When the news broke that Zoe Saldana was going to play Nina Simone for her biopic, people were less than thrilled. But now that the trailer has come out and they have clearly made her skin seven shades darker, attempted to plump her lips, gave her a new nose, and an afro wig it’s getting kind of ridiculous.
We get it. Zoe is Dominican and Latina, but why does Hollywood insist on casting a fair-skinned woman with a slim nose and straight hair who does not identify as a Black woman for a documentary about a woman who struggled with acceptance of her Black features her whole life. Also don’t think we didn’t notice that Zoe is still pencil thin for this movie, which doesn’t align with Nina since she always had curves and embraced them.
Nina Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly even tweeted from her New York Times Interview, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.”
This is a shame—and something that Hollywood insists on doing only because Zoe Saldana is Black enough, but light-skinned enough to be considered mainstream for major movie studios to think she is worth their investment. Did no one think about Uzo Aduba from Orange Is The New Black? Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years A Slave? Or even Viola Davis who has won several awards for her performance on How To Get Away With Murder and has done countless scenes with her own natural afro?
Always appreciate a biopic on an amazingly talented and complicated woman like Nina Simone, but when the leading lady is only chosen because of Hollywood’s whitewashing standards, maybe let’s not next time?