The poster & trailer for Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone bio-pic: problematic?

nina poster

Zoe Saldana was cast in the Nina Simone bio-pic back in 2012. There was outcry even then, but the pushback got even worse when the first photos of Saldana in character came out. Zoe is a light-skinned woman of color, part Dominican and Puerto Rican. Nina Simone was a dark-skinned African-American woman who was often insulted and denigrated in her time because she didn’t conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty. So to see Zoe literally wearing makeup to make her skin darker AND wearing a fake nose… it seemed like blackface.

Anyway, the film has been in the can for years. I actually forgot that it hadn’t been released, because I thought it had come and gone with little attention years ago. But no, the film, called Nina, will be released in April. And the first poster and trailer have just been released. Are you feeling the poster at all? I am not. As for the trailer… um… no, I’m not feeling this either. Is it just me or is the makeup job really, really sh–ty? Like, the makeup artists were like, “If y’all are going to make me do blackface on this woman, it’s going to be terrible blackface.”

As Jezebel points out, there are tons of issues with and around this film. Nina’s family is not into this at all, and I suspect that’s one of the big reasons why this film was buried for several years. Ugh.


Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet and EW.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

148 Responses to “The poster & trailer for Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone bio-pic: problematic?”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Pinky says:

    Embarassing. That makeup mess is streaky and low budget. What a disaster. And the frowniness of it all? Give me a break! “Frowns not make one serious, hmm?”- Yoda


    • censored says:

      To all the people who keep bringing up Denzil and other actors black & white who have portrayed someone that they may not look exactly like them you are missing the point and clearly have no idea who Nina Simone was.This isn’t simply about the actor looking like the real life person, Nina’s Afrocentric look was an integral part of HER. STORY, the two cannot be separated she dared to have a career at a time when BW were ONLY supposed to look like Lena Horne in order to be front and centre and woman who looked like her should take a seat around the back .

      As a child prodigy her dream was to be a classical pianist and after giving a brilliant audition to a prestigious school she was rejected because she didnt have the ” right look” (The school had accepted black pupils before but i guess the right kind of black )

      She was S h 1 t on all her life because of her looks yet remained unapologetically black and unwavering in her right to be a star like everyone else.The fact that this woman who refused to be whitewashed in life is being whitewashed in her death is a slap in the face to her legacy

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


      • The Other Katherine says:

        Standing ovation — you nailed it. I adore Nina Simone, and I will not be seeing this movie.

      • mp says:

        This is random but I actually enjoyed the documentary about Nina Simone far more than I did the one about Amy Winehouse. I was really surprised the Nina Simone one (made by her daughter) didn’t win at the Oscars…

      • Kri says:

        @Censored all truth.You said everything that needs to be said.

      • Rockin Robin says:

        Thank you. Casting Zoe and that bs storyline is the ultimate slap in the face to Nina Simone.

    • nikko says:

      There’s a documentary on Netflix,”What happen to Nina Simone” check it out, it’s very good. Being a black person I would have preferred Zoe to play the part w/out the makeup. First I think they should of looked for an actress w/ dark skin. Looking at the video it seems that they are just focusing on the negative part of Nina’s life and by passing what brought her to the point of breakdown. It’s when she became a part of the civil rights and stood up as a black woman and sang the songs for black people is when the rest of the world decided they didn’t like her or something was wrong w/ her.

    • Ockybeamer says:

      Why. When Viola Davis- who was born to play her is an Oscar nominee and is underused- is right there. RIGHT. THERE.

  2. African Sun says:

    This is black face. wont be watching. I have nothing else to say. I’m tired.

    • Livealot says:

      O M G. I am flabergasted and I respect Zoe soo much as an artist so I’m literally torn. Take away the black face and Zoe can probably carry the weight of Nina the woman BUT STILL. I can’t help but feel disrespected on behalf of Nina Simone and exactly what she stood for. Weird. #confused#ashamed

    • FingerBinger says:

      I’ll watch to see how bad it is.

    • Santia says:

      You know, I probably would’ve watched if they cast Zoe and let her act out the spirit of Nina Simone. But the dark makeup and fake noise is just offensive. There are so many black actresses out there who favor Nina Simone that they didn’t HAVE to cast Zoe or someone who does not look like her. This aspect of Hollywood annoys me to no end. Don’t get me started on always casting bi-racial kids to play the children of obviously fully black people. It’s a watering down of blackness to make it more palatable to the masses.

      • FingerBinger says:

        +1 I’m still going watch it but Zoe Saldana could have just acted. Diana Ross looked nothing like Billie Holiday but she captured Billie’s spirit. Saldana could have done the same. The blackface makeup makes it look like a joke.

      • Otaku Fairy says:

        Agreed. It would have been best for them to put someone else in the role, or even just letting Zoe play the role might have been less of a problem.

    • Marny says:

      I’m not black so that might explain why this doesn’t make sense to me. People wear prosthetics all the time in film- Nicole Kidman playing Virginia Woolf, Leonardo DiCaprio playing J Edgar Hoover, I could go on and on. I also thought everyone was saying lately how it’s important to pick people who are right for roles not based on the color of their skin but on their acting abilities! I could understand if this were a white person playing the role but Zoe is a person of color. How is it not fair to say that someone’s not white enough to play a role but it is fair to say that someone is not black enough? Again, if she were white I would understand but I really don’t understand this one.

      • V4Real says:

        @Marny I sort of agree with you. See my comment below. But I remember a few years on this site when she was filming the movie. Some people were not put off by her skin being darken but more because there were Black actresses of Nina Simone complexion they though could have done a better job. Some people even suggested Viola Davis, Kelly Rowland or India Arie. There’s even Tika Sumpter.

