‘She deserved better’ – Zoe Saldana apologizes for darkening her skin to play Nina Simone in biopic

Francis Akhalbey August 07, 2020
Zoe Saldana has apologized for playing jazz great, Nina Simone, in a 2016 biopic -- Left Photo via @zoesaldana on Instagram | Right Photo via Nina Movie

Actress Zoe Saldana issued a very emotional and tearful apology for playing legendary jazz musician and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone in a 2016 biopic.

Saldana, who is of Dominican, Puerto Rican and Haitian descent, backtracked on her previous defensive stance for her controversial portrayal of Simone during an interview with Pose executive producer, Steven Canals, on Instagram on Tuesday.

“I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power, with the leverage that I had ten years ago, which was a different leverage but it was leverage nonetheless,” she said.

“I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman. It’s growing. It’s painful. I thought back then that I had the permission, because I was a Black woman. And I am. But it was Nina Simone. And Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been, and should be, honored to the most specific detail. Because she was a specifically detailed individual. About her voice, her views, her music, her opinions, and her art. And she was so honest. So she deserved better.”

The Avengers and Avatar star tearfully added: “With that said: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I know better today and I’m never going to do that again.

“She’s one of our giants and someone else should step up. Somebody else should tell her story.”

Saldana’s portrayal of Simone was met with disapproval from a section of people – including the jazz singer’s daughter and estate – who were adamant she did not fit the role. They also registered their displeasure with the actress having to wear skin-darkening makeup and a prosthetic nose to look like the singer in the movie.

In a post on the singer’s Facebook page in 2012, Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, wrote: “I love Zoe Saldana, we all love Zoe… From Avatar to Colombiana, I’ve seen those movies a few times.

“But not every project is for everybody. And I know what my mother would think. I just don’t get it.”

Nina' Movie Review - Rolling Stone
Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in the biopic — Photo: Ealing Studios

Despite the disapproval, Saldana defended taking up the role she had initially turned down. In a 2013 interview with Latina magazine, she said: “Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina – I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honour and respect my black community because that’s who I am.”

After the film’s release, Saldana, 42, also received backlash from Simone’s estate when she tweeted a quote from the singer. Responding to her tweet, the singer’s estate wrote: “Please take Nina’s name out of your mouth. For the rest of your life. Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful. Gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, nauseating, soul-crushing.”

Nina rose to fame in the 1950s, emerging as one of the first Black women to do jazz, mixing the genre with blues and folk music. Besides music, she was also a staunch Civil Rights activist who contributed massively towards the movement.

File:Nina Simone 1965 - restoration1.jpg - Wikipedia
Nina Simone

Some of her popular songs include I Loves You, Porgy, I Put a Spell on You, Feelin’ Good and My Baby Just Cares for Me. She passed away in 2003.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 7, 2020


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates