Aaliyah, or nah?

The life and career of iconic musical legend, Aaliyah was revisited on Saturday, November 15th when the Lifetime Network premiered the biopic entitled, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. The role was played by Drumline: A New Beat lead, Alexandra Shipp. Audience anticipation of the Lifetime movie had been stirring up so much controversy since the release of the TLC story on VH1 months before. But now that viewers finally witnessed it for themselves, the backlash is real. Social media black subcultures exploded with disappointment. From the subpar casting to the lack of Aaliyah’s actual songs being featured, fans felt the movie was an insult to the beautiful songstress’ efforts in the short time she lived on this earth. 

The movie’s executive producer and popular gossip show host, Wendy Williams, defended the so called “epic fail” of the movie by saying, “Whether you loved or hated it, you watched.” Fans and black culture enthusiasts expressed their distaste with Williams by saying that we owe it to Aaliyah to uplift her legacy the proper way. Many feel Williams has done little for the black community because of all the exploitation she’s presented throughout her career. She has little validity to the black world. So now, it doesn’t help Williams that she is being pointed out for doing a disservice to Aaliyah by producing almost a whitewashing of her life.

Maybe these opinions have some fact involved. But who really knows if Williams is to blame? Although based on her comments it is clear the ratings were more important to her than her duty to the Romeo Must Die star and her fans. I for one feel that like with most shows, the behind the scenes are altered from production stand points. A lot of times, these big name networks and production companies have writers who don’t have the overall purpose of the movie’s best interest at heart. So what they do is, tell a story that will get the most ratings whether the message is demeaning or hateful and slap in a person’s name on it for others to attack instead of them. And this may very well be what happened with Wendy Williams and the production.

Other stars who had an amazing relationship with Aaliyah, like producer Timbaland called the movie “BS.” It is also a popular opinion that the feature was doomed from the beginning without the consent of Aaliyah’s family for the rights to her music. The family felt their beloved baby girl deserved a major motion picture, which may very well be materializing soon under Aaliyah’s uncle, Barry Hankerson, in 2015 where singer B. Simone will play the Tommy Hilfiger model. The TV biopic had a rocky road. The choice for the lead was originally Dancing with the Stars participant and child actress, Zendaya Coleman. Immediate backlash from fans included their distaste for the resemblance between the two beauties and eventually Coleman dropped out of the movie altogether because of poor production value and lack of consent for Aaliyah’s music from the family.

It is clear that whatever the real story is, audiences were left dissatisfied, confused, and overall disgusted with the film. In hopes of a turnaround, the rumored 2015 production of an Aaliyah biopic in theatres are leaving fans craving more in the celebration of Aaliyah Dana Haughton. But this failure of a Lifetime movie condemned by fans will not be forgotten, leaving fans everywhere asking, “Is this really Aaliyah or nah?”