Zendaya, who will be starring as the late Ronnie Spector in an upcoming biopic, posted a heartfelt tribute to the singer on Instagram following the news of her death on Wednesday.
Spector, the lead singer of the legendary girl group the Ronettes, died Wednesday at age 78 after a brief battle with cancer.
On Instagram Thursday, Zendaya — who is set to portray Spector in a movie about the musician’s life — honored her and shared a candid selfie she took with Spector in December 2018.
“This news just breaks my heart,” wrote the Emmy-winning actress. “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.”
“Ronnie, being able to know you has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” continued Zendaya. “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.”
The Dune actress added, “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,” Zendaya concluded. “I hope to make you proud.”
Zendaya’s upcoming biopic will be based on Spector’s autobiography Be My Baby, which the singer co-wrote with Vince Waldron, as reported in September 2020. According to Variety, Spector hand-picked Zendaya to play her in the A24-produced movie, and she was serving as an executive producer on the project.
In a statement Wednesday, Spector’s family said, “Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer. She was with family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan.”
“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,” the statement continued. “Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her. ”
Her family asked that in lieu of flowers, and per Spector’s request, donations be made to local women’s shelters or to the American Indian College Fund. They also noted that a celebration of her life will and music will be announced in the future.
Spector formed the Ronettes with her sister Estelle and cousin Nedra while still a teenager. The group frequented the Peppermint Lounge, a local New York club, and were eventually discovered there by Murray “Murray the K” Kaufman.
While with the group, Spector lent her vocals to classics like “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain.” Though the group released just one studio album, their popularity loomed large and they even joined the Beatles on tour in 1966. She and her groupmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Spector married producer Phil Spector in 1968 after signing to his label five years earlier, though the marriage was a difficult one. Before their divorce in 1974, the late producer kept her sequestered in their California mansion and subjected her to years of psychological torment.
“I thought, I wasn’t going to sing again and that I was going to die there,” she recalled to PEOPLE back in 2018.
Following their split, she was able to move back to New York to rebuild her musical career. She went on to marry her manager Jonathan Greenfield in 1982, and the couple shared sons Austin and Jason.
She added to PEOPLE in 2018, “Everything is so vivid in my mind because I didn’t sing for so many years. That’s all I can think about; when’s my next show? Because it makes me happy! What I went through then made me that great today, because I was determined that nobody would ever keep me down again. And that’s what I’d tell any woman.”
RIP Ronnie Spector