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Zoë Saldana Slams Nina Simone Casting Critics: ‘There’s No One Way to Be Black’

The film — and her performance — elicited widespread controversy.

Among the many controversial casting decisions this year, Zoë Saldana’s performance as Nina Simone in “Nina” may have elicited the harshest reaction.  The actress wore a prosthetic nose and dark makeup to portray the singer, drawing criticism from many — including members of Simone’s family. Saldana has responded to the controversy in an Allure cover story, saying that “there’s no one way to be black. I’m black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I’m raising black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”

READ MORE: The ‘Nina’ Controversy Shows Exactly Why Hollywood Needs More Diverse Voices

She also stated that the role’s importance extended beyond her performance for the way it brought Simone back to attention. “I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the ‘right’ black person will do it, or do I say, ‘You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told.’”

READ MORE: Zoe Saldana in ‘Nina’: More Than Skin-Deep Problems (Review)

“Nina” was released in April to poor reviews, with much of the criticism centering around Saldana’s casting. Still, the actress considers it a victory of sorts: “The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We f—ing won,” Saldana added. “For so many years, nobody knew who the f— she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else.”

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“For so many years, nobody knew who the f— she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else.” Really? The reason why people reacted they way they did was due to the salient fact they KNEW WHO SHE was. This is some of the most cynical justification for a spectacularly bad idea that blew up in Zoe Saldana’s face. If she was really so concerned about the film perhaps she should have been its executive producer and found the best actress–and a better script.


A white actress plays an asian; people mad. A black actress plays a black woman; people still mad. Crazy.


It’s not as simple as a black woman playing a black woman, Nina Simone’s empowerment was largely rooted in the darkness of her skin, this informed the decisions she made, her frame of mind, what she thought was important which in turn informed her music, her experience of being a dark skinned black woman in America informed her music. I understand what Zoe is trying to argue but the argument isn’t an attack on her “way” of being black, whatever the hell that means, it’s a critique of the systematic incompetence of black culture when it comes to ethnicities

Jen Sochi

If there is no one way to be black then why is Zoe wearing a prosthetic nose an afro wig and dark makeup for this role. Contradiction much. Saldana is delusional with all her justifications. And then to throw salt in the wound and say no one knew who she was? Girl bye. No one knew who you were until you did Avatar. I used to confuse her with Thandie Newton. She need to stick to the alien movies and be quiet.

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