After much contemplation around the upcoming biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B — based off Christopher Farley‘s best-selling book, Aaliyah: More Than A Woman— Lifetime has revealed recently that Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman has been selected to play the late R&B singer, Aaliyah Haughton, in the movie.
Zendaya is not unfamiliar with the demands of dancing, singing or acting. She competed with Val Chmerkovskiy on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, she appeared on the 2009 Kidz Bop CD with her cover of the Katy Perry song “Hot N’ Cold”, and she stars in the Disney Channel dance series Shake It Up!
At 17 years of age, Zendaya already has years worth of industry experience under her belt. However, Lifetime’s announcement provoked more controversy than excitement as Aaliyah fans and family voice their disproval. Twitter has been the main platform for expressing this disappointment, where many fans have proclaimed that Zendaya looks nothing like Aaliyah and is aesthetically unfit to play the role. Aaliyah’s family also took to Twitter to address these concerns on Aaliyah’s memorial account.
On June 17 the official Aaliyah twitter account @AaliyahHaughton wrote:
“Fans we hear your comments and concerns !! unfortunately we cannot confirm the family is behind the project at this time.” That tweet was followed by another, reading, “However, we do ask that you are respectful to the artist playing the role, for they may not fully have or know the details about this role.”
Since that tweet went out however, Aaliyah’s uncle and mentor Barry Hankerson, clarified the family’s position in no uncertain terms, stating in an interview with TMZ “the family will block any attempt on Lifetime’s part to use any of Aaliyah’s music. He says the family has hired a lawyer and will do everything they can to block release of the flick.” The reasoning appears to be that a_ they’re upset no-one from the network attempted to contact them and b) they feel that “a TV movie is too small” for their baby-girl, although they would not be opposed to a big screen, Hollywood treatment.
Hankerson, of course, is no stranger himself to controversy over the handling of his niece’s legacy. Along with his son Jomo Hankerson, the former manager was behind the Drake and 40-helmed reworks of unreleased Aaliyah material, early leaks from a project that was ultimately shelved after outcry from Timbaland and Missy Elliot, among many others. Amidst all the outcry, it’s hard to know which voice speaks definitively for the interests of the dearly departed, so for the moment, we’ll just have to see how things play out. Stay tuned.