        Zoe Saldana is a woman of color whose ethnicity is Latino. I think that bothered some people as well as Nina’s family. To understand it better imagine Halle Berry playing the role of Selena or Angela Bassett playing the role of Celia Cruz. Sometimes it’s not all about race or ethnicity but understanding the culture of that person you’re portraying.

      • Pippa says:

        Hi Marny, for me the difference is that there are just so few roles for darker skinned black women. We’re still told, as Nina was, that the darker you are the less attractive you are and to then take such a beloved icon of dark skinned non-Eurocentric beauty and blackness and have her played by a light skinned woman with a small nose wearing makeup is just insulting – like dark skinned black women aren’t even acceptable enough to play themselves. Because seriously, if hollywood won’t even hire a dark skinned non ‘conventionally’ attractive woman when the role specifically calls for it when will they?

      • MCraw says:

        The thing is, Nina made a point of being not just a black woman, but a dark skin black woman. She wasn’t Diana Ross or any of the “acceptable” beautiful black women. “Can you hear the beauty of my music, coming from me, a wide-nose, ugly, black woman?” Was the challenge she presented, in your face. Her pride was the darkness of her skin, the wideness of her nose, the kink of her hair. She was not another Billie Holiday.

        So the hiring of Zoe flies right in the face of everything her soul stood for. It’s not just about Zoe being painted darker, it’s about the larger conversation that’s been happening for decades: dark skin black women, most of all, are insulted for the darkness of their black skin, even within their own communities. That even when black women are successful, they are of a fairer and more acceptable shade of brown (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Halle, etc), not the darker shades. They are never hired. This could have, easily gone to a woman of a dark shade. It would have been in line with her message, would not have alienated her fans and it would do wonders to show that Hollywood is making better decisions when it comes to depicting black people who aren’t playing slaves. They deliberately chose to do none of this.

        Let em burn.

      • Santia says:

        @MCraw – You gave me chills. This. Everything you said.

      • lucy2 says:

        Good post, McGraw.
        I’m not someone who thinks actors always need to look exactly like the real life person they are portraying, but when the real person’s physical appearance was SO integral to their life, their experiences, and their character, that needs to be respected, and it wasn’t here.

    • V4Real says:

      I’m torn because they did darken Zoe’s skin to play Nina but they did the same with Angelina Jolie when she played Mariane Pearl. We all know AJ is White but her skin was darken a bit to play a bi-racial woman. I know Mariane chose AJ but as it goes in Hollywood, they don’t need your permission to make a movie about you or they don’t have to respect your wishes. If they did then Zoe would not be playing Nina because Nina’s family didn’t want her to play the part.

      I’m also torn because should we be disappointed that they made a Black woman skin darker to play the role of a Black woman? Were many people disappointed when they darken AJ’s skin to play a Black woman? I’m really not sure of the answer. What I am sure of is that we should be disappointed that they chose Zoe at all because her acting isn’t the best. And we should be a bit put off by her taking on a roll that Nina’s family didn’t want her to partake in.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        To Nswer your question about Angelina Jolie and that role – yes, there was a lot of backlash and ridicule at the time for AJ playing the role and the lengths they had to go to to make her look even slightly biracial (which didn’t really work since much like with this, it still looked off).

      • Leah says:

        And Ben Affleck played a hispanic in Argo, Emma Stone played a south pacific character in Aloah, Cumberbatch played an asian character in star trek…
        The list is long… white actors get away with playing ethnicity which they have absolutely no connection too all the time. Not an excuse of course but a sad fact.

      • V4Real says:

        Oh…and don’t forget Robert Downey Jr. who played an Italian/Latino man, Steve Lopez in “The Soloist.”

      • mayamae says:

        I was too young when Gandhi came out to notice, but did anyone protest Ben Kingsley’s portrayal? Kingsley is only half-Indian, and that half is Muslim, not Hindu like Gandhi. He also played a Jewish victim of the Holocaust in Schindler’s List, yet clearly stated that his is not Jewish. Not judging the unhappiness with Zoe, just wondering.

        I will say that I’m unsure what to feel about Nina’s family being unhappy with the casting. Most people here mocked Hank Williams III’s complaints about Hiddleston.

      • lisa2 says:

        They didn’t “darken” Angelina’s skin for A Mighty Heart. If you have seen the film it is very obvious that her skin is like always is. Secondly. Marianne Pearl asked Angelina to play her in the film. If the person being portrayed wants a certain actress to play her then there shouldn’t be an issue from anyone else.

        I don’t have a problem with Zoe playing the character. I think the family is or was upset. If that is the cast then they are the ones to complain.

      • spidey says:

        Ben Kingsley’s real name is Krishna Bhanji

      • V4Real says:

        @ Lisa2. Please stop. This isn’t a bash on AJ. I do believe in my post I said Mariane asked AJ to play the part. Why mention what I already stated. And just because someone wants,a person to portray them doesn’t mean they always get their wishes. And yes they did darken AJ’S skin. You’re an AJ expert, Google it.

      • mayamae says:

        @spidey, I know that’s Ben Kingsley’s birth name. My point (or question) is – did anyone have a problem with a half-Indian British man from a family with Muslim heritage playing Hindu-following Gandhi.

        @V4Real, her skin was most definitely darkened.

        This site calls it “blackface”

    • Jess says:

      We call it “blackface” when black people use make up to appear darker too now? Weird. And slightly insulting to lighterkinned black people. I do agree she should have just acted though, the make up is really distracting. I think this is bad casting and it’s not necessarily only to do with skin tone.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Based on people’s corrections I looked it up and Zoe does identify as Afro-Latino (it’s her other comments that are ridiculous).

