(ThySistas.com) Nina Simone was an amazing woman. She sang from the heart, and she did not care what people thought about her. She was a star and a martyr all at the same time. Her music moved us, her power intrigued us and her talent uplifted us. She was more than a singer. She was a revolutionary. All of this and so much more is the very reason Zoe Saldana was the wrong person to play her in a movie about her life.
The actress has been under scrutiny for her take as the soulful singer, and while a handful of people stand by her side, the consensus is that her casting as Nina Simone was the wrong move. Taking all things into consideration, here is what we have to realize about this situation.
The most simple definition is to discriminate against someone based on the perceived social meanings of the shade, color hue (whatever you want to call it) of their skin. While Zoe is an Afro-Latina, she doesn’t represent who Nina Simone was in skin color, body shape or voice. In fact, she wears blackface in the film to achieve Nina’s skin tone and the make up used to make her darker actually looks like blackface.
Colorism is the thing that caused the “higher ups” to cast Saldana, a fairer skinned black woman with European features in a role that a darker skinned woman with more traditional black features should have played. In reality, Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone is just as bad as a white person playing her. Anytime you have to darken someone’s skin for a role, it is not a good sign.
The thing that really upsets people is that Nina Simone was a woman who didn’t shy away from speaking about the struggles she faced as a dark skinned woman in the music industry. In fact, she prided herself on her ability to navigate through the male-dominated, white industry of the 1960’s and 70’s. The way she looked was a central part of who she was and the person playing her in a movie about her life should be a reflection of who she truly was, naturally.
There is so much colorism in the black community, and as much as we don’t want to admit it, the brown paper bag test is still in effect. Zoe Saldana passes it. In Hollywood, dark skinned and actresses are good enough to play slaves and minor characters, and only light brown and light skinned actresses can take the lead. This is a grave misfortune.
When things like this happen, all it does is reignite the colorism (light skinned/dark skinned) debate that exists in the black community. One of the biggest reasons why it will always be relevant is because we are the ones bringing it up.
There is nothing that we can do about this casting fail. Now we have to decide if we are going to support it because it’s about Nina Simone and we love her or if we will turn our backs on it because it is a slap in the face to her legacy.
Staff Writer; Rasheda Abdullah