Zoë Saldana Addresses Nina Simone Biopic Backlash: ‘We F—ing Won’

Zoe Saldana Addresses Nina Simone Backlash
Matt Baron/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock

Zoë Saldana is finally addressing her controversial casting as Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic “Nina.”

The actress was slammed be her critics for wearing “blackface” and a prosthetic nose in order to play the part. Even Simone’s estate responded to Saldana’s tweeting one of Ms. Simone’s lyrics by writing, “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out of your mouth. For the rest of your life.”

Now the actress is confronting her critics head on.

“The script probably would still be lying around, going from office to office, agency to agency, and nobody would have done it. Female stories aren’t relevant enough, especially a black female story,” she said in a cover story for Allure. “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.’”

In addition to validating her decision to take the part, the actress also celebrated the visibility she has brought Simone.

“The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We f—ing won,” she said. “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.”

Regarding her skin color, which is much lighter than Simone’s was, Saldana said, “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.”

She also commented on her critics’ insults of her prosthetic nose. “I never saw her as unattractive,” she said. “Nina looks like half my family! But if you think the [prosthetic] nose I wore was unattractive, then maybe you need to ask yourself, ‘What do you consider beautiful?’ Do you consider a thinner nose beautiful, so the wider you get, the more insulted you become?”

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  1. Sam says:

    This is one of those movies you knew will be a flop after seeing the movie trailer. I am so glad the Viola Davis, Mary J. Blige, India Arie, or other actresses/singers were not anyway involve with this awful ass movie. But sorry that David Oyelowo, Ella Joyce, and Mike Epps talents were wasted. When I saw the movie trailer, I knew this movie will be on the worst movies list of 2016. Just think if Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were still around, it would be on their “dogs of the week” pick.

    Saldana problem is that she refused to accept this movie is a straight up bad. That is the responsibility when you play a lead character (and producer/executive producer) in any project.

  2. Jennette says:

    I have known who Nina Simone was for a least 35 before this article ! i’m glad her story is being told for the younger generation but to say that nobody knew who she was as false !!!!
    Back in the day ,Cleopatra was protraded by Elizabeth Taylor who was white and Cleopatra’s was black.

    Her story is being put out there for the masses, that’s what counts and who knows maybe Zoe performance will be more powerful then her tan. 😊

  3. Sheelface says:

    Well, she is right about one thing: People were talking about Nina Simone. Now, here is where she was wrong: it’s not it the way she thinks or in a positive light because of casting herself in the role.. She’s basically saying if it wasn’t for her because, “For so many years, nobody knew who the f— she was, ” giving herself WAY too much credit on this one, when that is so presumptuous of her to think she HAD to do this because no one knew about Nina before this film came along. Please believe that majority of people most certainly know who Nina Simone is, which is why there was such an uproar, because many felt it wasn’t going to be presented in the best way her fans thought possible. Kudos for trying and I’m sure it was with well intentions, but there is no victory to claim for this at all. Perhaps the fact that she was able to produce and release a film in Hollywood, which is a feat, but there’s nothing to celebrate if no one saw it and it seemed fail on so many levels.

  4. Angi says:

    “Regarding her skin color, which is much lighter than Simone’s was, Saldana said, “There’s no one way to be black. I’m black the way I know how to be.” There is only one way to be Nina Simone “black”.

  5. Billy DaMota CSA says:

    “Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the ‘right’ black person will do it…?”

    Um. Yes.

  6. Matt says:

    “my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told”

    But according to Simone’s estate the story being told is not based on fact. That makes it no different than one of those miscast, sensationalized TV biopics which air on the Lifetime Channel. In this case the “story” did not need to be told.

  7. Bam Bam says:

    Zoe and anyone else who agrees with her are willfully ignorant. There are books and movies about why her casting is not right and she is basically saying fuck history and all of the negative stereotypes that darkskinned black women are too ugly to even play themselves. She can choose to be willfully ignorant and we can call her on it.

