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How will fans and viewers react to her relationship on screen with R. Kelly? 

Chris: R. Kelly was apart of her life. He’s not the entire movie, but he was apart of her life emotionally and a musical influence. The actor who played R. Kelly was really fantastic and I hope the viewers and her fans will appreciate all he brought to her life. We’re excited about it.

Debra: The evidence is there that they were married. We tried to be very tasteful and respectful our portrayal, but it’s there.

Chris: They’ve published a wedding certificate. It’s not fiction or drama, it’s facts. It’s a public record.

Why do you think this story is so important?

Chris: I thought this was important to tell because Aaliyah added something new to the hip-hop culture. She found a place for women to raise their voice. Beyonce said she was someone who deeply influenced her. A lot of people wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Aaliyah. . Hopefully people will look at it and say ‘Hey, I can do that too.’  She has a very active fan base that loves her very much to this day but for new generations and people who weren’t there at her prime we wanted to make sure they knew who she was and to celebrate her life.

What would you like for the viewers to take away from the movie?

Debra: For me it’s on a more human level, she was just a really special young woman. At the time of her death, I was developing Sparkle for her. I had been in communication with her and I remember we had lunch – tea – at The Peninsula a month before she died. She was captivating, charming, smart, really intellectually curious, lovely– she was really special. For me personally, and for the team in general, we wanted people to realize that.

Chris: One thing I was struck by when I interviewed Aaliyah was her sense of herself and musical history, her grace and her sense of style. She was a great role model, not just for artists but for people who listen to her music. I was so glad when Lifetime decided to make this movie. They’re celebrating young women. Saying ‘Yes, your lives matter, let’s celebrate Aaliyah and your culture as well.’

Have you tried to reach out to her family?

Chris: We reached out to the family before it was filmed and they chose not to cooperate. We absolutely reached out and Lifetime reached out. That’s the status. They choose not to cooperate

Have they seen the movie?

Chris: Not that I’m aware of.

Media correspondent Shirley Vernae Williams is a NYC based TV producer who specializes in all things productions. From overseeing series for networks such as VH1, A&E & WeTV, Shirley also produces original content, writes and brings us exclusive interviews and coverage. Be sure to follow Shirley on Twitter @ShirleyVernae. To contact Shirley or read more about her visit

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EXCLUSIVE: Music, Love, And Controversy – Behind the Scenes On ‘Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B’  was originally published on

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