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Zendaya looking over her shoulder

This Is Why Zendaya Decided to Back Out of the Aaliyah Biopic

Gettyimages | Kristy Sparow
By Brooklyn Denton

Back in 2014, Lifetime released a controversial biopic chronicling the life of the late R&B legend Aaliyah. The film was called Aaliyah: Princess of R&B and although it starred Alexandra Shipp as the "Rock the Boat" singer, the woman originally slated to play that role was Zendaya, who was at the time most known for her work with Disney Channel.

The Hollywood starlet would eventually back out although she previously accepted the role. Now, the icon has revealed the why behind her decision to step down.

The Lifetime biopic had garnered its fair share of controversy even before filming started. Talks of Aaliyah's family not approving the final project and not providing Lifetime with the rights to her music was very telling to audiences how they felt about the movie being made.

Based on Christopher Farley's book, Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, Zendaya signed on to the movie to play the singer who passed away tragically in a plane crash. She was also supposed to record some songs as the "One in a Million" singer.

In addition to the fallout initiated by Aaliyah's family's push back, admirers and critics rallied around the family in support of the late vocalist and didn't approve of Zendaya portraying the R&B great.

Speculation suggested that those two things ultimately led Zendaya to her decision to back out of the film weeks after signing on. Lifetime released a statement following Zendaya leaving the film. "We are sad Zendaya will no longer portray Aaliyah. Production is currently on hold," it read.

X-Men actress Alexandra Shipp stepped in to fill the void. The film would go on to become one of Lifetime's highest-rated movies for the year, but critics and fans had a field day over the quality of the material. Zendaya spoke on her decision to leave the biopic in a series of Instagram videos.

"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. The main reasons were the production value wasn’t there," she explained.

Zendaya also expressed how important it was for her to receive approval from Aaliyah's family, given the tragedy surrounding the legend's untimely death and how delicate her legacy is as a result. "There were complications with the music rights. And I just felt like it wasn’t being handled delicately considering the situation," she continued. "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 OK with moving forward with the project."

Zendaya concluded her message by giving a shout out and a congratulations to Shipp who would be stepping into the role in her place. "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]," she finished.

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