        So I’ll rescind my statement saying she doesn’t identify as black.

      • MCraw says:

        I don’t like her playing the role, but I also don’t like labeling this blackface. HOW SWAY?!

        She’s part of the African diaspora. And she prides herself on being a black Latina.

        She IS black.

      • Santia says:

        Zoe identifies as Afro-Latina; therefore, black of Latin origin.

      • Dena says:

        See Bert Williams and blackface. Google it.

      • Jess says:

        zoe is on video calling herself a black woman so that not strictly true. She’s called herself black Latina.
        Look, personally If find it ever so slightly insulting as a black woman with lighter skin that people call this blackface.
        It’s like what are we?

      • Alexis says:

        It has always been the case that it is blackface when black people darken their skin. Nothing new, just new to you.

      • Jess says:

        That’s not accurate I think.
        I am pretty sure the concept of blackface originates from white performers who blackened their face and played on racial stereotypes.

      • Dena says:

        Once again, look up Bert Williams who was a black vaudevillian. He corked up for years. His story is was on so many levels.

      • Tia says:

        Not always @Alexis, the first blackface actors, were indeed white.

        Blackface did not start with Bert Williams. There are white performers in blackface prior.

      • Dena says:

        Tia. Thanks. I know. I’m familiar with the history of blackface. My comment was more for the it’s not blackface, is it, when black people do it.

      • crtb says:

        My understanding of the meaning of blackface is to wear make-up to look like a person with dark skin. In the past this was exaggerated to make the dark person look foolish. I can tell by reading the comments that most people know nothing about Nina and her struggles of being dark and considered ugly. Viola Davis has suffered the same criticism. To cast a woman who is neither dark or consider unattractive by European standards doesn’t speak to the struggle Nina suffered. This is not just about her music it is about how poorly she was treated because of her looks. In addition, Zoe isn’t even a singer! India Arie not only looks very much like Nina she is a talented singer.

      • Farhi says:

        ” I can tell by reading the comments that most people know nothing about Nina and her struggles of being dark and considered ugly. Viola Davis has suffered the same criticism”

        But Viola is gorgeous. She was considered unattractive?
        Maybe the confusion is due to the fact that not all people of today consider dark skin unattractive? I definitely don’t. And so many people call Lupita gorgeous, and she is and she has a rather dark skin. Or Grace Jones. Grace Jones is stunning.

        The attitudes towards skin color changed significantly it sounds like and to the better. Isn’t that a good thing? We can’t go back to the past and watch events through the eyes of the past.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


        Viola has given interviews saying if not for ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ the show she’s currently on she’d have never done an acting sex scene because women her skin tone are never portrayed as sexy let alone engaging in rape/desirable to anyone.

        The truth with Lupita is we’re all holding our breath praying she has a career. People can praise her beauty but there’s a long history of everyone darker than a medium brown being typecast to play slaves, servants, and other undesirable roles.

      • Jess says:

        I was replying to alexia who said blackface has ALWAYS meant black entertainers blacking up. That is simply not accurate at all. Blackface was happening in theatres For centuries it’s not a thing of the last 100 years of so.

        I don’t really think it’s fair to assume so much about who is posting. I have been a fan of Nina since I was a child because her music was played in our house. I had the great pleasure of seeing her live when she was very old. I have most of her CDs. I think I know my Nina Simone back catalogue especially but I am also pretty familiar with her personal struggles.

        Also indie Arie is a singer its not likely that they will cast someone who isn’t a proven actor unles it’s someone with a huge name. Viola Davis would have been ideal in my opinion, she’s a phenomenal actress and you need that for a story like this.
        But this is the reality in Hollywood , they would rather cast a woman who looks like Charlize theron in monster than an actress who is masculine, overweight or not considered attractive.
        This sucks yes, but this type of casting happens all over the board. 10 years ago this part would have gone to Halle berry.

    • Alex says:

      Yea this is terrible and Nina’s family is against this as well.
      If you don’t know the history of why people are upset it’s because Nina’s entire identity was about the color of her skin. Not just being black but dark skinned black woman. It’s something that still prevails today. They could’ve cast a dark skinned woman and I think it’s an insult to Nina’s memory to cast a light skinned Latina.
      I won’t be watching out of respect to Nina

      • Jess says:

        You have a good point about how she identified. They should have respected that.

      • V4Real says:

        @Alex I said something similar above. It’s not always about race or ethnicity. Sure Zoe identifies as a Black Latina. But her culture is different from Nina Simone. This is what Nina family and her fans have a problem with. Will Zoe be able to embody the true meaning of Nina’s culture, her soul, her struggles. Zoe may identify as Black but she doesn’t represent the true meaning of Nina. Zoe is able to benefit from the best of both worlds, which is great; she can play Black characters (Guess Who) as well as Latino characters (Columbiana and The Losers). Well she also played a Blue person, haha. But in all seriousness I don’t think she was the right fit for Nina. A lot of Cubans identify as Afro-Cuban but I bet even they would be enraged if Viola Davis or my other example Angela Bassett played the role of Celia Cruz. They would say we they know nothing of the culture or the soul of Celia.

      • Jess says:

        But this already happens all over the place, black Africans for instance are always played by black Americans. Morgan freeman played Nelson Mandela. Forrest Whitaker played idi Amin. Don cheadle as the Rwandan hero in hotel Rwanda. None of them africans culturally. Idris Elba is of British and Nigerian descent but the culture in his parents homeland is very different to that of mandalas South Africa. He had to study the culture, the accent and the man.
        To be honest this is what acting is about, you can’t cast an actor just because they are lookalikes with the same cultural background.

