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.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Yourblackworld. You can reach Yvette via Twitter @YvetteDC or on Facebook.


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22 Responses to As Movie Images Emerge, Controversy Surrounding Zoe Saldana Playing Nina Simone Erupts

  1. destin October 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Please black man and woman. Stop worrying about white men affairs. We must take care of ourselves, our black kids, our black girlfriend or boyfriend, our black mother or father first, etc. White men will never change. No white men cares about black people. Wake up! Start building for your people first like any other nation in the world.

  2. Ishmar Muhammad October 31, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Stop it! Some of our people act just like our 450+year old Enemy! What would you do,have another unemployed Sister? How Envyous & Jealous some of us are very sick & full of the Devil! We are truely the children of Israel because Zionist Jews run Hollywood & own us Black Fools! What you want to Happen Her paint up in BlackerFace? Some of y’all act like these Movies are Real when Jews Run Hollywood! We have no clout there they water down Everything Black & Strong! Denzel Washington was way too Dark to play Malcolm to people who really knew Malcolm like my people said when seeing the Movie! If you gonna keep it real keep it a 100% all the time & stop acting like these Movies are real & stop this personality Worship! MalcolmX spent too much time with Whitewomen & Dope they should have focused on the Redeemed Malcolm More! Keep it a 100% all day everyday! Let this sista do what she do!

  3. Barbara October 31, 2012 at 4:57 am

    Black people wake up! I knew when they did this Mammy movie “The Help” and made a hundred million dollars, they would give us more racist garbage. Now they are putting us in BLACKFACE!!!!!!

    They have another movie in the works for Black men too called “The Butler!!!” Just wait—they will bring back the Black man as “Step N Fetch It!!!” We have to stop these White devils!!!

    These immigrant Blacks (Zoe Saladna and that Step N Fetchit guy) have to be stopped!!!!! Whites use them to do things we have already fought against!

  4. DetroitGee October 31, 2012 at 10:09 am

    What is sad to me is the only woman that Hollywood considers to be beautiful have European features. India.Arie could have played the roll she has strong, beautiful features and probably could do the songs justice. As Mesa Turner said Erika Badu would have been a great choice. Roles are gifted to only a few folks and that’s sad. No, I won’t see this film or the future T. Perry pic with K Kardashian. My words may mean nothing to the powerful but within holding my dollars makes me feel powerful.

  5. LiNCOLN PARK October 31, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I dunno… Props for Zoe to have the courage for auditioning for such a fantastic role, in the first place.

    That being said –

    – how can the collective body complain about whitewashing of black roles when we have just spent the past decade watching and paying to see our men portray our women as fat, boorish, bible-thumping, know-it-all buffons devoid of sexual or intellectual attractiveness; i.e. “Big Momma”, “Mrs. Klump”, and “Medea”.

    To some degree we have to examine the possibility that our continued patronage of films which provide revenue for the creators of this ish may be a large factor in the boldness of these filmmakers to perpetrate more of this degradation. I’m guilty of paying to see BIG MOMMAS HOUSE — for example; and i used the excuse that at least black actors were working. I know I can’t get away with that excuse again if I truly want to take issue with the ‘re-minstrelizing’ of Hollywood.

  6. Norman hensley November 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Hollywood wants to get the best actress and the most bankable
    Its all about money.if black people want some another actress
    Let them finance the movie themselves.

    • Rameses-0053 November 2, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Blacks never accept the truth of the Capitalist Nigger.
      Instead of standing up and facing the duty we sit back to blame the so – called Devil White who does it his way.

      There are many Black millionaires in the world who can also finance such projects but they “eat/chop”, waste their incomes on as if there is no tomorrow. Waiting for others to do it, and then the blame game starts and continues.
      For how long????

  7. Lacey November 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Having met Ms. Simone in her later years in Dakar, Senegal West Africa, and having been a true fan of her political and inspirational songs, I will be very critical of Ms. Zoe’s protraiting of this great and complicated woman. I will, however, only look to how she manages to interprete the intensity and strength that Ms. Simone has until her death. I would suggest that when one watches this movie try to concentrate on the message and come away with an intellligent summation of what the writer was trying to say. Forget about the actor, actress. Be grateful that our Nina is not forgotten. She gave a lot on and off the stage of music. I will cherish “Mississippi Godda**!!! That song got her in trouble, but I sing it today!!!


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