Zoe Saldana To Play Nina Simone, Fans Outraged

By: Amanda Crum - November 20, 2012

Legendary songstress Nina Simone often sang about the heartache that comes with looking different, with having only a shallow pool of self esteem to draw from, and with living for years with a complex about one’s appearance. She often spoke about Hollywood’s desire to keep dark-skinned women under its thumb. That’s why the news of a certain fair-skinned actress being cast to play Simone in a film about her life has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

Zoe Saldana, who starred in “Avatar”, has been tapped for the role despite the fact that she looks nothing like the icon, and fans are so upset that a petition has been started to get director Cynthia Mort to consider another actress for the part. It’s not a slight on Saldana, they say; rather, they want Hollywood to start making more informed choices when casting roles. Because so much of Simone’s identity and music was tied up in the way she looked and the way she was perceived during her career, it makes sense to cast someone who has a similar aesthetic. For now, the plan is to give Saldana dark makeup and prosthetics to alter her appearance, but that in itself is offensive to many, according to Lanita Jacobs, anthropology professor at USC.

“We understand that there are these beauty issues,” she says, “and sometimes what sanctions people’s right to speak on these kind of issues is whether they have had experiences born of what it means to have kinky hair, or to have wide noses or darker skin. Nina’s music taps into a certain kind of awareness born of the way she looks.”

“Nina” is currently filming and is due out next year.

Zoe Saldana

Nina Simone

About the Author

Amanda CrumAmanda Crum is a writer and artist from Kentucky. She's a fan of Edward Gorey, Hunter S. Thompson, and horror movies. You can follow her on Google:+Amanda Crum

View all posts by Amanda Crum
  • doretha reeves

    She’s gorgeous, talented and make-up should do the trick. Stop making mountains out of molehills. There are more important things to worry about when millions are out of work.

    • Greg Pierce

      Tell em Ms. Reeves. This is fun though.

    • Allen

      Well Doretha, that’s just it! By doing this, Hollywood has suppressed another actress that would truly be the better fit for the roll by awarding an “It” or “Hot” at the time actress by any means necessary! To top it off, the the person she’s playing based her artistry and career on how she looks, how she is perceived, and how she is portrayed! It was a “Mountain” before casting began; never a “mole hill!” They didn’t get Terrance Howard to play Ray Charles! They didn’t get Lawrence Fishburne to play Malcolm X! They didn’t get Brad Pitt to play Bobby Kennedy! Why? Because are important people in American Culture and History and it would be an atrocity to NOT attempt to retain the talent that closely fits the person! This brings light to that person’s biography and reintroduces that person to the masses that may not know about them! Do you know Nina Simone beyond her music? Do you know what her music was mainly about?

  • John West

    The way Hollywood made such a fuss over the possibility for Viola Davis to become a rare black Academy Award winner, I thought for sure that this would be Davis’ moment. Alas it wasn’t to be. And there’s another fine black actress (pardon if I don’t know her name but she often appears on Law & Order as an attorney)whose acting skills are off the charts. I just don’t see how all that artificial makeup will do anything for Saldana, whose work I enjoy. However, Saldana’s too “continental” to capture Simone’s provincial background. By the way, does anyone know the black actress I’ve alluded to who often appears on Law & Order as an attorney? Her most recent appearance shows she’s a premier actress regardless of color!

    • suckerforbj

      John West, her name is Lorraine Toussaint. I agree, she is a very good actress.

      • AHW

        Toussaint or Davis would be amazing. I’ve never been impressed by Saldana, who just seems wrong for this important part. I cannot believe anyone in 2012 would advocate the equivalent of black face for a role. Perhaps they could cast Julianne Moore or Nicole Kidman, while they’re at it.

  • Miana

    Well if the role calls for someone dark skin why have someone light skin. if fans are already outraged don’t you think that movie sales would go down. Why not someone like Tasha Smith or Sanaa Lathan

    • Anonymous

      Sanaa Lathan is lightskinned also, genius.

      • ROB


  • william

    Oprah without make-up would be perfect!

    • superdog

      Excellent, William, excellent.

    • Sara

      Oprah wears make-up!? :p

      • V

        not particularly funny-she is a strong, successful & very handsome woman- not everyone need look like malibu barbie

      • Greg Pierce


  • http://Yahoo Casey Brown

    The people that have a problem with Saldana playing Simone are self -pitying,color struck niggers who want their asses kissed because they’re dark-skinned.

  • http://Yahoo Casey Brown

    The ones who are petitioning Saldana are dark skinned niggers who are jealous of light skinned blacks.Dark skinned niggers want their asses kissed.