        An on another note movies about African characters aren’t even going to be made in Hollywood if they would have to use African actors in the leads.They cast whoever they think can bring in an audience.

      • V4Real says:

        @Jess key word Black. Those actors you name are Black, without the ethnicities of Latino and so on. I can tell you I bet those 3 Black actors can embody and know the struggles of the men they portrayed. Do you really think Zoe can identify with the struggle of Nina? Did they have to alter the look of those 3 Black men the way they altered Zoe? I’m sorry but that’s a bad comparison in my opinion

      • Jess says:

        @ 4VReal
        This wasn’t about make up which I totally agree on. We both agree that Saldana is bad casting but I wouldn’t say it’s because of her culture. Thats like saying Tom Hiddleston should never have been cast as Hank Williams.
        You’re arguing that Latino is a different culture therefore Zoe doesn’t understand the soul or culture of black Americans. Then you say it’s alright that black Americans play black people from other cultures because of their skin colour. I don’t really understand this argument? Are you saying that the different African cultures aren’t very different from African American culture therefore it’s not such a stretch?
        The culture of people from African descent aren’t one big homogenous thing just like people of European culture aren’t all homogenous culturally. Whitaker has nothing whatsoever to do with Uganda even if he’s black. He also looks nothing like idi Amin (freeman or Elba looks very little like Mandela too).
        I will ask you the same question do you think that idris Elba can identify with the struggle of Nelson Mandela?

  3. Tiffany says:

    I got around to What Happened Miss Simone and now this, ummm no. David Oyelowo needs to fire his people.

    • Lilacflowers says:

      Thank you. I came here to comment about the Oscar nominated documentary. Watch the real Nina, not this

      • mp says:

        this x a million. I said it before and I’ll say it again, how in the f*** did the Nina Simone documentary lose to the Amy Winehouse one?!!??

    • Scal says:

      THIS. That documentary was stunning and beautiful and really captured who Nina was to the people around her.

    • chloe says:

      I’m going to have to check out this documentary, it sounds wonderful.

      • lucy2 says:

        I’ve been meaning to watch it for a while now, I think it’s still streaming on Netflix.

  4. stinky says:

    if it brings out her music once again, why not!

  5. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    …no. FOH.

    Shame on Zoe and shame on the idiots who consistently and repeatedly and moronically DO NOT UNDERSTAND you can not just dismiss someone’s racial and ethnic background as a consequence of whatever shitty Lifetime Movie you’re trying to sell.

    Literally millions of dark skinned women who had the natural features and the ability to sing and Hollywood instead looked for someone light to avoid hiring someone who doesnt pass the brown paper bag test.

    • noway says:

      No shame on Zoe, she wanted a job. Frankly, being an employed actress in Hollywood is hard enough, but add a black-latino actress to that and it is even harder. I don’t blame her one bit. Instead of being the side piece to some idiotic movie she gets her shot at a movie of some substance. I understand that race matters, but in acting ideally it shouldn’t. Most actors who are classically trained are taught that they can inhabit any character. Still the reality in life is that the industry has routinely stereotyped, or cast caucasians in most ethnic roles since its beginning. They have left many actors of different races with little opportunity to act at all as even the poc roles are being given to white actors. I realize dark-skinned African American women are discriminated even more than others in casting, but you shouldn’t blame another actress for taking a job when given the chance, especially one of color who probably has almost as hard a time finding substantive roles. You can blame the dumb Hollywood industry for not giving the opportunity to another more appropriate actress.

      • Jen says:

        I just want to say that while many people are working actors and do what they can for a check, Zoe is not one of them. She has Star Trek and Gaurdians of the Galaxy to name just two huge franchises. She is the female star. Yes, both blockbuster, more popcorn flicks, but she is not desperate for work or money at all. So please don’t use that as an excuse. She could do a heavier film with that resume and her name, she didn’t need Nina’s story, no matter how much she may admire her. I love history and historical figures but I’m not casting myself as them just because I love their story.

      • V4Real says:

        Thank you Jen
        I agree that Zoe hasn’t had a hard time at all finding roles. She isn’t your typical Black actress that can’t find roles without being typed cast. She was in the biggest blockbuster of all time where she hardly played a side piece in Avatar. In most of her movies she has hardly ever been the damsel in distress. She has played strong characters in films such as Guardians of The Galaxy, Star Trek, The Losers, Colombiana. Even in some of her comedic performances she was strong and witty in films such as Guess Who and Death at a Funeral. She has had more opportunities then most Black and Latina actresses. She’s been in films with leading men such as Bradley Cooper and Orlando Bloom (when he was an it boy) and she continues to be cast in blockbusters. She has the sequel to GOTG and Avatar 2, 3, and 4 have been announced. She could have skipped out on the Nina Simone biopic and been just fine.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        To add to what others said far more eloquently than me, no. I’m not giving her or anyone else a pass.

        I’ve heard all the excuses before and I’m tired of the poor-me speech from actresses trying to explain why their needs and suffering is more important than the actress who can’t even get an audition because some white woman is playing Native American or an Afro-Latino is donning brown makeup and a prosthetic nose to try and play someone 5 shades darker than her.

        Hollywood is aided in its efforts to whitewash because they have a circus tent full of people with no morals who only care about getting their’s. Zoe has plenty of blockbusters and franchises to make money from without taking this role.

