Is Zoe Saldana A Bad Choice For Nina Simone Biopic?

Is Zoe Saldana A Bad Choice For Nina Simone Biopic?
Zoe Saldana Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC by 2.0
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Last week, a trailer and poster for the upcoming Nina Simone biopic entitled ‘Nina’ was released. Simone’s daughter and Indie Arie were not pleased about how Zoe Saldana was made to look for the role. Was she a bad choice?


Saldana, the lead actress who was set to play the lead role in Nina Simone’s upcoming biopic, “Nina”was made blacker than she usually is and her nose was also made to appear wider to fit the role. With these physical enhancements, Indie Arie and Simone’s daughter were disappointed and felt that Nina Simone should have been portrayed better.

Saldana’s portrayal was under scrutiny since she did not, in any way, resembles Nina Simone. Essentially, the controversy was why would filmmakers cast a light-skinned actress, make her skin blacker with make-up when there are many actresses who already have these qualities. The controversy is deeply rooted in the fact that Nina Simone has fought hard to rise up against racism.

India Arie released an official statement that revealed her distraught on how Nina Simone was portrayed in the upcoming film. She once portrayed Nina Simone. Arie’s statement reads:  “THAT ASIDE for a second, this just looks WEIRD, it looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose … REALLY?!!!!”

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She also said, “But these images … just make me feel … SAD. Not because I want to play Nina Simone but because IT FEELS OUT OF PLACE WITH WHAT NINA SIMONE MEANS IN AN AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORICAL CONTEXT!!!! (yes I yelled just now – I am emotional about OTHER things today, and I’m riding the wave of that, but this IS WHAT I FEEL…).”

After her statement, Arie also spoke with Hollywood Reporter and expounded her disappointment. She said, “To be the most powerful race and gender in the world, of course that’s going to be your point of view.”

Time Magazine also had an interview with Simone’s only daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly. She defended Saldana’s role as her mother. She said, “It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked too viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture. It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately, she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.” She went on and said, “The movie is about relationship between my mother and Clifton which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother’s life and everyone knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”

“Nina” hits theaters this coming April 22, 2016.