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Recording Artist Zendaya Cast to Play Aaliyah in Lifetime's Original Movie 'Princess of R&B'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 16, 2014 at 4:25PM

Based on the bestseller "Aaliyah: More Than a Woman" by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley

Recording artist Zendaya has been cast to portray Aaliyah in a Lifetime Original Movie about the life of the actress and R&B sensation who, at the height of her stardom, tragically died in a plane crash.  

Based on the bestseller "Aaliyah: More Than a Woman" by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley, the Lifetime Original Movie will be titled "Aaliyah: Princess of R&B" (although it's a working title), the first movie about the beloved artist, will be filmed this summer and premiere in the Fall.

Quite a fast turnaround!

Here's Lifetime's official synopsis for the film from the press release I received:

Before Beyonce and before Rihanna, self-proclaimed “street but sweet” Aaliyah was poised to become a global icon with top-selling albums, a hot movie career and an adoring fan base. But behind the spotlight, Brooklyn-born, Detroit-raised Aaliyah Dana Haughton struggled to succeed in a tough business while staying grounded in the midst of her growing celebrity. The film follows the beautiful and talented performer’s inspirational journey, from her debut on "Star Search" at the age of ten to the challenges she faced during her rise to become the Princess of R&B. On August 25, 2001, at the height of her popularity, her life was tragically cut short when a plane carrying the singer and some of her video crew crashed after takeoff from a Bahamian runway. Although just 22-years-old at the time of her death, Aaliyah continues to lead a legacy as Billboard’s tenth most famous R&B artist of the past 25 years and one of the recording industry’s most successful artists in history.

Platinum-selling artist Zendaya will record four of Aaliyah’s songs for the film, including many of her hit singles.

“Replay,” her first single from her self-titled 2013 debut full-length album, sold 1,000,000 copies in the U.S. this January, and the music video now has more than 54 million views on YouTube.  

The busy multi-hyphenate will also star in the upcoming Disney Channel Original Series "K.C. Undercover" and the Disney Channel Original Movie, "Zapped," which premieres this summer. She starred as Raquel “Rocky” Blue on the hit Disney Channel series "Shake It Up."

Zendaya was also the break out star and runner-up on Season 16 of "Dancing with the Stars."

Her casting comes on the heels of news that Yaya DaCosta Alafia has been cast to play Whitney Houston in another Lifetime biopic - that one directed by Angela Bassett, her directorial debut. Clearly Lifetime hopes to rip some ratings and profits from biopics on the lives of black musicians.

I should also note VH1's TLC biopic which was a hit for that network when it premiered last fall.

"Aaliyah:Princess of R&B" will be produced by Aaliyah Productions, Inc. Howard Braunstein ("The Informant!") and Debra Martin Chase ("The Princess Diaries," "Sparkle") will serve as executive producers.  

Bradley Walsh ("Turn the Beat Around") will direct from a script written by Michael Elliot ("Brown Sugar").

This article is related to: Zendaya, TV News

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