  8. Joe says:

    I’m not surprised she would try to put a positive spin on it. The film was a financial and critical failure, as well as a black eye for her.

  9. Marie says:

    The movie wasba complete failure
    No, you didn’t win.

    • Dunstan says:

      True, the film wasn’t a success but that was probably more due to the script and/or direction than to anything Zoe Saldana did or did not do.

  10. jim says:

    This is stupid. Actors use makeup tricks all the time to look like other people.

  11. John says:

    A perfect example of why I love Zoe Saldana.

  12. jazz says:

    skip the movie and just listen to the real nina instead…

  13. Kt. says:

    All are great points. It’s still important to ask if they ultimately DEFER to Simone herself, or constitute COMPROMISES. Too much of the latter is cause for controversy.

  14. Voni says:

    Love her comments!

  15. 1favored says:

    Saldana is Spanish, not black. She is Dominican and Puerto Rican. Race aside, she is not that good of an actor to do anyone’s biopic. It’s unfortunate that her lack of knowledge concerning African Americans makes her think ” We f—ing won”…I guess that’s her way of speaking “black”. She is out of her depth on this one.

    • whate says:

      ?? you mean she’s latina (that doesn’t mean ‘she comes from Spain’) and of course you don’t know that neither latina nor spanish are races. She’s black and latina= afro-latina. Same thing as afro-american. Basically you just said that Nina Simone herself was american not black.

  16. H.M.L. says:

    Arrogance laced with some ignorance. Number one, they altered events/people in Simone’s life, even going so far as to negate a main person in her life’s sexuality, so there could be a small romantic angle in the film that never existed in real life. That’s a bio? The make-up WAS offensive. The rating on Rotten Tomatoes for the film is 3%! Lower than some Uwe Boll (a current Ed Wood Jr.) films-extremely damning. Simone’s family took great offense to the film. But Saldana takes pride for getting a bad, non-factual script made-perhaps that’s why it was always being passed by as she says- and also, that she got some yutzes to make it trending for a sparse few moments. In all aspects this film was a fail…but do go one Ms. Saldana.

  17. Phillip Ayling says:

    While Zoë Saldana says: “Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told”…it is abundantly clear that she cannot accept any consequence that involves finding fault with her.

  18. Joi Karen says:

    thank you to Karim, Christopher, Ryan Izay and Murica! for intelligent responses because each of the OTHER commenters, along with zoe saldana herself, sound so ignorant that i can only shake my head. And, to all the [really] black people [and not those posing as black just to troll] anytime you say things like you are “tired” of black talk about race or “exhausted” by discussions of light/dark skin, what you really mean is that you are just tired and exhausted with being black period. Unless you have read numerous books on all subjects relating to the black diaspora, you have no right to even talk about how pleased you are with zoe saldana’s portrayal of the nina simone role. and all zoe is saying in her foolish rant is that no WHITE producers were interested in doing a film about nina simone. since that is the case, saldana has only played into the hands of the hollywood establishment and helped the film get made with her light skin-ded self which was the only kind of person THEY would accept to play this part in the first place. trending does not mean anything at all and just because a person comments on something does not mean that this person is smart or even well read. what was wrong with indie arie’s playing this part? isn’t saldana rich enough to have just produced this film without having to actually play the part herself. if you had been born at the time that nina walked off the stage when some ignorant, rowdy persons at the Apollo theater disrespected her presence with their behavior or when nina wrote and sang “what are we gon’ do now that the king of love is dead?” following the MLK assassination? NO, a person who wrote YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK did not want the likes of a zoe saldana pretending to be her. a lot of you folk need to get up off your butts and get a library card or sign into amazon.com or barnes&noble.com and READ more than you do–because beauty fades but stupid is forever.

