As someone who has seen her fair share of biopics recently, I warned myself to keep an open mind when watching Lifetime’s Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. Considering that I had already written about it ad nauseam, I knew the movie would touch upon the controversial relationship between Aaliyah and R. Kelly, especially since Wendy Williams was one of the executive producers.
During Williams’ radio days, she didn’t mince words when the alleged relationship between the then-26-year-old Kelly and the 15-year-old Aaliyah was exposed. So I knew that the matter would play a huge role in the movie.
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B takes a look at the young singer’s rise to fame with the help of her uncle Barry Hankerson. Aaliyah (Alexandra Shipp) was primed to be a star by Hankerson (Lyriq Bent), and the movie does a good job of showing that. In one of the few poignant moments in the film, Aaliyah can be seen getting a pep talk from her aunt Gladys Knight (Elise Neal) during an appearance she was making with the legendary singer. Neal, who got only a few minutes of screen time, was actually dead-on as Knight. If there is ever a biopic about Knight, the role should definitely go to Neal—just not on Lifetime, please.
I get it. Controversy sells. And the relationship between Kelly (Clé Bennett) and Aaliyah was not only controversial but also illegal. But I was not expecting the first half of the movie to focus on it.