Zoe Saldana: “For so many years, nobody knew who the fuck she [Nina Simone] was…”

Zoe in allure

The aesthetic dissimilarity between the iconic Nina Simone and Zoe Saldana who portrayed her in the biopic Nina – with the aid of a prosthetic bigger nose and the derided, offensive black face – sent black social media and commentators in palpable indignation. Even Nina Simone’s family were having none of it reacting to a tweet Saldana posted publicising the film, with a terse retort: , “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out of your mouth. For the rest of your life.”

The controversy over Saldana’s casting never really went away, and the American actress of Puerto Rican/Dominican descent is now set to deepen it even further declaring in an interview with Allure magazine:

“There’s no one way to be black,” she tells the magazine which writes that Saldana chose her words carefully:

“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.”

“I never saw her [Nina] as unattractive…Nina looks like half my family!” the actress contends before decrying: “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?”

I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the ‘right’ black person will do it?

nina-backdrop_0

A still of Saldana portraying Nina Simone in the biopic. She says in the Allure interview: “Nina looks like half my family…But if you think the [prosthetic] nose I wore was unattractive, then maybe you need to ask yourself, What do you consider beautiful?

The magazine interview further stressed that Saldana has no regrets. “The script probably would still be lying around, going from office to office, agency to agency, and nobody would have done it. Female stories aren’t relevant enough, especially a black female story,” she says. “I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the ‘right’ black person will do it, or do I say, ‘You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told…”The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We fucking won,”

And for a seemingly  good measure Saldana tells the magazine matter-of-factly: “For so many years, nobody knew who the fuck she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else.”

(FILES) Picture dated 22 October 1991 of legendary jazz and blues singer Nina Simone in concert at the Olympia music hall in Paris. Simone died 21 April 2003 at the age of 70 ather home in southern France, said her manager in a statement. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY / AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY

Legend: Nina Simone on  22 October 1991  in concert at the Olympia music hall in Paris. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY

To read the Interview click here: Allure

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reGina Jane

reGina Jane Jere is a Zambian-born London-based journalist and founding Editor of the New African Woman magazine the sister-publication of the New African magazine of which she was the Deputy Editor for over a decade. The mother of two juggles a wide-range of editorial and managerial duties, but she has particular passion on women’s health, education, rights and empowerment. She is also a former Zambian correspondent for Agence France Presse, and a former Africa Researcher at Index on Censorship. She writes extensively on a wide range of issues, from politics to women’s rights, media and free speech to beauty and fashion

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