Nina Simone was a singer and civil rights activist who penned songs about racism and black cultural strife in the late 50’s thru the early 70’s.
A new biopic about Nina Simone, Nina, is set to come out next month, but it has caused some serious controversy along the way.
The problem at hand is that Nina Simone is played by the talented Zoe Saldana. Critics say, well, she just isn’t black enough.
Saldana, in order to look more like the legendary Nina Simone, dons skin-darkening makeup and a nose-widening prosthetic.
Nina Simone’s daughter, an accomplished Broadway actress who goes by Simone, said she likes Zoe Saldana, but she’s just not right for the part.
She said, “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.”
Simone even had some suggestions for actresses to play Nina Simone.
She said, “The one actress that I’ve had in my heart for a very long time, whose work I’m familiar with already, is Kimberly Elise. Many people have spoken to me about Viola [Davis]. I love her look. I love her energy. Both of the actresses that I’ve mentioned are women of color, are women with beautiful, luscious lips and wide noses, and who know their craft.”
And the Estate and Legacy of Nina Simone was much more harsh when Zoe Saldana posted a Nina Simone quote to Twitter.
.@zoesaldana Cool story but please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.
— Nina Simone (@NinaSimoneMusic) March 3, 2016
Do You Know What Colorism Is? Do You Understand in Order To Accurately Tell Someone's Story (The Purpose Of A Biopic Right?) One Must Embody AND Convey Their Message On Multiple Levels? Do You Get That #NinaSimone Story Is Her Difficulties As A DARK SKINNED Woman & The Erasure Of Dark Skinned Women? This Is Equivalent To The Misrepresentation Of African Kings, Leaders, & Queens Of Egypt. Sorry #ZoeSaldana You Are Caught In The Fire, But This Is Not Okay. Definitely Passing On This One. #JaiCURLS #NinasimoneBiopic
However, those in charge of the biopic and some African-American actors in Hollywood are saying everyone should give Saldana a chance.
Robert Johnson, founder and chairman of the studio releasing Nina said that Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Nina Simone is “an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute.”
He added, “She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent. The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness.”
Quenn Latifah argued that Saldana is a great actress who makes great movies, and, basically, get over it.
She said, “I think Zoe Saldana is a great actress, so I am looking forward to it. She is of African descent. I don’t see why she shouldn’t play the role. I just want to see it. Get rid of the hype and let’s go watch a movie.”
Paula Patton shared Latifah’s sentiments and expressed sorrow for Saldana.
She said, “I’m not into negativity like that. It’s a horrible thing to put on somebody…. Imagine being in her shoes and enduring that. It’s not cool, and it’s not right.”
She continued, “Clearly, someone thought she was perfect for it — she’s an amazing actress, she’s beautiful — and you haven’t even given her a chance and you haven’t seen it yet.”
She added, “I think we have to be in a place where we celebrate each other and are kind to one another, and say, ‘There’s alternate versions of a story.’ Give her a shot, try to enjoy it and stop judging.”
Where do you stand on the controversy surrounding Nina Simone’s biography?