Zendaya Coleman will play singer Aaliyah in a new biopic: good pick?


Zendaya Coleman is one of my daughter’s favorite popstars/actresses right now. Z is a Disney Channel darling who starred on several seasons of Shake It Up! where she sang and danced. My girl was so upset when Zendaya went home in second place on DWTS a few seasons ago. Zendaya is 17-years-old and has a very bright career ahead of her …. as long as she avoids the usual child star trappings. Zendaya is one of the good kids (with really cute, age-appropriate style), and I worry about her falling into the clutches of Wilmer Valderrama when she turns 18. He likes to swoop in for the Disney girls.

Anyway. Zendaya has beat out the competition to play Aaliyah in a biopic. I still remember when Aaliyah died in 2001. She had gathered up a handful of top 40 hits and was on the cusp of superstardom when she died at 22. That tragedy turned her into a legend, and now Lifetime is adapting a biography of the singer. Zendaya will record four of Aaliyah’s hits as well:

Singer-actress Zendaya is set to star in Lifetime’s original movie Aaliyah: Princess of R&B (working title) about the life of the late actress and R&B artist Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001.

Zendaya will record four of Aaliyah’s songs for the film, based on the bestseller Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley.

Known to most by only her first name, Aaliyah Dana Haughton made her debut on Star Search at age 10 and was only 22 years old when a plane carrying her and some of her video crew crashed after taking off from a Bahamian runway. The film will depict her journey and rise to fame.

Like the young star she will portray, Zendaya has delved into both music and acting and even landed the runner-up spot on season 16 of Dancing With the Stars. After starring on the Disney Channel series Shake It Up! Zendaya released her self-titled 2013 debut full-length album. She is also set to star in the upcoming Disney Channel original series “K.C. Undercover” and the Disney Channel original movie Zapped, which premieres this summer.

Aaliyah:Princess of R&B will be produced by Aaliyah Productions, Inc. with Howard Braunstein and Debra Martin Chase serving as exec producers. Bradley Walsh will direct from Michael Elliot’s script.

The telefilm will be filmed this summer and is slated to premiere in the fall.

[From Variety]

Do you think Zendaya can pull this role off? It’s only a Lifetime movie, but it will probably gather good ratings since Aaliyah’s memory is strong. Twitter is abuzz with both positive and negative reactions to Zendaya’s casting. I hope she has thick skin. Zendaya is pumped about scoring this role and tweeted her enthusiasm.

I haven’t read the book that this biopic will be based upon. Do you think they’ll delve into Aaliya’s Queen of the Damned movie role? That costume was pretty NSFW.



Photos courtesy of WENN

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80 Responses to “Zendaya Coleman will play singer Aaliyah in a new biopic: good pick?”

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  1. Maria says:

    Ugh, I’m not a fan of this casting, at all.

    I’m sure she’s a great actress but there’s no similarity and I was hoping for someone “more”…

  2. paola says:

    I wonder what would have happened to Beyoncè if Aaliyah was still around.
    She seemed like badass, I know very little about her but i’ve heard more than once that Beyoncè rushed in to feel the gap she left behind becoming JayZ’s gf and later on the superstar she is now.

    • Kaylah says:

      Good God stop. Beyonce was an INTERNATIONAL artist when Aaliyah died. She and Destiny’s Child were selling out shows in the UK while Aaliyah was a “local” artist so to speak. She had already been in the business professionally for 5-6 years when Aaliyah died. Beyonce was miles ahead of Aaliyah in terms of signing & performing but Aaliyah was hands down the better actress and also Jay-Z and Beyonce were already dating when Aaliyah died and they had known each other for 3 years before she died.
      They both had only nice things to say about each other before they died so I don’t get where this rivalry comes from.

    • Nick says:

      Ugh why do people compare the two. Aaliyah and Beyoncé could have been successful at the same time. No need to pit two black artists against each other.

      • Omega says:

        Right? I havent seen too many articles on how Katy Perry is coming after Lady Gagas crown. Or how Lorde is dethroning Pink. But God forbid that Beyonce and Rihanna exist in the same universe, like OMG.

        Women generally get pitted against each other but its a million times worse if the women in question are black.

    • Omega says:

      Ridiculous. Firstly, Beyonce hid her relationship with Jay Z for years, so I have no idea what evidence you have that she dated him for her career. Secondly, her career was on fire during both the Aaliyah years and the undercover Jay Z dating years (her albums DC and solo were outselling both Aaliyahs and Jay Zs). Thirdly, you have got to let go. If your first thought on an Aaliyah post is Beyonce, I think you may be a little obsessed abit like a stan.

    • HH says:

      @Paola – I disagree here. I don’t really keep up with Beyonce, so I can’t give you a timeline on her relationship with JayZ, however, I don’t see Beyonce as trying to fill that gap. Aaliyah and Beyonce have totally different looks/sounds/styles. I see Beyonce as a crafting herself as an image of the divas that came before her such as Patti, Aretha, Tina, Diana, etc. DC was a throwback to the girl groups most of these women started in (as evidenced by their costumes). Beyonce and DC were VERY image conscious. Aaliyah had a more cool, laidback, soft, sultry, but still edgy sound and look. I’m sure like all artists she was conscious of her image, but certainly in a different and less apparent way. If anything, Ciara is a more appropriate comparison to Aaliyah, but Cece neither has the voice nor production team to come close to Aaliyah’s sound.

