Never Cave Under Pressure! Why Zendaya Should Never Have Quit Aaliyah’s Biopic

July 1, 2014  |  

“She’s too young!” critics shouted. “She looks nothing like her!” the Twittersphere yelled. “She ain’t black enough!” others shrieked.

Zendaya, once poised to play the Princess of R&B in a Lifetime biopic, buckled under pressure after a social media blitzkrieg of “You can’t play Aaliyah!”

If there’s ever a time to emerge as a shining star, it’s when everyone underestimates your capabilities — then wham! Hit ’em with a stand-out performance. Unfortunately for Zendaya Coleman, she missed that chance — the chance pull a Lil Mama (à la Left Eye in the TLC biopic) and knock that Aaliyah performance out the park.

She caved.

Where did it all go wrong? She was, at one point, elated about the new Lifetime project. “I was really, really psyched to hear the news,” she said on 106 & Park. “I love [Aaliyah] so much. She’s influenced so much of what I’ve done so far.”

The internet, though, didn’t share in her excitement — at all. Twitter disintegrated any bit of confidence Zendaya had to take on the daunting Aaliyah role:

“Zendaya is still an amateur Disney Channel actress. Can’t believe they cast her as Aaliyah,” one said.

“Zendaya is too light to play Aaliyah, tbh,” another tweeted.

“Half Black is just enough. It doesn’t matter what color you are, it’s about how you portray the character,” Zendaya said, responding to the bitter backlash.

Though Zendaya’s statement exhibited moxie, she backed out of the role anyway. Bad move! And I’ll tell you why. Instead of allowing herself to be warped by all the negativity, Zendaya should have used her haters as free promotion. “Thank you for getting my name trending on Twitter,” she should have said. “News about my film is now spreading like wildfire!”

Take Lil Mama for example, one-third of the CrazySexyCool TLC biopic cast. Almost everyone doubted her. “What do you mean the ‘Lipgloss’ rapper chick is gonna play Left Eye?!” But Lil Mama whooped her detractors’ butts with her acting chops. What do her critics have to say about her now? Crickets! And Keke Palmer, who didn’t seem to have enough Chilli-esque baby hairs for people’s liking, also received praise after protest.

“I’ll never forget how I was unmercifully dragged when I was casted to play Chili lmao! Now, that’s all I hear I look like!” Palmer said.

Could you imagine if Lil Mama and Palmer heeded the social media wolf pack and opted out of the TLC biopic? They would have missed an opportunity of a lifetime! Instead, they redirected their frustrated, embittered energy into focus and dedication. They proved to viewers, once and for all, that they can portray a seamless depiction of Left Eye and Chilli. The harshest critics ended up eating their words…

But why couldn’t Zendaya do the same?

What Zendaya fails to realize is that where there is controversy, there is passion. And where there is passion, there is a large audience. Yes, people have scathingly mean opinions, but in turn, all this hullabaloo will materialize into a massive number of viewers (TLC reeled in 4.5 million!).

Let’s be honest. Skeptics and fans alike will flock to watch the Lifetime premiere of Aaliyah: Princess of R&B — not Zendaya’s next Disney Channel original film. And that’s the truth. Ms. Coleman, unfortunately, threw in the towel and missed a pivotal role in her acting career. And this is a lesson not only for Zendaya, but for all us — never let anyone, especially social network nobodies, determine your own aptitude for greatness.

While Zendaya has relieved herself of the encumbrance of the Aaliyah role, she must face a new reality: It’ll be hard to just “dust yourself off and try again.” Promising roles such as an Aaliyah biopic don’t come by very often…

The family had issues with the movie, but she could’ve let Lifetime handle that. In order to progress in your career, you need to challenge yourself. If you never “Rock the Boat,” how can you ever be “At Your Best”?

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