    • Saks says:

      Just want to point out that Latino is not a race it’s more of a cultural reference based of geography and common backgrounds. There are black Latinos particulary in the Caribbean region who mostly are descendents of black slaves (just like the ones who arrived to the US but these ones were brought to LatinAmerica).

      Zoe herself is an Afro-Latina. Maybe it wasn’t the most ideal to play Nina (and yes there are dark black actresses who could have done it), but personally I wouldn’t call it offensive.

  6. jugil1 says:

    This is so insulting. Who thought this was a good idea?????

  7. Pix says:

    Terrible make-up job. Just terrible. I like Zoe Saldana, but there are so many talented black actresses that could have done amazing work. It’s no surprise that Hollywood thinks is acceptable. Shameful.

  8. D says:

    I love Nina Simone, such a beautiful voice. I would have liked to see Lupita Nyong’o in this role (in part because I want to see her in more movies, she’s great:) )

    • Dtab says:

      YES YES…Lupita would have been so good

    • nina says:

      Lupita is too pretty.
      Danai Gurrai would be better

    • Sasha says:

      Lupita looks nothing like Nina Simone either. Adepero Oduye or India Arie favor Nina Simone much more so. Adepero Oduye is a critically acclaimed actress and I’m sure would have killed the part.

    • Trixie says:

      Lupita was not known when they cast and filmed this movie. They cast it in 2012, Lupita came in the scene in her first movie which was released in 2013, and she didn’t become a thing until the Oscar season in 2014.

      My point: it’s not like they skipped over hiring Lupita to hire Zoe. Lupita wasn’t around.

  9. Loo says:

    Zoe Saldana is woefully miscast.

    • censored says:

      Yes she was this isnt just a bronzer or foundation a few shades darker this is outright shoe polish black face.Black people can do black face as well in fact some of the earlier vaudevillians in blackER face were in fact black men
      With regards to Zoes identity, I became aware of who she was from she burst into the scene due to my nieces love for all things Brittany Spears ( Crossroads ) & ballet (Center Stage ) back then it was unusual for a WOC to get her start in the mainstream and Zoe def identified as Latina only visibly bristling when she was referred to as black vividly remember seeing her on those ET Report Access Hollywood interviews (this was before the internet recorded every sound bite)
      It was only when Zoe started going after roles in “black” films that she started identifying as black /Afro Latino
      For what thats worth

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        THAT’S what I was remembering. Thank you for confirming I wasn’t crazy and there was a period where she didn’t identify as black.

  10. QQ says:

    This is MORTIFYINGLY f*cking bad, and really i had to stop at under a Minute cause this was about to irretrievably ruin ” Black is the Color of my True Love’s hair” … this is a Disgrace to Nina’s memory, to acting, to makeup, to intelligence, UGH

  11. Dtab says:

    Only for you told me that this was Zoe Saldana, I would have no idea. The makeup, come on now like…are they being serious??

  12. HK9 says:

    There are so many roles where the make up is at least well done. Why, why why is the make up here so bad??

    • noway says:

      This is just an aside and not really dealing with the big picture problem here, but is it just me or is the makeup in movies just bad lately. I don’t get it either, as I see makeup artist on Youtube totally transform themselves into different people, and the makeup on films looks so bad now. This wouldn’t have helped with this picture as Hollywood couldn’t have picked a worse time to make this bad casting choice, but this is seriously one of the worse makeup jobs I have ever seen. The woman who was faking being African American looked better than that without a professional artist.

  13. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    Also, let’s all just take a moment to realize….you can’t fake black. Rachel Dolezal tried. Whoever the makeup artist is on this tried.

    You can’t fake black.

    You can not accurately portray the tones and dimensions to dark skin by merely slapping brown paint over a white canvas.

    • QQ says:


      What i want to know is still WHY couldn’t Zoe Lobby to do Toña La Negra or La Lupe, both fantastic women, interesting , latinas and singers and closer to her gd actual color and heritage… this is all pissing off all over again, i Thought I was done having this rage aneurysm the first go round.. UGH This is trash

      • noway says:

        If you are dealing with facts, the fact is Zoe doesn’t have that kind of pull or power in Hollywood. Very few women in Hollywood, much less women of color, have that kind of power. I think any sort of anger towards Zoe is misplaced. First she is an actor. Most actors think they can inhabit any role, and they should as this is what will make them strive and challenge to be a good actor. My guess same as David Oyelowo who is in the film, she liked the script and the story and decided to go for it. The blame falls with Hollywood corporate for not seeing that there are more appropriate actresses for the role, not at the actress going for a decent role when so few decent roles are ever written that she would be considered for.

  14. Magnoliarose says:

    This is so absurd I have to take a moment to fully absorb what I am seeing. My first thought is that Zoe should be ashamed of herself and the second is questioning if this is some strange homage to Al Jolson. What in the world is wrong with people? No one involved realized this was a bad idea? Amazing how stupid and ridiculous people can be.

  15. Mia4s says:

    OK… Let’s leave it at that.

    Even worse is the fact that given how long it sat on the shelf it’s likely terrible, and will do terribly. Nina Simone is a fascinating subject and deserved better. Check out the documentary.

  16. Merritt says:

    Ugh no. This role would have been perfect for Uzo Aduba.

    • Marny says:

      Maybe she’s not a good singer.

      • Merritt says:

        Uzo is an accomplished singer.

      • Scal says:

        Uzo studied classical voice at Boston University-so no that’s not it. She was in Godspell on broadway. She’s done a few broadway cares concerts. She’s a great singer.

    • Kitten says:

      She’d be a great choice!

    • Alexis says:

      That would have been a phenomenal choice. We’ve all been terribly robbed by this mess.

