The same day it was announced that Nickelodeon actress Alexandra Shipp would take the lead in the upcoming Aaliyah biopic, its former star, Zendaya Coleman, has released a statement.
Coleman exited the Lifetime project last month, and is speaking out about why she decided not to play the R&B singer in the film, tentatively titled “Aaliyah:Princess of R&B.” She made the comments over several video posts on her Instagram account Friday (July 18).
“Let me just explain something. The reason why I chose not to do the Aaliyah movie had nothing to do with the haters or people telling me I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t talented enough or I wasn’t black enough. It had absolutely nothing to do with that,” she said. “The main reasons were the production value wasn’t there.”
After the film was announced, there had been reports that Aaliyah’s family had their reservations about the project. According to Aaliyah’s cousin Jomo Hankerson, the network reportedly “didn’t reach out.” Fan reaction to her casting was also mixed.
On the other hand, Zendaya says she tried to connect with the family. “There were complications with the music rights. And I just felt like it wasn’t being handled delicately considering the situation,” she said. “And I tried my best to reach out to the family on my own and I wrote a letter, but I was unable to do so. Therefore I felt not really morally okay with moving forward with the project.”
Zendaya did have kind words for Shipp as she embarks on the role. She added, “With all that being said, congratulations to the new woman playing Aaliyah. I only hope that she does not have to deal with half the haters that I had to deal with. And remember that we are all human beings trying to do what we love to do. Let’s practice motivation and love, not discrimination and hate. Alright, [kisses].”
Talk show host Wendy Williams recently join the film as an executive producer. She announced Shipp’s casting on Friday. Previously, the film’s other executive producer Debra Martin Chase told Billboard that the flick will “honor the legacy” of the chart-topping singer who died in a plane crash in 2001.