Zendaya Coleman Could Be Dropped From Aaliyah Biopic, Replaced With Rihanna

Zendaya Coleman may be dropped from an Aaliyah biopic and will be replaced with singer Rihanna, reports from a Hollywood insider say.

Zendaya was picked to play the late R&B singer in a Lifetime dramatization, but the casting decision was met with some backlash. Many thought that the 17-year-old actress, who was known for her role on Disney’s Shake It Up and ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, was too young to play the role and didn’t have the right resume to portray the singer.

The movie deals in part with Aaliyah’s secret marriage to singer R. Kelly, so many believed a Disney actress didn’t have the right chops for it.

Others criticized the show’s production for selecting the light-skinned Zendaya Coleman to play Aaliyah. Zendaya, who has a white mother and black father, acknowledged the controversy but said as a singer, actress, and dancer herself, she could channel Aaliyah creatively.

Many are stepping up to support Zendaya in her role as Aaliyah. Niatia Jessica Kirkland, a hip-hop artist known as “Lil’ Mama,” experienced a similar backlash when she was picked to play Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez in the TLC move CrazySexyCool. She said Zendaya was a great choice.

“Congratulations to this young sister,” she posted on Instagram. “Girl you are going to kill it as Aaliyah. I know that this is a dream come true for you, as playing Left Eye was for me. If people have doubts about your performance… Let it fuel your greatness, because there is no testimony without a test! Your are a phenomenal talent and I wish you the best Zendaya! God Bless you.”

But the controversy may be getting to the movie’s executives. MediaTakeOut reported that they are starting to look for options other than Zendaya, and fellow singer Rihanna could be a frontrunner.

“The [Zendaya] backlash is huge,” the source said. “Either the network is going to have to replace her, or shut down production. Right now they’re negotiating with Rihanna to play Aaliyah. And [Rihanna’s] interested.”

But the report didn’t cite any specifics on exactly how or when Zendaya would be dropped from the Aaliyah movie or when Rihanna could jump in.