  • Michael Davis

    So the same things Nina sang about is exactly what is happening to Zoe?

    • V

      excellent observation

      • Greg Pierce

        Can I get an AMEN!!! Lol

    • Allen

      So, do you recognize that Hollywood has ignored THAT FACT by choosing a woman who’s look needs to be drastically converted (black face and prostetic nose) to attempt to resemble Nina Simone and not choose those who would be a better choice (Kimberly Elise, Anika Noni Rose, Viola Davis and even Mary J. Blige; who was considered originally)to play this Iconic Artist/Activist is a disrespect and disregard of what she (Simone) has struggled and fought for her entire life and career?

  • 7thQueenofMars

    Where’s Lauren Hill? She’s a dark skinned singer!

    • Nerak

      Lauren Hill would be perfect! Great comment.

    • V

      Lauren Hill’s in JAIL, momma= jail
      tax evasion

      • AHW

        Lauryn Hill has yet to be sentenced for her guilty plea to tax evasion.

  • TC

    @John West – Anika Noni Rose

  • Robin

    Yeah not even close Cynthia Mort! It is offensive and I am a proud white woman! You need to recast. Sorry Zoe no offense to you but Hollywood needs to be more respectful!

    • Allen

      I agree with you Robin; 100%

  • rj

    Viola Davis, Angela Bassett,Lauren Hill, India Iire, if its the similar complexion that is the issue although the only actng that I’ve seen Indie do is a small part on the Bernie Mac show. Having said that, Zoe Salada is an excellent actress and should be given the same opportunity as say Charlize Theron who although a stunning beauty transformed her appearance drastically for her Academy Award winning role in “Monster”. Give Ms. Salada the same opportunity. Please don’t create limitations particularly when there it is already extremely difficult for non white actresses to recieve quality roles .

    • Greg Pierce

      Good point! Plus, even though Halle’s acting is suspect (in my humble opinion), one of her best roles was a a crackhead in Jungle Fever.

  • http://BING LISA


    • Greg Pierce

      Uh…No. Love them both, but no!

  • Ivory

    I have to agree with the protesters on this. Zoe is great actress but she is no Nina Simone just like Beyonce was no Etta James. If they had cast Zoe to take on a fictional character that she bared no resemblance to because she acted the part well it would be fine with me, this is not the case. Simone was a real person who, as people have already stated, life and career was a result of how she was perceived based on her looks. Although I have no doubt that Zoe being a woman of color and relate to such topics I can’t help but believe she was picked not for that reason at all. Hollywood has a box problem…they climbed in and can’t seem to get out. They are unwilling to take a chance on the unknown face and reach beyond there norm. The put on faces that they think will sell not caring if the person behind the face is actually suited for the part. Let’s look at it this way, would you cast Channing Tatum as Nixon?

  • Tariq

    To be respectful to the character of Nina Simone, I believe that the person to portray her has to be someone of like mind, body and soul. When Jamie Foxx played Ray it was a perfect cast because Jamie was and is and excellent piano player and singer. I believe this role would be best played by India Arie if she has the acting chops for it. India has had musical success in songs that she has written describing how she is not a model but loves herself and all of her natural God-given imperfections according to society. I agree. They should protest. Next thing you know they will remake The Color Purple with Halle Berry as Ceilly.

  • Blondie

    I think Nina Simnone was gorgeous, (and outrageously talented, of course!)I wish we women could fight back against all of these AWFUL societal expectations about our looks. I am SOOOOOO SICK of it!

    • Greg Pierce

      Amen!!! We brotha’s love a much broader spectrum than you think.

  • MF

    None of us know what Zoe looks like without make-up. Most of her beauty may come from photo-shop and good lighting. I doubt it but we don’t know. To protest her based on her looks is itself discrimination. Choosing or not choosing someone based on skin color is wrong. RJ makes a good point – imagine Monster without Charlize Theron. On the surface, Charlize was much to pretty for that role. But she dug deep and captured the character. Maybe Zoe can too. Now if Zoe can’t sing, that’s a different story. I wonder who tried out for the part and wasn’t chosen? It may be that none of these other singers and actors wanted the part.

    • Sherona

      Mary J. Blige was the first choice. I don’t know how it became Zoe.

  • Anna DAvis

    It’s a Movie Ya’ll. She is an ACTRESS ya’ll. Really? This is what she does, its her job. She can do it. There is nothing offensive about it at all. Start a petition to feed hungry children. This ACTING role is not a real issue. Grow up please!

