Zendaya Coleman Responds to Critics About Aaliyah Role: ‘Half-Black Is Just Enough’ 

Zendaya Coleman and her father think she is black enough to play Aaliyah. 

Zendaya Coleman and her father, Kazembe Ajamu
Zendaya Coleman and her father, Kazembe Ajamu Screenshot/TMZ         

Earlier this month, Lifetime announced its upcoming Aaliyah: Princess of R&B biopic, which will be based on the best-seller Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by former Time magazine music editor Christopher Farley. According to Lifetime, the movie “follows the beautiful and talented performer’s 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. On Aug. 25, 2001, at the height of her popularity, her life was tragically cut short when a plane carrying the singer and some of her video crew crashed after takeoff from a Bahamian runway.”

Along with announcing the upcoming movie, the network also announced that the lead role was going to Disney star Zendaya Coleman. Coleman, who’s also a singer and actress, starred as Raquel “Rocky” Blue on the hit Disney Channel series Shake It Up Shake It Up. Coleman was also a runner-up on season 16 of Dancing With the Stars.

Not everyone agreed that Coleman would make a good Aaliyah—not because she can’t sing or dance, because she’s already proved that she can do both, but because she’s too light. 

But does it really matter that a mixed woman is playing Aaliyah? Or if she’s not exactly the same skin tone as Aaliyah? If you take a look at some of Aaliyah’s photos, it’s not as if Coleman’s and Aaliyah’s complexions are that different.

Then there’s the issue of Aaliyah’s ethnicity. Both of Aaliyah’s parents are black, so to some it’s obvious that the role should have gone to a black actress and not a biracial one.

Last week TMZ caught up with Coleman as she was leaving an airport, and she had a few comments to say about the issues surrounding her complexion and ethnicity.  The TMZ reporter asked the actress about the talk surrounding the question: Does color matter?

“Well, a lot of people say that I’m not black enough,” Coleman stated while introducing her father, Kazembe Ajamu, who’s black. “Half-black is just enough. It doesn’t matter what color you are; it’s how you portray the character.”