Young, beautiful, and talented, her star was on the rise but the life of recording artist Aaliyah was cut short in a plane crash on Aug. 25, 2001. Now, her tragic but intriguing story comes to Lifetime in the biopic “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” premiering Saturday at 8 p.m.
Based on the bestselling book “Aaliyah: More Than a Woman” by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher John Farley, the two-hour film starring Alexandra Shipp and directed by Bradley Walsh, follows Aaliyah’s (born Aaliyah Haughton) “inspirational journey,” from her debut on “Star Search” at the age of 10 to the challenges she faced during her rise to become the “Princess of R&B.” Tragically, she died at age 22, when a plane carrying the singer and her video crew crashed after takeoff from a Bahamian runway.
Among her hits is “Rock the Boat,” loosely based on the ‘70s hit by Hues Corporation, and according to the network, Aaliyah continues to lead a legacy as Billboard’s tenth most famous R&B artist of the past 25 years and one of the recording industry’s most successful artists in history.
With a screenplay by Michael Elliot (“Brown Sugar”), the film showcases the confidence, charisma and sense of style that was Aaliyah. “I’m a girl you want to bet on,” she asserts. “I succeed at everything I put put my mind to!”
Alexandra Shipp, who bears an astounding resemblance to the seductive singer, starred as KT Rush in the Nickelodeon series “House of Anubis,” and was cast in the role of Aaliyah after Disney star Zendaya Coleman pulled out of the film in July.
In an article published by Hollywoodlife.com, Coleman gave the reason for her exit saying, “Let me just explain something, the reason why I chose not to do the Aaliyah movie had nothing to do with the haters or people telling me that I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t talented enough, or I wasn’t Black enough. The main reasons were the production value wasn’t there, there were complications with the music rights, I just felt like it wasn’t being handled delicately considering the situation... Therefore, I felt not really morally okay with moving forward with the project.”
“Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B,” executive produced by talk show host Wendy Williams, along with Howard Braunstein and Debra Martin Chase, also stars Rachael Crawford and Sterling Jarvis as Aaliyah’s parents Diane and Mike Haughton; A.J. Saudin as Aaliyah’s brother Rashad Haughton; and Lyriq Bent as her uncle and music manager Barry Hankerson. The film also stars Anthony Grant as Damon Dash, Izaak Smith as Timbaland, Elise Neal as Gladys Knight and Chattrisse Dolabaille as Missy Elliot.