Nina

There’s been no shortage of criticism about Zoe Saldana’s upcoming Nina Simone biopic, Nina. From the beginning, the project was plagued with problems and Simone’s estate was not on board.

Since the trailer for Nina was released last week, the blowback has only increased, with many blasting filmmakers for putting Saldana in dark brown makeup in an attempt to match Simone’s deep hue.

While Saldana has been enthusiastic about the project, those close to the legendary musician have not.

Recently, singer India Arie spoke to the Hollywood Reporter and made it all the way plain about why folks are so upset about Nina.

In the interview, Arie made it clear she doesn’t blame Saldana for accepting the role, but rather Nina’s filmmakers for choosing the Afro-Latino actress simply for name recognition. Arie also can’t get over the fact that they “had to put a whole other face on someone’s face” to pull it off.

I don’t know her and I don’t think she did anything wrong. If I were in her shoes and I admired Nina Simone the way that I hear she does, I would have said yes, too, and I don’t even think I can act. If they asked me to sing Nina Simone, I got that. But I never pursued it because I felt it was not my place. And I don’t know if it was her place to do that.

I think they cast Zoe Saldana because they wanted a big name, but that makes me ask, “Is the name Nina Simone not big enough to get people to come to the movie?”

Arie is one of the few people to have seen the film, albeit an earlier version, but according to her it was a mess.

It made me sad. The way she looked in the movie was ugly. Whether or not Nina Simone was beautiful in your eyes, I thought she was beautiful. But in this movie, she just looked weird. Her skin looked weird, and her nose looked weird. It made me wonder, was that how the filmmakers see her? Did they not think she was beautiful? Were they like, “Yeah, we got it! That’s how she looked.”

Though some have wondered why folks have such a reaction to Saldana playing Simone, considering both are Black women, Arie flawlessly broke it down.

When you’re a Black woman in the entertainment industry, you really feel that black tax. You have to try twice as hard to get half as much, for people to see you or for people to understand your beauty and to photograph your skin the right way, and to think that you’re beautiful enough to want to photograph you the right way. I have had personal conversations with some Black women in Hollywood who would be considered some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, and they struggle with it too: “I lost to this actress because she’s lighter. It’s always me and her, and then she gets it.” I think that needs to be taken into account any time you talk about Nina Simone. I say this because I look at the world through those same eyes. I came into the music industry and I was really naïve. I know a lot about my history, but I thought, “We live in modern times and I’m gonna have as much of a chance as anybody else.” And I did and I didn’t. I have more access than my mother would have had at my age, but there were other things that were just denied me based on my race and my skin tone and my facial features.

Read the entire interview with India Arie on the Hollywood Reporter site. 

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