Zoe Saldana And The Nina Simone Controversy, Explained
By Eli Epstein | November 21, 2012 2:16 AM EST
Zoe Saldana is one of the fastest-rising stars in Hollywood, but her elite status hasn't shielded her from the darts of the entertainment industry.
After Saldana was chosen by "Nina" director Cynthia Mort to play deceased soul goddess Nina Simone, the public and the media buffeted Saldana and the "Nina" team with frenzied criticism, claiming the casting was a cruel disservice to Simone's legacy.
Originally, Mary J. Blige was slated to portray Simone, but the R&B legend dropped out of the project due to production delays.
When Saldana signed onto the project, it wasn't her acting chops that were disputed, but rather, her likeness to Simone. Critics suggested actresses like Viola Davis ("The Help") and Kimberly Elise (Tyler Perry series) were better suited to star as Simone due to their darker hues.
Saldana, born to a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother, has a markedly lighter skin tone than Simone, though Mort and the "Nina" crew have done everything in their power to darken the "Avatar" actresses's skin color.
But altering Saldana's complexion has critics arguing the practice betrays Simone's legacy. The singer--who released more than 40 albums before she passed away in 2003 from breast cancer--fought adamantly for equal rights in the U.S. . In interviews she argued that darker-skinned actresses in Hollywood were punished for their skin color, an issue rekindled by the Saldana casting decision.
Simone's daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, has publicly questioned "Nina," telling the media that her mother told Whoopi Goldberg that she'd like the famed comedian to portray Simone on film. Goldberg confirmed the claim to Joy Behar, who remarked that Saldana's casting "won't work."
Online, according to E!, singer India Arie slammed the decision, but she was quick to point out that her opinions stemmed not from a dislike of Saldana, but rather from physical dissimilarities between the two and a betrayal of Simone's messages by the studio.
"So today I saw the images of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone…AND I THINK THEY ARE RIDICULOUS," Arie emphatically stated.
She later added that while she had faith in Saldana, she would like to see Viola Davis take on the role.
At Change.org, fans have petitioned Cynthia Mort to reconsider her casting decision. Members write that they do not have a problem with Saldana as an actress. Instead, they'd like to see Simone portrayed by a star who more closely resembles her.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- The Pirate Bay Founder Gottfrid Svartholm Clears That Fredrik Neij And Peter Sunde Are Not TPB Founders
- [In Pictures] Police Fire As Protest Turns Into ‘Riot’ After Grand Jury Decision on Ferguson Shooting
- ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 5, Episode 8 Spoilers: Daryl Dixon Is Set To Burn The Place Down in ‘Coda’
Join the Conversation
- Mark Ruffalo Turns Into Hulk For His Daughter And Another Preschooler
- Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt Photographed Fighting Before ‘Unbroken’ Sydney Premiere – Report [VIDEO]
- 'NCIS Los Angeles' Season 6 Recap: Episode 9 'Traitor' Aired On Nov. 24, 2014, The Hunt For The ‘NCIS LA’ Mole Is Over [WATCH VIDEOS]
- 'Revenge' Season 4 Spoilers: Daniel, Emily In Twisted Friendship; David Clarke Mystery Growing (Review, Updates)
- ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Season7, Episode 12 Spoilers: Thanksgiving Break, SAMCRO Returns In December [VIDEO]
- Kobani ISIS Fighter Sends Out Desperate Message For Prayers And Support: Euphoria Turns Into Desperation As Kurds Advance
- Chris Algieri’s Battered Face Trends On Social Media
- Home Depot Early Black Friday 2014 Sale Up To Nov. 29, 2014 Includes Special Buys On Appliances Such As Samsung Refrigerators, Whirlpool Electric Ranges And Hoover Vacuum Cleaners
- Microsoft Band Runs Out Of Stock, But Offers $10 Gift Voucher To Wait-Listed Customers
- Black Friday Sale 2014 Deals From Amazon On Smartphones, TVs, Headsets And More
- Andrew Robb Asks Obama Not to ‘Lecture’ Australia on Climate Change
- Highest Paid NBA Players 2014: NBA Stars Who Earn More Than LeBron James