    • HK9 says:

      She would have been a wonderful choice. Since Nina’s recordings are amazing, you don’t have to have the actor sing it. Let’s face it, most people would butcher it no matter where they were trained, and I don’t really think people are really interested in hearing another voice other than Nina’s. Get a good actress and have them lip sinc to her recordings. It’s another way to get into the physicality of the subject without the pressure of having to be musically competent as well.

  17. Green Is Good says:

    My god, that makeup is horrid. What in caricature hell?

  18. word says:

    Holy sh*t ! Why couldn’t they just hire a dark skinned African American actress for the part? This is really disgusting on so many levels.

  19. Jean says:

    Zoe Saldana is not light skinned at all. What does Nina Simone’s appearance criticism have to do with the fact that she’s black – I’ve seen such noses and face shapes on white women and it’s wasn’t beautiful at all. Naomi Campbell is dark skinned and she’s a “black panther” and one of most beautiful women in the world. And make up is awful

    • Merritt says:

      Naomi Campbell had at least one nose job.

      • Jean says:

        yes, and? small nose, big lips & eyes are considered to be beautiful in all cultures, not only in a western world. But again, it depends and I’ve seen very beautiful faces with prominent noses and blah faces with tiny noses. So saying that “she didn’t conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty” is at least silly. She didn’t conform to any standards of beauty. And it’s ok, because she’s was a fighter and crazy talented.

      • Tia says:

        I don’t know anything about Naomi Campbell’s nose. However if you travel across Africa you will see different facial structure,skintones and features. Americans often think all Africans look the same.

    • Khadija says:

      I was going to write something mean about people not reading articles before they post their comments, but I am just going to answer your question”.

      “Nina Simone was a dark-skinned African-American woman who was often insulted and denigrated in her time because she didn’t conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty.”

      Colorism is a real thing that exists in several different groups, but to keep this comment to help answer your question, it is a long standing issue within the black community. There was a tv doc on OWN about this that you should watch to understand it more.

      Also, if you have Netflix, there is a doc about Nina that may also shed some light.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      1. Yes she is. Not sure how you can argue that.
      2. Because Nina’s whole story is tied up in her struggles as an (at the time) unattractive African American woman facing discrimination and racism because she refused to bow to society. You don’t think people would complain a light skinned actress who doesn’t identity as black is put in blackface to accommodate this role?
      3. You’re perfectly proving the exact reason this was ignorant with your comment. Yeah, big noses are ugly so lets make sure we never portray them to honor the singer who had one. Smh.

    • LOT says:

      you know, I understand, coming from another culture, that “blackface” is a very offensive procedure and this thing is happening during the “Oscarsowhite” and Police-vs -Beyonce discussion. And that this is a very difficult, tricky and important matter.
      And Zoe is probably miscast and her makeup is terrible…
      However I can’t remember same kind of reactions when Nicole Kidman landed that Virginia Woolf role. After all Nicole was totally miscast, from the look perspective, her makeup was really awful, the nose was totally wrong, her eyes were inexpressive compared to Virginia’s spirited look. Most of all, they caricatured one of the most influential intellectuals of the XX century. She won an Oscar, though.

  20. Tandy says:


  21. Cynthia says:

    I can’t. Hollywood is full of talented, dark-skinned Black women and they had to go with Zoe with a campy make-up ? It looks like a SNL skit. Zoe is usually a decent actress and I can understand wanting a recognizable name who can drum up interest, but why not cast Viola Davis?? Especially with “What Happened Miss Simone?” so fresh in our memories this looks like a mess.

  22. I Choose Me says:

    Obvious makeup is obvious. Did they not have enough the budget for a decent makeup artist? Cause this is bad. Really bad.

  23. Loo says:

    Zoe Saldana is black so I wouldn’t call it blackface but it is silly to hire a lighter skinned woman who looks nothing like Nina Simone for the role.

    I think Saldana was in a tough spot. She’s seen as a hot sci fi babe and wanted to be seen as a serious actress for once so she took on a serious role. Unfortunately Hollywood is very limiting to people of color and black women have it even worse than say black men so this was all she probably could get.

  24. Tara says:

    This just seems like a mistake all around. All the more talented, appropriate for this role black actresses are out of work and they make a joke of Nina Simone’s life on film by casting this girl? It’s ridiculous.

  25. Squiggisbig says:

    Why, just why????

    Won’t be seeing this. Although I would recommend the Netflix doc on Nina Simone.

    Seriously though if they just wanted a big name star why not get someone like Viola Davis? She also doesn’t look like NS but at least they wouldn’t have had to get out the shoe polish like they did with Zoe…

    • Jean says:

      maybe because Viola is like 50 and they wanted to portray her in her younger years?

      • Kitten says:

        She’s fifty but she could easily pass for ten years younger IMO. Besides, there are a ton of makeup and tape tricks as well as camera angles/filters/lenses that can make someone look much younger, if needed.

        This is really REALLY bad. I’m kind of horrified….

  26. Jess says:

    I am not into this most of all because i think viola Davis should have played Nina . Right skin colour and the best actress to tackle such a complex character. You really need a terrific actress to do justice to someone like Nina Simone.
    But on principle I just wanna remind everyone that Denzel Washington is way to dark to play the very light skinned Malcolm x, I never heard anyone complain about that casting.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      Denzel didn’t wear 4lbs of Revlon Caramel Foundation to play the role.

      Furthermore Hollywood has a problem with whitewashing or watering down someone’s skin tone to make them palatable or appealing, but rarely makes the person acting the role darker than their counterpart. It’s a total rarity.

