Arts and Entertainment
Shipp charts course for Lifetime’s Aaliyah biopic
One in a million girls would give anything to play the iconic role of the late R&B singer Aaliyah — and Alexandra Shipp was more than ready to grab the spotlight after Zendaya Coleman dropped out of Lifetime’s biopic, “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B,” airing at 8 p.m. Saturday. “What people don’t know is that I had 10 days between completing [the movie] ‘Drumline 2’ and getting into the character of Aaliyah,” says Shipp, 23, who took over the role when Coleman, the former Disney Channel star (“Shake It Up”), suddenly exited the movie — after backlash from fans who said she “wasn’t black enough” for the role. (Coleman cited concerns about the production as her reasons for bowing out.)
Aaliyah, born Aaliyah Dana Haughton, was only 22 when she was killed, along with eight others, in a 2001 plane crash in The Bahamas after filming a music video there.
“I’m not worried what people will say,” Shipp said. “I am more excited than fearful about the premiere. ‘Drumline 2’ was a good introduction for people to see my work. So, this time around, people will get to see who I am — not only when it comes to acting but the singing and dancing as well.”
The movie opens with Aaliyah performing on the TV show “Star Search” at the age of 10, and goes on to chronicle her life and career, which included several huge albums and hit singles including “Back & Forth.”
“My favorite song to perform was ‘The One I Gave My Heart To’ and ‘Gotta Give it Up,’ ” Shipp says. “Those songs just had a great beat and a groove to them and it was so sweet yet street — just like Aaliyah.”