Zendaya, 17, already was a Disney Channel star when she was selected to play the late singer Aaliyah in a biopic.

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Zendaya, 17, already was a Disney Channel star when she was selected to play the late singer Aaliyah in a biopic.

Rising star embraces Aaliyah role

By Alicia Rancilio

The Associated Press

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NEW YORK – For anyone concerned about who would play Aaliyah in a film about her life, the teen who earned the role – 17-year-old Zendaya – said 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, the day after Lifetime announced she would play the role of the R&B singer.

Zendaya said she’s the right choice for the part because, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

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

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

“I can’t please everybody,” she said. “What I can do is work really hard and you know, just continue to show her legacy.”

Zendaya was almost 5 when Aaliyah died. She said she remembers watching the singer’s music videos when her older sister would babysit her. The 17-year-old now is recording some of Aaliyah’s songs for the film.

After making her debut on the Disney Channel series “Shake It Up” in 2010, Zendaya released her first album last year, which featured the platinum hit “Replay.” She said 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,” Zendaya said. “I connect with that.”

Zendaya also stars in the Disney Channel movie “Zapped,” which premieres June 27. She also will 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.