The anticipated Lifetime Television Movie Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, which is based on the life of the late singer, broke Twitter on Saturday night, spurring a slew of mixed reactions, including snarky memes and criticism from Timbaland and Missy Elliott, who are depicted in the film.
The film was co-produced by talk show host Wendy Williamsand the songstress and actress is portrayed by Alexandra Shipp, who took to Instagram to respond to the backlash, which had been anticipated by many.
The singer, one of the most popular R&B stars in the United States at the time, died in 2001 at age 22 in a small plane crash in the Bahamas. Controversy began the moment plans for the movie was announced. The film was not authorized by Aaliyah's parents. One of the executive producers, Howard Braunstein, told reporters recently, "We absolutely reached out to them, and Lifetime did too. They chose not to cooperate with it," according to The Washington Post.
"When watching my film tonight, know that I am human," Shipp said. "Know that your words and your opinions are your own and that you may think you know, but until we speak face 2 face, you'll never truly know who I am. That's ok. I can't wait to meet each and every one of my fans one day. Because I'm a fan of them too! I work hard, I put all my effort into whatever I do. At the end of the day I'm just a normal girl who got the opportunity of a lifetime and wouldn't let that go for anything or anyone."
"Because that's what dreams are: they're YOURS," she said "I'm following mine. I encourage and support EVERYONE in doing that for themselves. Because God put this role in my lap, I believe that, and I wasn't going to throw a gift like that away. Y'all can hate, y'all can debate, but one thing the critics won't do is win. God bless and please watch my movie."
Aaliyah began her singing career as a teenager. Her 1994 debut album was titled Age Ain't Nothing but a Number. Over the next decade, she released hits such as "Back & Forth," "Try Again," "One in a Million" and "Miss You" and collaborations with fellow artists and producers Timbaland, Missy Elliot and R. Kelly, who are depicted in the movie. The latter star has not commented about the film.
Aaliyah and R. Kelly secretly wed when she was 15 and he was 28. The marriage was later annulled. The controversy is addressed in Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. Her death is as well, at the end, and the crash is not shown.
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B aired several times on Lifetime on Saturday and spurred #AaliyahthePrincessofRandB and #AaliyahMovie to trend on Twitter all night. Also trending: Wendy Williams and Zendaya, who was the first actress to be given the title role and left the production following criticism over her casting, saying it "wasn't the right" movie for her and that the project felt "rushed."
Check out five key moments and Twitter users' reactions to them below.
1. Aaliyah finds her signature look...but it's a little inconsistent
Her mother, a vocalist and her manager, played by Rachael Crawford, suggests to the singer to change her look by covering one eye with her hair to showcase mystery, taking a page from late '40s film noir femme fatale Veronica Lake.
Throughout the film, her sleek hair pretty much remains OFF her face.
Why Aaliyah hair keep growing?????? ?Monika... (@Omega_HeadGame) November 16, 2014
So they just gonna forget Aaliyah had her hair part to the side ??? The Soul Snatcher . (@keepupwithle) November 16, 2014
2. Aaliyah's parents confront the singer and R. Kelly over their illegal marriage
Her folks completely lose it upon finding out about the news that their daughter, who is not of legal age to have sex, let alone get married, has wed her much older producer Their dramatic confrontation with the couple is super heated, with Aaliyah's dad looking like he's going to punch R. Kelly, played by Clé Bennett, any second, while the R&B star acts like, well, a stereotypical teenager.
Was Aaliyah a R&b star or was she a bratty teenager still living with her parents more concerned about R Kelly than music?? Sta. (@sta_schemin) November 16, 2014
All these r Kelly/aaliyah scenes make me want to vomit. Let's get to Timbaland and Missy please.? Kiana Holley (@KianaLHolley) November 16, 2014
3. Aaliyah knows what she wants...and she's not afraid to ask for it
At a business meeting, Aaliyah insists on working with what is described as two then-relatively unknown producers, Missy Elliott and Timbaland, on her second album. Record executives considered this a major risk, preferring someone who has already produced hits.
4. Enter Timbaland ("Timmy") and Missy Elliott
Her meeting with the two is heartwarming.
"Timmy?" Aaliyah asks in the film.
"He hates when I call him that," Missy Elliott says.
The casting on the Aaliyah movie is based on them hoping we have no idea what Aaliyah, Timbaland, R.Kelly or Missy look like.? Sir Vage; Baby Maker (@iamsupervillain) November 16, 2014
The real Timbaland slammed the movie as "bulls--t" and unleashed a barrage of snarky memes created by others as well as selfie videos on his Instagram page.
"Hope yall not watching this!!!!!!!!" he said, adding, "People! Thanks for the comments tonight on that bulls--t Aliyah movie! They have felt Timbo's wrath tonight, baby!"
5. Finding love again
The singer was dating Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Damon Dash, about seven and a half years her senior, at the time of her death. The movie shows a sweet moment in which the two flirt with each other at a party, during which a confident and poised Aaliyah calls him out for acting aggressively with his friends and colleagues. The then two share a romantic stroll by the pool.
This part, viewers seemed to like.
Aaliyah and Damon are too silly together.? Aaliyah Fan Page (@Aaliyah_1979) November 16, 2014
Hold on things with Damon and Aaliyah went from 0-100 real quick? nad$ (@_SincerelyNads) November 16, 2014
Aww, Damon and Aaliyah was cute together????? Mercede? (@oddbenz) November 16, 2014
When damon lost her his heart was broken.? Aaliyah Fan Page (@Aaliyah_1979) November 16, 2014