Why Didn't Zendaya Play Aaliyah In Lifetime's Biopic? She Had Solid Reasons

It's almost here, folks! Can you smell the intrigue? The controversy? Lifetime's Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B premieres Saturday night and as much as I am genuinely worried about how the film portrays the life of the incredibly talented artist, I'm also interested to see what could have made its original star want to exit the project so quickly after being cast. The movie stars Nickelodeon actress Alexandra Shipp as Aaliyah, but she wasn't always the one who was going to walk in Aaliyah's shoes. Originally the network and the filmmakers cast actress and singer Zendaya Coleman in the film, but just weeks later, the young star walked away. So what exactly made Zendaya quit the Aaliyah movie? She took to social media to explain her decision, which surprisingly didn't include the harsh criticism she was subject to upon news of her casting.

From the moment Zendaya was cast in the role, she received backlash. Criticisms ranged from people saying she looked nothing like Aaliyah to people saying she wasn't "black enough," according to Zendaya herself. Some fans even came up with their own suggestions for who should play the part from rumors on the internet. In fact, people were so upset by the casting news that a petition was created to re-cast Zendaya.


According to the young star, her reasons for leaving had nothing to do with the social media uproar. She put up a series of Instagram videos that explained her decision. She cited issues with the production value, "complications with the music rights," and that the material wasn't being handled delicately. Zendaya definitely has a point with the music rights. Blackground, the company that released all of Aaliyah's music and which is run by Aaliyah's cousin, refused the let the film use the late singer's songs. So the movie had to make do with covers of other songs that Aaliyah performed.

Coleman also added a hearty congratulations to Alexandra Shipp, her successor, in a final video and hoped that Shipp wouldn't have to deal with the severe backlash Coleman received after her casting announcement. What's interesting is that Shipp is now receiving the hate while fans actually regret Zandaya not staying with the role. Ah the fickle minds of the masses. After the premiere of Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, everyone can finally make an informed opinion about casting and everything else Lifetime offers us with the film.