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Many have been vocal about their disapproval of Saldana in the role.
Since the poster and trailer dropped for the the new Nina Simone biopic, Nina, there has been ceaseless backlash against the film and the choice to cast Zoe Saldana as the iconic singer.
The backlash stems not only from the fact that Saldana was poorly cast, but that the team behind the film doesn’t seem to be interested in actually telling the story of Nina Simone’s life.
First, according to Lisa Celeste Stroud, Nina Simone’s daughter, who goes by the stage name Simone, the focus of the upcoming biopic is the relationship between Simone and her manager/nurse Clifton Henderson, which will be portrayed as a love story and is inaccurate because Henderson was gay. Back in 2012, Simone wrote on Facebook,
“When the announcement initially hit the press with MJ Blige cast as Nina (about 6 yrs ago) I heard it along with everyone else. The story was written as a love story between my mother and her former nurse, Clifton Henderson and primarily takes place during the last 8 years of her life.”
SImone added, “Clifton Henderson was gay. He was not attracted to women. So, the truth is…Nina Simone and Clifton Henderson NEVER had a relationship other than a business one.”
Since then casting has changed and, of course, Saldana has taken on the role, an issue when you think about a light-skinned actress portraying a darker-skinned black woman whose skin color was a large part of her identity. Nina Simone openly talked about the role her skin and features played in her work and casting Saldana, who despite being black, still possess the Eurocentric features most of Hollywood applauds, is kind of a slap in the face to a woman who actively criticized those ideas and created art influenced by her black features. Not only that, but throwing on a prosthetic nose and blackface isn’t diversity, it’s colorism.
Twitter has been vocal about its disapproval of Saldana in the role. Even Simone’s estate chimed in with one of the most brutal tweets of all time.
No, there isnt 1 version of black woman BUT there is 1 version of Nina Simone & I can promise u she just flipped a table in the afterlife.
— Amanda Seales (@amandaseales) March 3, 2016
Zoe herself TRIED IT. She coulda said no. Instead, she chose to look like the Avatar version of Nina Simone for pay.
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) March 2, 2016
People defending Zoe apparently never actually learned anything about Nina Simone. Her work was rooted in her loving her color & features.
— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) March 2, 2016
Nina Simone being darkskin is not a small detail. It was a huge part of her art & identity. Not casting appropriately is an affront to that.
— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) March 1, 2016
bruh david oweloyo looks like nina simone more than zoe saldana
— Deaux (@dstfelix) March 1, 2016
This is also further proof that there needs to be more diversity not just in front of the camera, but behind it. The team behind the film is predominately white and many people believe that having black people behind the scenes would have saved the film from making such a huge mistake.
Zoe as Nina Simone is what happens when writer/director, casting director and 10/12 producers are white. Diversity behind the scenes matters
— Brandon E. Patterson (@myblackmindd) March 3, 2016
White folks making a movie about Nina Simone: Eh, we’ll hire a ‘traditionally beautiful’ Latina & just put her in a nappy wig + blackface.
— Cirque du SoBae (@brownandbella) March 2, 2016
I can’t imagine participating in a film representation of Nina Simone’s life where 95+ percent of the major production team is white.
— Yasuri Yamileth (@KrissMissKross) March 3, 2016
I can’t imagine a director who would willingly say yes to a black actress darkening her skin to play Nina Simone, actually caring about Nina
— X (@XLNB) March 1, 2016
It makes us wonder if they considered any other black actresses at all.
The film is set to be released April 2.
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