Zendaya: Who is the Disney actress playing Aaliyah in new biopic?

Self-help novelost, model and dancer - meet the Disney actress picked to play Aaliyah

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The Independent Online

Zendaya, 17, will play Aaliyah in a biopic about life of the R&B singer who died in a plane crash in 2001.

The US actress will feel familiar with parts of Aaliyah's life in the television film, from her debut on the show Star Search at the age of 10 to her chart success with “Try Again”.

On Twitter, she said the singer had been an "inspiration and influence" and said she wanted to honour her memory.

Zendaya also entered the spotlight at a young age as a main character on the Disney Channel’s series Shake It Up.

The sitcom, which ended in 2013, followed the adventures of her character Raquel “Rocky” Blue and her best friend trying to make it as dancers.

Its success led to a self-titled album, including the single "Replay", that has more than 56 million views on YouTube.

In 2013, Zendaya also became the youngest contestant to appear on Dancing With the Stars, coming second.

Born Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman in Oakland, California, she started modelling at a young age and studied performing arts as well as joining dance troupes.

According to her official website, her name means "to give thanks" in Shona -  a Bantu language native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and dog.

Last year, Zendaya branched out into publishing with her first advice book: Between U and Me: How to Rock Your Tween Years with Style and Confidence.

She can be found on Facebook, with 6.3 million "likes", on Twitter with almost 5 million followers and Instagram, where 3.3 million people follow her posts.