Zendaya pays tribute to late singer Ronnie Spector ahead of playing her in biopic: ‘I hope to make you proud’
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Zendaya broke her silence following Ronnie Spector’s death.
The lead singer of the iconic girl-group the Ronettes passed away on Wednesday at age 78 after a brief battle with cancer. The actress is set to portray Spector in a biopic.
The 25-year-old took to Instagram on Thursday and shared several photos of the musician, including a candid selfie from December 2018.
"This news just breaks my heart," the "Dune" star began her post. "To speak about her as if she’s not with us feels strange as she is so incredibly full of life. There’s not a time I saw her without her iconic red lips and full teased hair, a true rockstar through and through."
Zendaya (left) is playing Ronnie Spector in an upcoming biopic. (Getty Images)
"Ronnie, being able to know you has been one of the greatest honors of my life," Zendaya shared. "Thank you for sharing your life with me, I could listen to your stories for hours and hours. Thank you for your unmeasured talent, your unwavering love for performing, your strength, resilience and your grace."
"There is absolutely nothing that could dim the light you cast," Zendaya continued. "I admire you so much and am so grateful for the bond we share. You are a magical force of greatness and the world of music will never be the same. I wish everyone got to experience you the way I did. We celebrate your beautiful life and give you all the flowers you so rightfully deserve."
"Rest in great power Ronnie," she concluded her post. "I hope to make you proud."
Zendaya’s upcoming film will be based on Spector’s 1990 autobiography, "Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness." Variety previously reported that Spector, who was serving as an executive producer on the project, hand-picked Zendaya to play her.
Ronnie Spector performs on stage at Sala Apolo on June 18, 2018, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jordi Vidal/Redferns)
In a statement released on Wednesday, Spector’s family said: "Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude." No other details were revealed.
The Ronettes’ sexy look and powerful voices — plus songwriting and producing help from Phil Spector — turned them into one of the premier acts of the girl-group era, touring England with The Rolling Stones and befriending the Beatles.
Spector, alongside her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, scored hits with pop masterpieces like "Baby, I Love You," "Walking in the Rain," "I Can Hear Music" and "Be My Baby," which was co-written by Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.
Spector, born Veronica Bennett, and her multiracial bandmates grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. They began singing and dancing in clubs as Ronnie and the Relatives, becoming noteworthy for their liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.
The Ronettes, a popular girl group from New York City, were signed by Phil Spector. (Getty)
In March 1963, Estelle managed to arrange an audition in front of Phil, known for his big, brass-and-drum style dubbed the "wall of sound." They were signed to Philles Records in 1963. After being signed, they sang backup for other acts until Phil had the group record "Be My Baby" and "Baby I Love You." The group’s debut album, "Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica," was released in 1964. Five of its 12 tracks had made it to the U.S. Billboard charts.
After touring Germany in 1967, the Ronettes broke up. Spector married Phil in 1968, then she said he kept her locked in their Beverly Hills mansion. Her memoir tells an unhappy story of abuse. The couple divorced in 1974. Phil was sent to prison in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and died in 2021.
After the Ronettes broke up, Spector continued to tour and make music, including "Take Me Home Tonight" with Eddie Money, recording Joel’s "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and recording the 1999 EP "She Talks to Rainbows," which included her first-ever recording of "Don’t Worry Baby," written for her by Brian Wilson.
In 2006, she released "Last of the Rock Stars," her first album in 20 years, and it featured appearances by the Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and the Raveonettes. In 2010, she released a doo-wop Christmas EP called "Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever" and in 2016 released "English Heart," her covers of songs from Britain in the ’60s.
Ronnie Spector led a successful solo career. (Photo by Tom Sheehan/Sony Music Archive via Getty Images)
She is survived by her husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and two sons, Jason and Austin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.