On March 2, 2016 the movie trailer for the highly anticipated film Nina was released and caused great controversy and conversation across several social media platforms. The movie, Nina, is an adaptation of the life of Nina Simone, a celebrated music artist and activist from the 1960s.
Most are familiar with Nina's distinctly black features; her dark skin, her round nose and her kinky hair. However, Zoe Saldana, who was casted to portray Nina, will embody these features with darker foundation and a prosthetic nose. Many people expressed their discontent with the inaccurate portrayal of Nina Simone on social media.
Nina Simone’s daughter Simone Kelly defended Saldana's role in this biopic. “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,” Kelly told Time.
However, she also agrees that she was not the right person for this role. "There are many superb actresses of color who could more adequately represent my mother,” said Kelly, “and could bring her to the screen with the proper script, the proper team and a sense of wanting to bring the truth of my mother’s journey to the masses, and Nina, in my opinion, doesn't do any of that.”
It’s clear that Kelly is not happy with the movie overall, but her brother Sam Waymon took a stronger stance on the casting of Zoe Saldana. "It's an insult, to our people and their struggle and to all the things that Nina stood for in her music and all the things she stood for in her life,” Sam Waymon told the New York Daily News.
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between Nina Simone (L) and actress Zoe Saldana. Zoe Saldana will reportedly play Nina Simone in a film biopic by writer and director Cynthia Mort and executive producer Jimmy Lovine. ***LEFT IMAGE*** UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: Photo of Nina SIMONE; (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Actress Zoe Saldana arrives at the 'Machine Gun Preacher' Los Angeles premiere at Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on September 21, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Relativity Media) DAVID REDFERN 3 YEARS AGO
Director Cynthia Mort said that Saldana’s overall performance is the only thing that should matter. “Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance,” Mort told Entertainment Weekly, “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.”
This isn't the first time that Hollywood has tried to whitewash history, and it won't be their last. However, as it becomes more common people have become aware of it. And the backlash and criticism of Nina shows that people are ready to discuss the issue and find ways to fix it. However the backlash and discussion that this movie has generated may be a sign that people are becoming more aware of it.
“The bottom line is this: Nina Simone deserves to be known,” said Mort to EW. But does it become a problem when people remember her as the blackfaced-Zoe Saldana instead of the lovely artist whose work was heavily influenced by embracing her blackness and encouraging others to do the same?
Written By: Lidia Abraha