  3. Abbott says:

    And who will play R. Kelly?

  4. Julie B. says:

    Interesting… I wonder if this movie will focus on her beginnings w/ R. Kelly and their hushed and short-lived marriage when she was underage?? He DID play a big role on her first album and initial success after all…

  5. allons-y alonso says:

    Oh dear. I’m not sure how i feel about this. Aaliyah was one of my idols in my early teens. She seemed so lovely and she had a wonderful voice. I still love her music very much.

    • blue marie says:

      + 1, but I’m willing to give her a shot.

    • dahlianoir says:

      Me too, I doubt Zendaya will be able to pull that role. Aaliyah was so particular and beautiful…

    • Chicagogurl says:

      This! I just adored her and was similar in age. I wonder if Missy and Tim will be involved in this movie. Tim is still in love with her and Missy was such a close friend.

      Also, don’t think Ray J would be a good R Kelly, though the habits fit. Who are they going to get to play Damon Dash? That was another big romance for her.

    • Davy says:

      No. No to this entire movie.

      I love Aaliyah. She was sexy, sultry, stylish, sweet and about the work and the art. This does not need to be made, nobody wants to see this and her family doesn’t approve.

      The only salacious story is the R Kelly marriage and yes, the gossip in me is slightly curious to understand how that could have happened to her or where her head was at, but this film won’t address that and Aaliyah is no longer with us to address it herself.

      Leave her alone let her rest in peace.

      Nothing against whoever this pretty Zendaya girl is, just NO to the whole thing.

  6. MrsBPitt says:

    Love her! Perfect choice!!

  7. neelyo says:

    Ugh. This shouldn’t happen. I LOVE Aaliyah. She was so talented and beautiful. Besides the R. Kelly incident which I doubt they will depict, she was just a hard working very positive person. Not much of a story to tell there. I can’t imagine her family wants this to happen. They have been very protective of her memory.

  8. elo says:

    Can we please talk about that hot mess of a suit in the last picture.

  9. msmercury says:

    She doesn’t even look like Aaliyah though. I mean……I know it’s Lifetime the same channel that did the Liz Taylor/Lohan move but still.

  10. Val says:

    Eeeeeeeeeeh….. no. She looks nothing like Aaliyah! I also would rather that they didn’t do this at all.

  11. Loopy says:

    Aww i was hoping for the Keshia Chante, she looks eerily like Aaliyah and has done some acting.

  12. Nessa says:

    There can be only one Aaliyah. She is still untouchable, in my eyes. So incredibly talented. Soooo beautiful. And her music still holds up today. They should leave her legacy alone, IMO. She is too good for this crappy Lifetime movie.

  13. AlmondJoy says:

    I like Zendaya alot, but I’m not sure she has the chops needed to pull off this role. She’s still has that silly, Disney overacting thing going on. Aaliyah was so beautiful, sexy, sultry and had a quiet sweetness about herself. This role will be complex. I’ll give her a chance though! Who knew Jamie Foxx would be excellent as Ray?? Sometimes, an actor you least expect is able to pull off a role that seemed out of their league. I’ll be tuned in to see how she does!

  14. jaye says:

    I like Zendaya for the role. She may not LOOK like Aaliyah, but she has a similar singing style and she can dance. It’s not so much about whether or not the looks match, but whether or not Zendaya can embody the essence of who Aaliyah was. Denzel Washington looked NOTHING like Malcolm X, but about 15 minutes in to the movie, you forgot that you were watching Denzel play a character and only saw Malcolm X. I don’t know if Zendaya has the dramatic chops to pull off the part, but she’s a good actress. She’s got great comedic timing.

  15. ToodySezHey says:

    Sigh. Hollywood doesn’t need to cover everything.

    Let BabyGirl test in peace. ..

    Also? To answer an earlier question..judging by Aaliyah ‘ s last album..I think Beyonce wouldn’t nearly be as big if Aaliyah hadn’t died. AALIYAH ‘ S last album is 14 years old and still better than 90 percent of contemporary rnb right now, that’s how ahead of its time it was.

    • Kaylah says:

      Her music is/was amazing but please let’s not act like her elevation to legend status wasn’t because of her untimely passing. Her contemporaries Brandy, Monica, Mya & Co are not were they once were in the 90′s and early 00′s so who knows.

  16. GBH says:

    Well I finally found out who sings that Replay song. Other than that — no. This chick looks like a budget ass Cassie. And Cassie was Diddy’s busted, budget Aaliyah/Ciara attempt to begin with. So it’s not looking good for homegirl.

  17. Kim1 says:

    Did Angela Bassett look like Tina Turner?
    Does Denzel look like Malcolm X?
    Does Lil Mama look Left Eye?
    They need an actress popular with the under 20 to draw attention to project since many of them don’t remember Aaliyah. Zendaya was a pre schooler when she died

  18. Marty says:

    Alright poll time. What’s your favorite Aaliyah song?

