In the nearly 13 years since she died, Aaliyah has gone from a well-established young R&B star with big pop potential to a full-blown icon whose appeal extends across every conceivable genre line. While there have been a number of attempts to bottle and sell her posthumous superstardom, few have actually made it into fans’ hands. (The world may never know if the album-length tribute/collaboration that Drake had planned at one point would have been brilliant or just ghoulish.)
Last year Wall Street Journal editor Christopher John Farley published a slim biography of the singer called Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, which Brown Sugar writer Michael Elliot and director Bradley Walsh (who previously helmed the Flashdance sorta-remake Turn the Beat Around) are now adapting into a biopic for Lifetime. While R&B fans may not be familiar with Elliot and Walsh, they should be well-acquainted with 17-year-old Zendaya Coleman, who’s signed on to play the lead role.
Coleman is best known as the star of Disney Channel’s Shake It Up! and as a breakout performer on Dancing With the Stars, but it’s her work as a singer that makes news of her casting especially exciting. Her 2013 single “Replay” spent 21 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at a respectable number 40, which suggests that she has enough star power to do the role justice. More importantly the song’s interplay between its futuristic club beat and Coleman’s sugary vocals prove that she already has a decent Aaliyah impression already worked out.