      Where this with Zoe? Happens every week.

    • Jean says:

      This! yes, and how could they cast Steve Carell as the Jewish guy in The Big Short? Steve Carell is Italian. You say there are no good Jewish actors left? *irony*

      And last time a checked – Dominican and Puerto Rican is nationality, not race. Zoe is black and who is author to question her blackness?

    • Alexis says:

      The primary reason why there wasn’t a problem with Denzel Washington playing Malcolm X is that the makers of the film didn’t pile beige makeup on Washington in a creepy and inevitably doomed attempt to the lead look like a fair-skinned black man, as ESE pointed out above. My concerns with this project would be much, much less if they had simply allowed Zoe to play the part without this makeup on. As someone pointed out elsewhere, the reality is that Zoe isn’t *that* light-skinned and her features are African, not European. It’s not like they cast a nearly-white-passing biracial woman like Alicia Keys or Rashida Jones in the role. Someone who looks like Zoe could still credibly be shown to struggle with colorism issues.

      Another reason the Malcolm X casting is different there is a credible argument that Washington was the preeminent black American actor at the time and thus was the natural choice for this prestige project. There are many equally or more celebrated black actresses who could have been chosen for this, Viola Davis chief among them (although Uzo Aduba would have been my choice).

      Finally, there’s just the classic issue of “hey, there’s this one, rare chance for a person of background X to be featured, and Hollywood caved again.” This is a less radical case because it’s within a race, but it’s no less true. Prominent projects in movies seem to always go to lighter-skinned black women as opposed to their more melanin-blessed counterparts, and this was a big chance for a dark-skinned black woman to be cast in (what might have been a) prestige role. (I do think this controversy has killed the success of the film, unless reviews are somehow stellar.) Malcolm X was actually unusual in making the historical lead darker rather than lighter, and Denzel’s talent and star power was critical to the exception to the rule being made.

  27. Cc says:

    Makes me sad to see Zoe part of this mess, I like her as an actress, but yeah, she looks nothing like Nina Simone, and the fact that she has to wear all that makeup for their color skin to match… yikes. Honestly why not cast Uzo Aduba for this role? She’s fantastic and I think she actually looks a bit like Nina.

    • Jess says:

      Same reason Charlize was cast in that movie monster she looks nothing like that character and had to wear tons of make up etc.

  28. lovemesseg says:

    Zoe is clearly miscast and it is insulting.

    Why go through the process of darkening her skin and putting a fake nose on her when there are literally other good candidates to play the role.

    Zoe also doesn’t consider herself Black as she is Latina.

    • Josefina says:

      “Zoe also doesn’t consider herself Black as she is Latina.”

      By that train of thought I could say Beyonce’s not black either because she’s from Texas.

      There’s black people in Latin America too. More than in the USA, actually.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        The problem isn’t whether it’s accurate.

        It’s not about region, the reality is many Latinos choose not to identify as black because they think black people are lesser and ugly. So when someone who clearly is says they’re not I’m willing to go with that, no need to force an identity on someone who thinks merely being labeled something is an insult.

        That being said it seems like Zoe does identify as Afro-Latina.

      • Josefina says:

        I’m not understanding this thing about people choosing a race they “identify” with. Race is determined by genetics. Wether you carry those genes with pride or you identify with the culture those genes come from is a completely different matter. But your race is determined the moment the sperm reaches the egg. And that much is a scientific, objective, irrefutable fact.

      • Farhi says:

        “Race is determined by genetics. ”

        I think it is actually a pretty controversial statement and not a fact. I think there are many who think the race is an outdated concept and is social in basis, not biological. And the correct way to identify groups is by their ethnicity. But I am pretty ignorant on the subject, I am not a biologist, so I’ll stop right here. Just some quotes to explain what I am referring to.

        “There is currently one biological race in our species: Homo sapiens sapiens. However, that does not mean that what we call “races” (our society’s way of dividing people up) don’t exist.”

        “There is no genetic sequence unique to blacks or whites or Asians. In fact, these categories don’t reflect biological groupings at all. There is more genetic variation in the diverse populations from the continent of Africa (who some would lump into a “black” category) than exists in ALL populations from outside of Africa (the rest of the world) combined!”

    • Alexis says:

      She considers herself to be a black Latina. However, she’s still miscast here.

  29. Josefina says:

    Terrible. Absolutely terrible. Nina Simone is a legend and one of the greatest musicians in American history. She deserves better than this.

    I thought this whole thing was left in development hell. Oh, well. It will definitely bomb at the box office and for good reason.

  30. nina says:

    trailer made me laugh


  31. soooooo no one thought to have or pay for Viola Davis to hit this COMPLETELY RIGHT……

    This honestly could have been her oscar piece…. JEEZUS…

    hollywood and this oscar thing and just entertainment is trenched in colorism and racism… so much so that films are selling because they refuse to UPDATE their biz / marketing model and the public is fed up and becoming awakened

  32. Scal says:

    The awful makeup aside-the SINGING is dreadful. Just awful. Is that Zoe singing because I know that’s not Simone. The timber is all off.

  33. Eleonor says:


  34. Tia says:

    This movie looks awful. However the comments on this site are confusing. For instance the casting of a white English actor as MJ had quite a few defenders, some of whom are now outraged by this particular casting.Quite peculiar given that Zoe Saldana likely has some semblance of understanding of what it means to be a black woman in America, whereas finnes understanding of the black experience anywhere equals zero.

