Aaliyah vs. Zendaya — Comparing the Late Singer to the Actress Set to Play Her
Zendaya and Aaliyah — Do you see the potential? (Getty Images/Blackground Records)
It's not easy to step into the shoes of a late icon. But Zendaya Coleman is doing exactly that.
Lifetime announced on Monday that the Disney star, 17, has been cast to play R&B singer Aaliyah in the cable channel's upcoming biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B.
Aaliyah was at the peak of her career when, at the age of 22, she died in a plane crash in the Bahamas, just after shooting the music video for her single "Rock the Boat."
Unlike the Whitney Houston biopic that Lifetime also has in development (which Angela Bassett is directing, and which will star America's Next Top Model finalist Yaya DaCosta as Houston), the Aaliyah TV movie will include music. Zendaya will record four of Aaliyah's biggest songs for the film.
[Related: Miss You: 6 Women Who Remind Us of Aaliyah]
Zendaya is best known for her work on the Disney Channel show Shake It Up!, but came to wider national prominence during Season 16 of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, where she became the show's youngest-ever contestant. She was partnered with Val Chmerkovskiy and finished as runner-up to Kellie Pickler.
So how good was this casting choice? There's no doubt that Zendaya bears a certain resemblance to Aaliyah, even though her skin tone is a bit lighter. They're both known by their first names. Zendaya also has an album of her own under her belt and one Top 40 hit, "Replay," from 2013. And both women are actresses as well as singers: Aaliyah starred in the 2000 films Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned (which was released posthumously).
"I really want it to be perfect for her and show young people what she was able to do and what she accomplished," Zendaya told the Associated Press. "I think the most important thing is to look at it in a different way... I can't please everybody. I can't make everybody happy. But what I can do is work really hard and, you know, just continue to show her legacy and show what she was able to do. All I'm focused on is really portraying her in the best light possible."
The question of whether or not Zendaya can nail the role remains to be seen. We've decided to do a side-by-side comparison of both of them in action.