentatively titled Aaliyah: Princess of R&B.

Scheduled to air this fall, the film is based on the book Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley and will chronicle the star’s rise to fame up to her untimely death in an August 2001 plane crash.

Best known for her role as Rocky Blue on the hit Disney show Shake It Up, Zendaya took to Twitter on Monday to express her excitement over such an opportunity:

Some Aaliyah fans, however, also took to Twitter and expressed their dissatisfaction with the casting and film in general.

Other tweets addressed how Zendaya does not closely resemble Aaliyah, with one fan even tweeting a side-by-side comparison of both singers:

Casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd said on Tuesday that she believes Zendaya is the best choice because she’s a triple threat. Like Aaliyah (who also went by her first name professionally), Zendaya is an actress, singer and dancer.

Byrd also encouraged those doubters to not hate, but congratulate:

“Zendaya embodies everything you want in an actress to play Aaliyah. She is a poised, professional, strong actress … She loves Aaliyah and will do a wonderful job!”

Controversy also arose regarding whether or not the Haughton family will be involved with the project.

The official Twitter account dedicated in Aaliyah’s memory tweeted on Tuesday that while nothing can be confirmed at this time:

Born Aaliyah Dana Haughton on Jan. 16, 1979, the Brooklyn native released three hit albums between 1994 and 2001, culminating with her chart-topping self-titled 2001 release.

She also ventured into the acting world with roles in the films Romeo Must Die (2000) and Queen of the Damned (2002).

She appeared to be at the peak of her career when at only 22 years old, she tragically died in a plane crash in the Bahamas after wrapping up filming on her video for “Rock the Boat” in 2001.

The crash also claimed the lives of the pilot and members of her video crew.

Though her life unexpectedly ended at such a young age, Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine hip hop and R&B in the 1990s.

Her work has also inspired other successful hip hop and R&B stars, including Destiny’s Child alumni Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown, Rihanna, J. Cole and Omarion.

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