Oakland's Zendaya Coleman Sees Backlash After Being Cast to Play Aaliyah in Lifetime Movie

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Zendaya Coleman

    Zendaya Coleman’s casting as late R&B singer Aaliyah in the upcoming Lifetime dramatization of her life is causing a lot of controversy, mostly because of the color of her skin.

    Also, many don't think the Oakland 17-year-old, well-known for her roles on Disney’s “Shake It Up,” and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” is mature enough to play the part, especially when it comes to the part of the story that focuses on Aaliyah's tumultuous marriage to R. Kelly.

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    Aaliyah, a Grammy winning artist and actress who starred in "Queen of the Damned," died in a plane crash over the Bahamas on August 25, 2001.

    Zendaya was born to a white mother and a black father and, in her words, she is fully aware of the controversy. Yet, she contends she is right for the part because she embodies the late Aaliyah’s talent.

    Like Aaliyah, Zendaya is a singer, actress, and dancer.

    But the Oakland School for the Arts graduate has many critics.

    Voodoo Chile tweeted: “There are plenty of non-mixed brown skinned black American women who could portray Aaliyah.”

    However, many fans are excited to see Zendaya play the role. Friend and Disney star Trevor Jackson said the role is meant to be.

    Zendaya’s casting as Aaliyah is not the first time an entertainer has been criticized for playing a part of someone who does not share his or her skin color. 

    In 2013, for instance, Johnny Depp, who is white, felt backlash for playing “Tonto,” a Native American character in the Lone Ranger. And, in 2007, Angelina Jolie played the role of woman who had a Cuban mother in "A Mighty Heart."

    Hip-hop artist Niatia Jessica Kirkland, better known as “Lil’ Mama,” had a similar experience when some thought she was an odd choice to play Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in the TLC film CrazySexyCool.

    Kirkland lent her support to Zendaya on social media.

    “Congratulations to this young sister," she posted on Instagram. "Girl you are going to kill it as Aaliyah. I know that this is a dream come true for you, as playing Left Eye was for me. If people have doubts about your performance... Let it fuel your greatness, because there is no testimony without a test! Your are a phenomenal talent and I wish you the best Zendaya! God Bless you.”