“Baby Girl,” better known as Aaliyah, will forever be an R&B treasure. From the time she first debuted on the 90s scene with jeans that draped around her tiny waist and straightened tresses peeking from the bottom of her skully hat, she captivated an audience of loyal fans who carry on her legacy after her untimely death.
So when Lifetime announced they set out to bring Aaliyah’s story to life through the TV film “Aaliyah: Princess Of R&B,” there was understandably, intense backlash from Aaliyah’s family and following. From the casting choices down to musical rights, Aaliyah’s family expressed their disdain for the project from the very beginning and blocked the network from using Aaliyah’s music.
Former Disney star Zendaya Coleman was originally cast to star in the film, but the decision was greeted with controversy. Coleman eventually dropped out of the movie, that promises to explore Aaliyah’s relationship with R. Kelly, and Alexandra Shipp was announced as her replacement.
Alexandra admitted, in our candid chat, that she was hesitant to join the film in the midst of so much controversy, but found it hard to turn it down after she fell in love with the script.
“I read the script and spoke with Debra Martin Chase, who’s the executive producer on it, and I loved it. I couldn’t help it,” she said. “I really loved the project.”
The fact that Aaliyah’s family wasn’t on-board with the project bothered Alexandra. She attempted to reach out to Aaliyah’s loved ones and even volunteered to fly out to meet with them in an effort to convince them of her positive intentions on playing Aaliyah.
“I said give me an address. Aaliyah was very close with her brother and I’m very close with mine. I asked my brother if he would hop on a plane, or rent a car and we can go and we could sit down. And, I could explain how much I admired and respected their daughter and her career and how much I would like to portray her in this film and I would love for them to be apart of it,” she said.
Without their approval or assistance, Alexandra absorbed as much of Aaliyah’s demeanor as she could through Youtube videos and interviews found online. While Alexandra admits that she’s nervous about the reception of the Wendy Williams-produced film, she didn’t let it stop her from taking a chance on the role.
Watch the clip, above, and be sure to tune in to “Aaliyah: Princess Of ‘R&B'” tonight on Lifetime at 8pm to see how Alexandra does on the small screen. In the mean time, check out this sneak peek from the film:
“Aaliyah: Princess Of R&B” airs tomorrow on Lifetime at 8pm.
Check out this clip from the film: