Meet the 17-year-old playing Aaliyah in new film

Zendaya says she connects with Aaliyah because of her young age. Photo/AP
Zendaya says she connects with Aaliyah because of her young age. Photo/AP

For anyone concerned about who would play Aaliyah in a film about her life, the girl who earned the role 17-year-old Zendaya says it mattered to her, too.

"I really want it to be perfect for her and show young people what she was able to do and what she accomplished," the Disney Channel star said in an interview Tuesday, a day after Lifetime announced she would play the role of the R&B singer.

Zendaya says she's the right choice for the part because "if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself."

Aaliyah was killed in 2001 at age 22 when her plane crashed after takeoff from a Bahamian runway. She dominated R&B and pop charts, earning platinum-plus albums and racking hits with songs like Try Again, 'Back & Forth and Are You That Somebody?

Zendaya, who was the runner-up on Dancing With the Stars last year, says she's aware the role comes with a lot of scrutiny.

"I can't please everybody ... what I can do is work really hard and you know, just continue to show her legacy," she said.

Zendaya was almost five at the time Aaliyah died. She says she remembers watching the singer's music videos when her older sister would babysit her.

Zendaya is recording some of Aaliyah's songs for the film. Zendaya, who made her debut on the Disney Channel series Shake It Up in 2010, released her first album last year, which featured the platinum hit Replay.

She says her success as a young star helps her relate to Aaliyah, who released her debut album at age 15.

"I feel like she grew up so young and she grew up in the industry ... and she just had to deal with so much," she said. "I connect with that."

Zendaya also stars in the Disney Channel movie Zapped, which premieres June 27. She will also co-produce and act in the network's upcoming show K.C. Undercover.

The Aaliyah film is based on the book Aaliyah: More Than A Woman by music journalist Christopher Farley. Shooting is scheduled for this summer.

- AP

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