    I’ll always be partial to “Back and Forth” because it’s the first song of hers I ever heard, but I was just listening to “I Care 4 U”, that is such a GOOD song. But really there are so many of her’s I love so much.

    “One in a Million” is probably my favorite song of hers though.

  19. Kaylah says:

    I really like Zendaya. I saw her on Fashion Police and I liked the fact that she acted like a 17 year old and was giggly & flustered. And I also like the age appropriate clothing.
    On the casting I really don’t care either ways. It’s lifetime so I don’t expect Oscar worthy greatness from it.

  20. ToodySezHey says:


    Aaliyah ‘ s music was always better than Monica or Brandy. Brandy ‘ s first album was good but it was downhill from there. Monica was the best singer of the 3, but her music was standard RnB. Meanwhile Aaliyah ‘ s music evolved and grew from album to album. She same into her own with Aaliyah and I just feel her progression would have led to more and better music. She was experimenting with new sounds on one in a million and aaliyah, who knows what future projects would have brought.

    • T.C. says:

      Really? I thought Brandy had more hits but I could be remembering wrong. No disrespect to her memory but I remember Aaliyah more for her beauty, fashion and sweet personality than for her music. I think she became an icon because she died young. We have a way of making celebrities that die young icons. I remember Brandy and Monica for their music. Brandy also for being good at acting.

    • Muffy says:

      Brandy was a bigger star than Aaliyah and Brandy’s second album was bigger than Aaliyah’s second album. Don’t try to change facts because Aaliyah is dead.

      It was.

      Aaliyah/Mya when she hit the scene in ’98/99

  21. Alexis says:

    Aaliyah may have been young, but she had some edge and s e x appeal. This Zendaya chick has none.

  22. ToodySezHey says:

    Also…thid chick looks more like selena gomez than aaliyah.

    Sure Angela basset didn’t look exactly like tina, but at least they looked like the same ethnicity lol

  23. jwoolman says:

    Zendaya is a decent actor and isn’t as badly affected by the Disney School of Overacting as most. She can tone it down when needed. It will all depend on the director.

  24. Renee says:

    I think that she would be good to play John Legend’s new wife…Aliyah – no.

  25. Mixtape says:

    She’s great–very impressive talent-wise and personality-wise when she was on DWTS. However, this is a Lifetime Movie, people. No matter how well she does, the writing and direction will be cheesy. I just hope it doesn’t kill her career before it has even started.

  26. Lucy says:

    I don’t know about the movie in general, but I do like Zendaya, she seems genuinely cool.

  27. T.C. says:

    Wasn’t Aaliyah Black though with a sexy edge? This girl is a racially ambigious 17 year old Disney actor. IDK if she can pull it off but it’s Lifetime so they probably didn’t try very hard with casting.

  28. Chinoiserie says:

    I have never heard of either of them.

  29. Velvet Elvis says:

    IDK…I get way more of a young J-Lo vibe from Zendaya. I do love her but not sure she can pull off a convincing Aaliyah.

  30. Barristerette says:

    HELL NO. Aaliyah was amazing, poised, talented, confident, had that edge unlike anyone else at the time, etc. etc. etc. Zendaya came right out of the manufactured Disney/pop star machine and can’t touch her. Horrible choice.

  31. Kay says:

    I don’t really care about the movie since it’s on Lifetime, but why is she recording Aaliyah’s songs???

  32. Word Girl says:

    I agree with T.C. Zendaya is too racially ambiguous. At least Angela and Denzel and Jamie were close to the same skin tone as the “Greats” they portrayed. Aaliyah was soft like a dove. She was modest but not pretentious in behavior. One could tell by looking at her that she was genuinely affable because it was her true nature. It would be very hard for an actor to emulate and project, on screen, these same qualities that Aaliyah possessed naturally if the actor skills are only sub-par. Gosh, I loved Aaliyah because even though she was sultry and sexy she still projected a sense of “purity” that I don’t see today in other R & B artist. I’m pretty sure Zendaya is a great girl, but she wouldn’t be the actress of my choice as a spot-on portrayal of Aaliyah.

  33. Tolva says:

    I think it’s excellent casting. By the time makeup artists are done and hairstylists coloring her hair, she will probably look very similar to the singer Aaliyah.
    I think it’s really great casting.
    Lifetime movies are cheesy but this is probably a way for her agents to break her into acting roles beyond her Disney show. I actually think Z is quite talented.
    Wonder who will play R-Kelly.
    …and will they get a Michael Jackson lookalike for the scene where he attends her funeral?
    It’s going to be cheesy yes, but it’s a good step for her as an actor, she probably wants to breakout and this will help even if it may get panned by critics, it will bring a wider audience to her.
    People said the same thing about JLO not being able to play Selena. Mexican fans were quite up in arms over the casting, but she did a wonderful job.

  34. JT says:

    I’m ok with Zendaya being cast, but a Lifetime movie?? I was hoping to see it in theaters.