The upcoming Lifetime network biopic on late R&B artist Aaliyah will include information about her contentious relationship with R. Kelly, the New York Post reports. The two singers were allegedly – and illegally – married in 1994, when Aaliyah was just 15 and Kelly was 27. Aaliyah, who died in a 2001 plane crash at age 22, denied the secret ceremony throughout her life – though a marriage certificate later appeared, with her age falsely listed as 18. (Her parents later reportedly annulled the marriage.)
The film, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, is based on the bestselling biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, written by former Time music editor Christopher John Farley. The biopic, which will trace the singer’s life from age 10 until her death, is expected to begin shooting this summer and premiere in the fall.
“Aaliyah’s personal and professional relationship with R. Kelly will be explored with care in the film as we set out to depict her life with the utmost respect,” executive producer Debra Martin Chase told the paper. “Above all else, it’s our hope to inspire an entirely new generation with her music and larger-than-life talent.”
But Aaliyah’s family isn’t happy with the project and is attempting to stall production. “Aaliyah was more than a singer, she was – and is still – an American music icon whose legacy continues to live on and influence today’s music culture, just as Ray Charles, Notorious B.I.G., Selena and Johnny Cash,” the family said in a statement.
“Considering the magnitude of her fans’ affection alone, she deserves to have a tribute much more grand than a television network debut that won’t even consider the perspectives of those who were closest to Aaliyah. Disregarding the families and dishonoring the legacies of celebrated figures who have passed on, big networks want to exploit their stories for a buck. We’re here to make it clear that it’s not okay!”
Seventeen year-old Disney Channel favorite Zendaya will star in the title role and also record four of Aaliyah’s songs for the film. The actress previously starred in the original Disney series Shake It Up! and was the runner-up on Season 16 of Dancing With the Stars. She also released her debut studio album, Zendaya, last September.