  • Ebonique

    They should get India.Arie to play Nina Simone. She has similar aesthestics and sings similar songs.

    • Greg Pierce

      Good suggestion! Even the girl who played the older daughter on Bernie Mac. She has a great Smokey Voice, good looks and is a convincing actress.

  • Big AL

    well here we go again Hollywood! ……..but I cant blame Hollywood for this rag-tag of an attempt to introduce to the unknowingly world on of the worlds greatest music Artist, Activist, Socialite and political survivalist DIVAS. know to the music and entertainment history of the world today and has played a huge influence in music, from jazz to rock, I believe that when you are telling a story about anyone important based on some true facts then you should go all the way by any means necessary. I know that ZOE is a hot ticket for Hollywood, “A” LIST now.. but there is no shortage of black female actors from American and abroad that maybe would have been visually more appropriately closer to her likeness. this I would argue about! ..there is no need to an “A” LIST ACTRESS Unless the studio could not get the movie make with out one! . which happens all the time when it come to none standard white American historical stories that consist of the main creators of minority decent!.. the funny thing is that I worked on the movie a few days and it seemed a bit rag-tag.. production wise … low budget .. non-union crew.. and to top it all off the production Co. and producers And film studio where from England…. the Old Elin Studios one of England’s oldest if not the oldest studio out of England….. so I hope that the story becomes better then the idea we all have of the history of NINA. at least someone has step up to the plate with a script, financing, and getting it done!……. SO BLACK PEOPLE OF THE WORLD THAT ARE OUTRAGED ABOUT ZOE playing NINA!………. I truly don’t see your money making it happen! ……. so I guess we have to just sit and be angry about another story told from eyes of others that are passionate about her life’s story! ………… good knows their are many very wealthy African Americans, blacks here and abroad that could have paid to have this movie come forth in there likeness!. ……. again I say Weakup and think!

  • Greg Pierce

    It’s not as much her complection, but lack of resemblance that’s a possible issue. However, let’s remember how well Denzel brought Malcolm X to the screen even though Malcolm was taller, MUCH lighter and had redish hair. Lawrence Fishburne was a better physical choice, but Denzel BECAME Malcolm X. Rarely to you get skill and features spot on like with Forest Whitaker and Idi Amin.

  • mimi104

    One word “LEDISI”

  • gravejoke

    There are so many more things to bitch about.

  • AP

    The real issue is that Zoe is NOT a sistah. Truly. She states that she is a ‘black’ Latina. She means that. There is nothing she can draw from, pull from that embodies Nina Simone. Choosing Zoe is an insult to the legacy of the late, great Nina. Lauryn is “off” right now…but she’d be perfect. She’d feel Nina…and become her. I also think Jennifer Hudson could carry it off. Mary J. Blidge is even a better choice than Zoe. But we know what it really IS. And she’s not a ‘draw’ for most people…and the majority of movie goers are women. Not a good pick at all. It’s gonna flop before it gets going. She’s a draw for certain males and that’s that. She makes people feel ‘comfortable’ with the issues Nina sings and talked about. It weakens everything about Nina. Zoe knows that…and Hollywood knows that.

    • http://yahoo. Cinders

      At first reading your comment I did not like how you said that Zoe is not a “Sistah” that is just plain wrong to use that terminology it excludes black women no matter what her shade.
      The rest of your comment are right on. I totally agree with everything else.
      Zoe knows in her soul this is the wrong choice- we all know this is the wrong choice and I dislike the people who put this sort of ideal together inorder to make money.
      I see it as an insult to Nina simone. An Insult to dark skinned actresses. I hope that a successful black director out there will see this and correct it by casting their own movie and get it out there too.

  • http://topfitnesssecret.com/ Joseph Wilson

    OMG–what a sexy woman…

  • ROB


  • Joni

    India Arie is good but I think Estelle would be the best.

  • http://yahoo. Cinders

    Show me where to sign this petition purleese !!!!
    I am certain many others who are here will want to do the same.
    Why do this to Ms Simone.
    I love Zoe Saldana- I have nothing against her but this is going too far.
    using make- up when there are undiscovered talented actresses/singers who could do this much more fitting justice and not insult dark skinned women with this.
    come on this is soo very wrong. On many levels.

  • Steve

    This like Obama pretending to be president.

    • Deb

      Stay on the subject. Get over it. President Obama was elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012. There is no need for pretense.

    • Deborah

      Stay on the subject. President Obama was elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012. There is no need for pretense. Get over it!!

    • Deborah

      Stay on the topic! President Obama was not only elected in 2008, but he was reelected in 2012. There is no need for pretense. Get over it!!