An official poster has been released for Nina, the Nina Simone biopic that Zoe Saldana is starring in. This film is directed by first-timer Cynthia Mort and will follow Simone through her career as a legendary American vocalist, particularly focusing on the time she lived in isolation in France after finding difficulty with balancing her singing career with her political activism. During her time there, she meets a man who will become her assistant-turned-manager, Clifton Henderson (Golden Globe nominee and Selma‘s David Oyelowo).
However, this project has been inundated with controversy for years. Originally, in 2010, Mary J. Blige was supposedly going to play Nina but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Zoe Saldana was brought on and was met with objections and protests by many, claiming that she was too petite and light-skinned to play the darker-skinned singer. Even Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, disapproved of the casting choice.
The project has sparked yet more controversy as an official poster for the film has been released and people are still unhappy with Saldana playing the icon.
The role reportedly involves Zoe in wearing a prosthetic nose and darkening her skin to match Nina’s skin tone. This has resulted in vast criticism, specifically from Simone’s family and it has been pointed out that this is essentially the equivalent of black-face for Zoe who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent.
Not only that, Zoe has been quoted, “There’s no such thing as people of colour.” which was met with disapproval from Simone Kelly who stated that “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” she told The New York Times in 2012 “I love Zoe Saldana’s work. I’ve seen some of her movies more than once and really enjoy what she brings to the screen. As an actress, I respect her process, but I also know that there are many actresses out there, known or not, who would be great as my mother.”
However, the studio has stated that they “did not doctor the image, and that it is just a still used from the movie.” Zoe has also defended herself playing the part by telling Allure in 2013 “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”. She also told HipHollywood.com in the same year that “I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free.”
The film’s release date is 22nd of April of this year.
What do you think of Zoe playing the part of Nina Simone? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @CelebMix!