Zendaya Pulls Out Of Lifetime’s Aaliyah Biopic

Production of the television movie has been put on hold.

1. Zendaya Coleman will not play Aaliyah in a Lifetime television movie.

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The 17-year-old actor and singer is “no longer involved” with the project, a rep confirmed Sunday, just weeks after Lifetime announced her casting.

2. Shortly after, Aaliyah’s uncle and former manager Barry Hankerson vowed to stop production of the film, saying that a TV movie would be “too small” a tribute.

Hulton Archive / Getty

It’s possible that Aaliyah’s family’s wish that the film not be made had something to do with Zendaya’s decision to pull out.

A Lifetime press release in June said Zendaya would re-record four Aaliyah songs for the film, but on Sunday, a source told E! that the biopic had “problems obtaining the rights to Aaliyah’s music.”

3. On Twitter, Zendaya said she was honored by the opportunity to play Aaliyah, but wanted to “do it right.”

5. Lifetime confirmed Zendaya’s departure, and paused production of the movie.

6. Before pulling out, Zendaya had responded to critics who felt she shouldn’t play a black character.

Jason Kempin / Getty

“A lot of people say I’m not black enough. Half black is just enough,” Zendaya, whose mother is white and father is black, told a Splash News reporter. “​It doesn’t matter what color you are, it’s about how you portray the character. For those that don’t know, Angela Bassett and Tina Turner, they look nothing alike but she was that character so I think that’s what it’s all about.”


On Sunday, June 29, Zendaya detailed her reasons for pulling out of the biopic with MTV. “I just felt the project wasn’t 100 percent there,” she said. “I feel [that] production wise everything just felt a little rushed. And I think because she’s someone I admire and I love so much, it can’t be done halfway, or not to the standards I think it should be done at, so I just decided not to do it.”

She said she’d be open to playing Aaliyah in the future, though: “By all means, when the right project comes along and it’s done the right way I’ll be the first person ready to play Aaliyah, but this wasn’t the right one for me. I’ve been into Aaliyah since I was little, so there wasn’t too much getting into character. I always pretend I’m her anyway.”

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