According to multiple reports, Disney star Zendaya Coleman has been cast in the upcoming Lifetime biopic on R&B star Aaliyah.

Coleman & her father.

Coleman & her father.

Nearly 13 years after her tragic death in a plane crash, Aaliyah is still as popular as ever with artists like Drake, Chris Brown, and Jay-Z invoking her name. Despite fierce lobbying from a slew of actresses, 17-year-old Coleman beat out the competition to claim the starring role.

Born in Oakland to Kazembe Ajamu Coleman and Claire Stoermer, Coleman trained in the student conservatory program of the California Shakespeare where her mother worked as the house manager. In addition to her theater training, the teen appeared on Disney Channel’s Shake It Up! and ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Like Aaliyah, Coleman is a triple threat who acts, dances, and sings, even releasing a single that spent 21 weeks on Billboard’s Top 100 charts.

While many have celebrated the choice of Coleman to play the beloved singer due to her stacked resume, others have accused producers of “whitewashing” Aaliyah’s story given Coleman’s biracial background.

Famed casting director Tracy Twinkie Byrd defended the choice to pick Coleman for the role.

Zendaya embodies everything you want in a Actress to play Aaliyah. She is a Poised, Professional, STRONG Actress (studied at California Shakespeare Theater and American Conservatory Theater). A Triple Threat Actor, Singer Dancer. She LOVES AALIYAH and will do a Wonderful Job! She is of mixed ethnicity. Her name is Bantu (Zimbabwe) meaning “To Give Thanks”.

Let’s not Hate on it but Congratulate! She is a GREAT CHOICE!

Tentatively titled Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, the film will be based on Christopher John Farley’s biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman. Filming is set to begin later this year.

What do you think about the choice of Zendaya Coleman to play Aaliyah?

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