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Faces & Names: Zendaya exits controversial biopic

Zendaya will no longer play the iconic R&B singer Aaliyah in biopic planned by Lifetime, the network said on Sunday.

Lifetime’s confirmation follows a statement via Zendaya’s representative to E! News earlier on Sunday saying the 17-year-old Disney star “is no longer involved in the project.”

The proposed film project had been mired in controversy with both fans of the singer and her family expressing disapproval of the project, including fan petitions seeking to shut down the production.

According to Lifetime’s announcement, Zendaya was also meant to re-record a selection of Aaliyah’s songs. According to E!’s sources, Zendaya left the project amid “production issues, including problems obtaining the rights to Aaliyah’s music.”

Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah’s cousin and president of her label Blackground Records, said that the family was ready to withhold whatever rights it holds regarding Aaliyah from the production.

Although Zendaya was targeted by Aaliyah fans who didn’t approve of her casting, Hankerson wanted to make it clear that Aaliyah’s family had nothing against the young singer and actress.

“I think she’s a lovely young girl,” Hankerson said. “I have a problem with the whole production, so casting would be a part of it. But I never wanted to single her out, because I think that she’s a good, young actress and that she’s just trying to take an opportunity that was presented to her.”