  19. I feel three ways about this: 1) I hope it’s better than the disaster that was the Hector Lavoe biopic; 2) I wish a dark-skinned actress like Gabriel Union was playing Nina Simone – she is a better actress than Ms. Saldana; 3) I think she is doing it for the right reasons and commentators below who say that “everybody knows who she is” are wrong – this is a chance for mulitplex Americans in towns and suburbs, not to mention people everywhere – and I mean including BLACK AMERICANS most of whom don’t know about her or artists’ roles in civil rights struggles, then and now – who need to see this story.

    So all in all, Ms. Saldana, do your thing.

  20. D says:

    It’s ridiculous that black people are still hung up on the light skinned, dark skinned thing. Perhaps we would have been satisfied if it were a white woman in black face. Black people really need to get a grip. And yes, there are many younger people who do not have a clue about Nina. I’m glad Zoe is speaking out. The whole issue of her getting the part is so stupid. Black people should rejoice each time Hollywood cast a black actor in a role that doesn’t include acting like a daggon fool. Too many times we are cast in less than desirable roles just to get a paycheck.

    • Bam Bam says:

      you missed the entire point of why people are mad. Everyone knows that black people come in all shades and the one that Nina came in was DARK. Why not find a woman who at least resembled her in the slightest. Nope they casted a woman with European features to play the role because HOLLYWOOD does not think that women who are not lighter than a brown paper bag can sell a movie ticket.

      • Jake says:

        i think most understand why people are mad. It’s just the sensitivity hits such a ridiculous pitch that it’s hard to take seriously. Just like most PC stories we hear in the media every day. Sensible people hear these things and are baffled by the stupidity and mindless droning of people masquerading behind a cause.

  21. fanya395 says:

    Backface? It’s called make-up. People need to seriously get a grip. Zoe, stand up for yourself, these people are idiots. Miscast or not, people have the right to create. It is going to be interesting to see who call the shots and why. Damn insecurity!

  22. nimportequoi says:

    Anyone that is in tune…knows who she is…she perhaps didn’t get as much recognition as Ella…

  23. nimportequoi says:

    Oh, please…

  24. Cecil B Da Mill says:

    all the color and race business is exhausting and oh so tedious, can we just focus on the performer and the performance- Jesus, give it a rest already!!

  25. Karim says:

    Everyone knows who Nina Simone is. Saldana was in blackface she just doesn’t understand what blackface is, apparently. Black performers were often made to perform in blackface. Many other actresses could have done a better job, and this movie was garbage. If anyone wants to see her story they can see the Netflix documentary.

    • JP says:

      Everyone DOES NOT know who Nina Simone is and her greatest successes and recognition came long after her original recordings. Don’t kid yourself. Just because her music is recognizable to many now, don’t kid yourself that it’s been that way for as long as Nina Simone began making music.

    • mypoorhoney says:

      Haters gonna hate. It’s sad that a black woman can’t play a black woman because she just ain’t black enough for all you racist. It’s called bigotry.

  26. Tony says:

    Refreshingly honest response to the Twitter Hate Squad generation. Bravo.

  27. Morris Thomas says:

    Do your thang Zoe!!! Don’t even sweat the haters.

  28. Christopher says:

    She sounds awfully arrogant here. Just because she might have been ignorant of Simone doesn’t mean everyone else was. Skin color and nose shape aside, she was miscast. Period.

  29. Ryan Izay says:

    What many years is she talking about that people didn’t know Simone? I’m a young white man and have known and respected Simone’s work long before this ridiculous film was made. And juse because Simone is trending in twitter doesn’t mean she won anything. A lot of what trends on twitter are things people are outraged at. Such arrogant justification in the face of criticism. Nobody is asking you to apologize for being cast, but you could try and humble yourself. You were lucky. More people probably didn’t know who you were before the controversy rather than Nina.

    • julian siqueiros says:

      I didn’t know who she was,the same thing happen with a lot of people in Mexico incluiding the afromexican communnity .

      so I guess she has a point.

    • Murica! says:

      She’s delusional! Maybe she is talking about herself. Maybe she didn’t know who the f she was. I knew who she was and I’m also a white man. Why did she even take the part, if Simone’s estate was against it. Is she that selfish?

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