Last week it was revealed that Disney actress and singer Zendaya Coleman will star in an upcoming biopic about Aaliyah, the late musician who died tragically in a plane crash in 2001. Since the news broke, fans have criticised her casting in Aaliyah: Princess of R&B – not because Zendaya can't sing or act, but because she's "not black enough".
There are PLENTY non mixed brown skinned black American women who could portray Aaliyah. They don't want them tho. Ya'll don't see it either— Voodoo Chile (@thesoulasylum) June 16, 2014
Aaliyah was a brown skinned, petite woman. Who is cherub faced, ivory skinned girl, Harpo??— Vee (@Vivaciously_Val) June 16, 2014
Like, no, an actor playing a real person doesn't have to be their twin. But looking somewhat like them REALLY helps. Zendaya as Aaliyah? No.— Olivia A. Cole (@RantingOwl) June 16, 2014
"A lot of people say I’m not black enough," the biracial actress told TMZ. "Half black is just enough. It doesn’t matter what colour you are, it’s about how you portray the character. For those that don’t know, Angela Bassett and Tina Turner, they look nothing alike but she was that character so I think that’s what it’s all about." Bassett famously played Tina Turner in the 1993 film What's Love Got To Do With It.
The controversy isn't solely to do with Zendaya taking the lead role: Aaliyah's family are outraged that the film is going ahead at all and have asked fans to protest online to stop it from going ahead.
In a statement, Aaliyah's family said: "Disregarding the families and dishonoring the legacies of celebrated figures who have passed on, big networks want to exploit their stories for a buck. We’re here to make it clear that it’s not okay!"
"Lifetime Television is trying to dictate the status of our heroes, our heroines and – in this case – our beloved Aaliyah. We implore everyone to call Lifetime Television, send emails and bombard social media so they know we demand respect for our cultural icons."
What do you think – is Zendaya a good fit as Aaliyah, or should the biopic be canned altogether?
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot
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