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What Zoe Saldana Still Doesn’t Get About The ‘Nina’ Controversy

Zoe Saldana wants us all to move on from the controversy surrounding the movie “Nina,” but she’s made it a bit difficult with her latest comments.

The film, released in April, has faced criticism ever since Saldana was announced to star as the iconic singer Nina Simone back in 2012.

Many people took issue with a light-skinned black woman donning blackface and a prosthetic nose to play the dark-skinned, pro-black and deeply political Simone. Even Simone’s estate shared its disapproval of the casting choice.

Saldana has defended taking the role throughout the film’s rocky production history, and now that the film has finally been released (to largely negative reviews), the actress still doesn’t seem to have internalized some of the valid criticisms of the movie and her casting in the title role.

In an interview for the July issue of Allure, Saldana’s latest response to the criticism from many that she shouldn’t have taken the role was: “There’s no one way to be black. I’m black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I’m raising black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”

Saldana goes on to suggest that the fact that people were offended by her playing Simone is, in itself, offensive. She believes the insinuation is that she is “too pretty” to play Simone, meaning what people are really saying is that Simone was not.

“I never saw her as unattractive. Nina looks like half my family,” Saldana told the magazine. “But if you think the [prosthetic] nose I wore was unattractive, then maybe you need to ask yourself, What do you consider beautiful? Do you consider a thinner nose beautiful, so the wider you get, the more insulted you become?”

And yet, the outrage over Saldana’s casting was not about her being too attractive to play Simone — that’s a conclusion the actress seems to have come to by herself. Instead, the issues many people had with the movie included the fact that it was written, directed, and largely produced by a white team who didn’t seem to understand the nuances of colorism in the black community, and how colorism played into Saldana’s casting.

In a Hollywood landscape where lighter-skinned black women are generally more successful than darker ones, Saldana’s casting stood as a reminder that in Hollywood, not even dark-skinned black women are deemed good enough to play themselves on screen.

This is what Saldana has consistently failed to understand about the outcry over her casting: The criticism wasn’t a challenge to her blackness or her talent. It was a challenge to an industry that constantly ignores black woman who look like Nina Simone.


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