Many films have been dedicated to the lives of famous musicians, actors and icons, arguably making some of the best biography movies of our time.
One of those beloved artists, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, otherwise known as Nina Simone, is another whose musical life has been transformed into the biographical film, “Nina.”
The film released into limited theaters and through video on demand last Friday. The film has been subject to multiple controversies over the actress portraying Simone (Zoe Saldana) and has been received with mostly negative reviews.
Simone was a popular American singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist during the 1960s. She had worked with a broad range of musical styles such as jazz, blues, classical and gospel, to name a few.
In the late 1980s, Simone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which explained her short temper and frequent outbursts. She was also an alcoholic which can be seen in the films’ trailer.
The main controversy regarding the film centers around the rolewas given to actress Zoe Saldana. Many comments have been made about her singing and accent in the film, but the real issue everyone seems to have is the fact that she uses blackface in the film to portray the darker--skinned Simone. Not only was her skin altered, but Saldana is also seen using a prosthetic nose to look like Nina.
According to many African- American actors in hollywood, there could have been a better choice for this role. Zoe Saldana, being ofDominican and Puerto- Rican descent, is a much thinner and lighter skinned woman who in no way shows resemblance to Simone. People have been all over social media expressing these thoughts on who would have been a better Nina, throwing out names such as Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis, who look more like Nina and are actually of her race.
During her talk show, Wendy Williams had much to say over this controversy as she talked about how insulting it is for Saldana to be in black face.
“It is almost as insulting as having a white person in blackface,” said Williams.
On the other hand, Saldana has been commenting back, saying she keeps her head held up high and is a true fan of Simone and is honored to portray her. Simone’s family on the other hand has expressed anger towards the actress.
The fact that Saldana had to go through so much to change her own appearance in order to look like Simone is extremely offensive, especially in regards to her using blackface which used to be something white people used to do in plays to mock black people. That was not taken with much amusement by the African- American community then, so why bring it into this era?
There are so many talented black actresses out there who would have fit the role so much better in appearance. Instead, casting chose to go the hard way in attempt to transform a latina into something she is not.
Before Saldana accepted the role, she should have researched a little more about Simone and should have noticedin fact she didn’t really resemble this iconic musician.
Hollywood is a tough place and when these sorts of situations happen they are not taken lightly by not only audiences, but the actors in the industry.
Saldana should have expected this sort of outcome as they applied her bigger nose and darker skin, but decided to keep going with it not realizing how insulting this unnecessary transformation is not only to the African American community, but to very capable actresses who wouldn’t have had to alter their skin tone to match Simones.
Many of the comments towards Saldana are not offending her abilities as an actress, as many who thought Saldana was great still claimed the casting was the main one to blame for this film’s poor reviews- and that is true. Besides that, the film has been criticized for failure in coherently explaining the story of Simone and gives no understanding of it.