As Movie Images Emerge, Controversy Surrounding Zoe Saldana Playing Nina Simone Erupts
by Yvette Carnell
Many people have announced their opposition to Zoe Saldana being cast in the role of Nina Simone, mainly because Saldana doesn’t resemble Simone. Saldana is beautiful, but she’s not nearly as dark as Simone, causing many to express outrage that black historical figures are being whitewashed by Hollywood.
In an open letter to Zoe Saldana, Kimberly Foster succinctly expressed the overriding criticism of Saldana playing Simone:
Black women are not discriminating against you because you are a light-skinned woman. We are expressing our frustration at a racial hierarchy that renders us too unattractive even to represent ourselves.
In an August editorial, I expressed my disappointment that darker skinned actresses are being overlooked, offering Zoe Saldana as only the most recent example:
And it’s not just the case with these two movies. Remember the Hunger Games fiasco? In the book, Rue was “ most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes….” But by the time little brown Rue made it to Hollywood, she was, voila! Light skinned! And even that raised the hackles of racist white people, who had a hard time mustering any sympathy for a black protagonist.
Seeing Zoe Saldana in black face is hauntingly sad. Back in the days of black and white, before color television, when white people needed a black person for a role, they just plastered a little black paint onto the face of white actors. Now that that’s no longer acceptable, Hollywood just plasters a little dark face paint onto the face of black, but lighter skinned actress. Whatever works.. as long as it ain’t authentically black, it’s fine.