Amid criticism from fans, friends, and the family of R&B singer and actress Aaliyah, Zendiya has decided to drop out of playing her in an upcoming Lifetime biopic that was supposed to begin filming this summer. Aaliyah, who was just 22 when she died in a plane crash in 2001, was showing signs of becoming a mega-star when she tragically passed away.
Disney Channel star, Zendiya, 17, according to one of her reps who spoke to the NY Daily News, is “no longer involved” in the biopic project about Aaliyah’s life. Zendiya had announced less than two weeks ago that she would be glad to portray Aaliyah in the proposed Lifetime biopic, saying that the R&B singer had been an inspiration to her and that she looked up to the late singer.
The Lifetime biopic has the working title of Aaliyah: Princess of R&B. Lifetime hoped that the biopic would be completed this summer, and be ready to be shown on TV this fall, but now they are left scrambling trying to find a replacement for Zendiya, so the release date might be delayed. The biopic will be based on the biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman.
Besides finding someone else to play Aaliyah, Lifetime had a problem in trying to acquire the rights to use Aaliyah’s music in the biopic, according to a source who spoke to E! News.
Aaliyah’s family does not especially like the idea that Lifetime wants to make a small screen treatment of the Back & Forth singer’s life. Her family would like to see a feature film made, instead. They have reportedly been doing what they can to block Lifetime from obtaining the rights to use Aaliyah’s music in the biopic.
According to Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah’s cousin and president of her label, Blackground Records, speaking to the Daily News, her family would like to have a feature film of Aaliyah’s life made “along the lines of What’s Love Got to Do with It, the Tina Turner movie.”
Zendiya found herself caught in the middle of a dispute between the family of Aaliyah, critics on social media sites, and Lifetime. Zendiya felt honored to have been chosen to play Aaliyah, a singer who she admired and looked up to, and she was likely not prepared for the intense backlash that followed her accepting the role which Lifetime offered her.
One objection that Aaliyah’s family had was that they were reportedly not consulted by Lifetime about the biopic. The family argued that they were the ones who knew Aaliyah best, and if they were not asked about details from the R&B singer’s life, the biopic would not reveal a complete picture of who Aaliyah was to the viewers of the film.
Many of Aaliyah’s fans also expressed disappointment that Zendiya had been selected to play Aaliyah, even commenting that the Disney Channel star did not look much like Aaliyah. Despite Zendiya tweeting that “all I wanna do is honor her… she’s beautiful inside and there will never be another Aaliyah,” that did not slow down the vocal criticism from Aaliyah’s fans.
With Zendiya no longer agreeing to portray the late R&B singer, Aaliyah, in the upcoming Lifetime biopic, the question remains of exactly who the network will get to replace Zendiya. Also, even when Lifetime chooses someone else for the role, will the network be able to use any of Aaliyah’s music in the biopic? If not, the movie will probably not be well received by the public, though it could be that nobody would be considered good enough to play Aaliyah in the eyes of her family an fans — unless, that is, her life was made into a feature film.
Written by: Douglas Cobb