  35. Ashley says:

    It’s too bad there are all these issues with the film because it honestly looks moving and well made, and the actors are each wonderful. I can’t claim to agree with or fully understand the nuances of colorism or the related outrage but I also can’t really speak to any of this without whitesplaining so – it’s just too bad, all around, for everyone. I wonder if it will still do well?

    At the end of the day, this seems more to me like the classic make-yourself-slightly-less-attractive (prosthetic nose) and-win-an-oscar trick than anything, and I don’t believe anyone was hollering at Charlize for taking the role in monster, which “could have been better portrayed by a heavier-set, not traditionally beautiful actress”. I dunno. That said, I realize these are not really two comparable situations. There’s a lot more involved. Should be interesting. I still would like to see it.

  36. Farhi says:

    I understand some of this controversy since I was completely outraged by Lily James being cast as Natasha in the War & Peace, the part she was absolutely unsuited for. She absolutely ruined a wonderful multi-million production which was quite good otherwise.
    But my guess is the producers wanted a recognizable lead who they thought would bring the audience. A huge mistake.

    I suspect this is the case here as well. I don’t think there was colorism at play here necessarily. Producers probably thought Zoe is a bigger/ popular name than the other actresses who were more suitable. In the end it is always about profits. And to that point, if that movie bombs I suspect some will explain it by the subject matter not being appealing to the mainstream audience, which is wrong. I wouldn’t go too hard on this movie if you want to see more movies about African American icons. ( Though, the make up does look awful , but it is on producers not on Zoe.)

    • Bootsie says:

      Just wondering why you thought Lily James was so bad? I personally don’t care for her as an actress – is this also why you didn’t like her in the role or are there other reasons beyond that? I’d be interested to know 🙂

    • Farhi says:

      She didn’t suit the character. I think she is a cute girl and a very bad actress. She was fine in Cinderella because she was kind of playing herself. But Natasha is not supposed to be an empty silly airhead, she is supposed to be a strong charismatic and talented woman. Not conventionally pretty but so charismatic that everyone is attracted to her anyway over all the other classical beauties such as Helene. Natasha is more of Joan D’Arc character than Cinderella. Only in this story Joan D’Arc gets eventually married and has a bunch of kids and a happy family. ))

      Didn’t it look just slightly unbelievable ( lol) that all those successful and prideful men were falling for silly childish Natasha as she was played by Lilly? She was playing her absolutely and totally wrong.

  37. AlmondJoy says:

    I’ve been avoiding this thread all day, mostly because I CAN’T. No, Zoe. No, no, a thousand times no. For the reasons posted above. This isn’t what Nina would have wanted. Movies like this should be made to HONOR a person’s legacy, not disregard everthing they stood for.

  38. vespernite says:


    I’m angry because I am black, but very fair….and have been told that I wasn’t black enough! Black enough for what?? I’m so sick of hearing this.

    • Fluffytoes says:

      If it was only about emotion then they would not have darkened her skin. They had to see it integral in some way or they wouldn’t have bothered- especially considering the blacklask and objections of her family. I don’t see Zoe as a such an amazing actress that she couldn’t be replaced with an actress who more physically resembled Simone.

      I’m on the lighter end of the spectrum as well, but can recognize that it’s not about me or my experiences.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      …but let’s actually take a common sense approach to this.

      Would a biography of Grace Jones be played by Halle Berry? Probably since Hollywood is a mess but Grace’s skin tone and embrace of it against a culture that told her she should be shamed is integral to her story. This aspect of her can’t be denied which means the actress would have to appear dark.

      So how do we combine Hollywood’s two favorite past times of whitewashing and undervaluing poc’s life stories? By having Halle smear dark foundation all over her face while actresses with that natural skin tone are left out in the cold again.

      I’m sympathetic to the hardships you’ve faced but this isn’t the same situation.

    • choco says:

      Yeah she’s black. She’s black enough but not dark enough for the role. As a dark skinned black woman I have a problem with this. If you knew anything about Nina Simone you’d know that zoe shouldn’t be playing this role.

      It’s so sad that dark skinned black women can’t even play a dark skinned woman role. They had to take a light skinned and dip her into make up, while they could easily have had a person with the color and right features.

  39. Anotherjen says:

    If Kevin Spacey can play Bobby Darrin anything is possible.

  40. Michelle says:

    This trailer basically screams, “Women’s stories are only interesting if there is a man as a savior, and black art is only valuable if it’s about civil rights.” Nina Simone is one of the greatest musician-singer-songwriters of all time. Why is only 10% of this trailer about her music?

  41. Rockin Robin says:

    Its all so disrespectful.

  42. Rockin Robin says:

    MCRAW nailed the EXACT reason why this movie and casting makes me so angry.

  43. Kel says:

    Why is this movie even a thing? It’s even worse now than it was in 2012 bc it is superfluous, unnecessary. The documentary “What’s Wrong, Miss Simone?” is brilliant and enough. This…isn’t needed, and it never was needed.

  44. Jag says:

    The official Nina Simone twitter certainly has a strong opinion about this movie as well. I agree that someone else should have played her.

  45. MsAubra says:

    Once I saw the trailer, I can at the very least say that Zoe tried…

  46. Constance Dellor says:

    I didn’t know there are a lot of silly “black” women in America. Don’t expect to be taken seriously if you are offended by an afro Latina playing a black woman. She is not black enough? Why should directors then give black actors roles that are traditionally for white men. As some one who migrated to the US from Africa it is just funny the kind of things some “black” people get offended by. Whitaker played Indi Amin. Were you all offended by that? With all this diversity discussion ongoing, don’t expect to be taken seriously if you are mad at a light skin black woman plays a darker skinned woman. It is called ACTING y’all.

  47. Constance says: