The casting of 17 year old Zendaya Coleman as tragic R'n'B singer Aaliyah has raised more than a few eyebrows since the announcement was made earlier this week. Those who have criticised the decision, have given a host of reasons why Coleman might not be right for the part, including saying she doesn’t resemble the late singer enough and that at 17, she's just too young to take on the role. But for those who might be sceptical about the casting, why not get to know Zendaya a little better first? After all, she might just have a little more in common with Aaliyah than you'd think.

Zendaya ColemanZendaya will play Aaliyah in a Lifetime movie

Much like Aaliyah, Zendaya started her showbiz career at a young age. As a child, she developed her acting skills by performing in productions at the California Shakespeare Theatre where her mother also worked. By the time she hit her teens, Zendaya had numerous stage credits to her name, including roles in productions of Twelfth Night, Once on This Island and Caroline or Change where she took on a male role, playing Joe, the titular character’s son.

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By aged 13, Zendaya had also found work as a model, appearing in commercials, for Sears, Macy’s and a line of 'iCarly' toys alongside Stefanie Scott. But in 2010, the young actress landed her big break in Disney sitcom ‘Shake it Up’, alongside Bella Thorne. Zendaya starred as Rocky Blue, a young dancer trying to make it after landing a spot on a Chicago show. The series proved a hit for Disney, and its success led to the cast releasing three albums with Zendaya taking the spotlight on single ‘Something to Dance For’ which charted in 2012. But after three successful seasons ‘Shake It Up’ was unexpectedly cancelled by the channel in 2013.

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While her Disney series might have come to an end, 2013 proved to be an important year for the young actress and singer. In March she joined the cast of ‘Dancing With The Stars’ 16th series, becoming the show’s youngest ever contestant. Partnered with professional Val Chmerkovskiy, Zendaya eventually came in second place, loosing out to Derek Hough and Kellie Pickler. Aside from acting and dancing Zendaya has also embarked on a music career, releasing her her debut album last September. The self titled album featured the single ‘Replay’, co-written by Zendaya which became her highest charting single so far, reaching number 40 and becoming certified platinum in the US.

Zendaya ColemanZendaya is a singer, dancer and actress

At just 17, Zendaya’s star is still very much on the rise. Alongside her recent casting as Aaliyah, next year will see her take the lead in a new Disney original series entitled 'K.C. Undercover'. She’s also starring in TV movie Zapped which will premiere on the Disney channel later this month.

Like Aaliyah, Zendaya is a multi-talented triple threat performer who can sing and dance as well as act. Portraying Aaliyah will undoubtedly be the young star’s toughest challenge yet, but something tell us she’s more than up to the task, meaning some of those nay sayers may very soon be eating their words.