Make us your home page

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone sparks outrage (again)

RLJ Entertainment



When it was announced that Zoe Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, would take on the role of legendary African American singer Nina Simone, the Internet had a fit.

It all started back in 2010 when Mary J. Blige backed out of the biopic due to scheduling conflicts. The decision to bring on a light-skinned actress to play the dark-skinned singer did not please the masses, including Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.

“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice,” Kelly said in an interview with the New York Times.

She also told Ebony, “I love Zoe Saldana’s work. I’ve seen some of her movies more than once and really enjoy what she brings to the screen. As an actress I respect her process, but I also know that there are many actresses out there, known or not, who would be great as my mother.”

The hubbub died down for a while, but now that the first official poster and trailer have been released, Twitter once again isn’t having it, especially in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite backlash and the casting of white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson for a British TV movie.

“QUESTION: Why did they DARKEN Zoe Saldana rather than cast a darker actress since it was such a crucial part of Nina Simone’s story?” one user tweeted.

“That Zoe Saldana pic as Nina Simone looks like the blackface of a bad Halloween or frat party,” wrote another.

“Zoe Saldana playing Nina is the CLOSEST to whitewashing without a white person. Equivalent to getting a white man to play Michael Jackson,” another fan tweeted.

A source told People that the studio did not doctor the poster image, which is a still from the movie. However, photos from the set show that Saldana’s transformation included a prosthetic nose and dark makeup.

Saldana, 37, has let the criticism roll off her back, telling Allure in 2013, "Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina — I'm sorry. It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it, I will honor and respect my black community because that’s who I am.”

In February 2013, the Guardians of the Galaxy star told, “The reality is what keeps me focused and what kept me from I guess getting stressed or being hurt by the comments is that I’m doing it for my sisters. I’m doing it for my brothers. I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free.”

Nina will be released on April 22.


[Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 6:15pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours