Lifetime’s controversial made-for-TV movie based on the life of late R&B diva Aaliyah Haughton has suffered a mayjah setback after losing its star. Cute-as-a-button Disney kid Zendaya Coleman abruptly dropped out of the project over the weekend, following weeks of criticism over her casting and protests from Aaliyah’s family — who balked at the idea of her biography coming to life in the form of a basic cable biopic.
Lifetime wrote in a statement posted on its Twitter account on Sunday:
“We are sad Zendaya will no longer portray Aaliyah. Production is currently on hold.”
Aaliyah: Princess of R&B will chart the “One in a Million” singer’s career from her 1989 debut on Star Search through her days as a protégé (and alleged child bride) of R. Kelly until her death in a plane crash in 2001. Filming was set to begin over the summer in anticipation of a fall premiere.
Social networkers have been deeply divided on the issue of an Aaliyah movie ever since Lifetime first announced the proposal earlier this month. Some criticized the lack of physical characteristics between Aaliyah and Oakland’s own Zendaya. Others were angry that Aaliyah’s family, particularly her mother and brother, were not consulted about the production.
The Haughtons were feverishly opposed to the Princess of R&B project, but denied they had any real issue with Zendaya’s casting. Aaliyah’s cousin, Jomo Hankerson, told The New York Daily News earlier this month:
“We want a major studio release along the lines of What’s Love Got to Do with It, the Tina Turner movie…This needs A-list actors, A-list talent that can breathe life into what we think is a phenomenal story.”
The family said they would make it difficult for Lifetime to use Aaliyah’s recordings.
“Because we control the masters, the rights and some images of the musical elements that we put together like the videos, and photo shoots and things that we did, what we can just withhold those elements from the production which we would do.”
Who would you like to see play Aaliyah on the small (or silver) screen? Teyana Taylor, Keshia Chante and even Rihanna have been nominated for the role.