Nina Simone: When The Black Hand Side Is Still Too Light

Has Nina Simone’s legacy been reduced to being portrayed in blackface? Apparently, dark skin is unacceptable even when you’re dark-skinned.
Zoe Saldana portrays Nina Simone in Blackface

Nina Simone has turned over in her grave at least 100 times over by now. In fact, I’m positive that she stood up and screamed, “AWWW HELL NAW! What the FUCK is this?”

The green light has been given to release her biopic starring Zoe Saldana. It’s set to be released this spring. They even have a poster. *fast blink*

Here’s what’s clear. This is another case of white people white peopling. This is CLASSIC Hollywood. I am not surprised nor am I angry. This is bigger than them. Nina Simone is an icon of pure unadulterated blackness. Her features were a soliloquy of Mother Africa. Hollywood could’ve easily cast Halle Berry or Vanessa Williams to portray Nina Simone and not one fuck would have been given. White execs don’t see color. No really- they don’t. They won’t admit that colorism is a divider of black people all over the world because that would require an admission of the devastation that European colonization has caused throughout the diasporan world. Again, this is bigger than them.

Nina Simone
Nina Simone in all of her negritude. Photo courtesy of Netflix.com

I don’t expect for others to tell our stories accurately. However, I do expect that WE represent our stories with accuracy, respect, and dignity. With that said, there has been a tremendous backlash against Zoe Saldana for her portrayal of Ms. Simone including from Simone’s own estate. Mira. I’m not pissy because an Afro-Dominicana is portraying a black American woman. Black is black to me.

It wasn’t a big deal when Jeffrey Wright portrayed “Peoples Hernandez” (an afro-dominican drug dealer) in “Shaft”. In fact, he did a bang up job with his accent and mannerisms. Dominicans had their guiros in a bunch, though. So what he wasn’t actually Dominican. I know Dominicans who look and speak like him. Blackface was not required. Idris Elba portrayed “Stringer Bell” on HBO’s hit series “The Wire” with effortless B-more swag. He’s a Brit of Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian descent. Blackface was not required. Nationality, culture, and language are irrelevant factors in this situation.

Zoe Saldana’s genotype isn’t right to portray Nina Simone. This shouldn’t require thick, ugly pancake makeup or prosthetic noses to achieve a dark-skinned black woman. This  shouldn’t be another version of C.Thomas Howell in “Soul Man”. Some shit is not worth doing. Coins be damned. How did the key makeup artist look at his or her completed work and feel like they did an amazing job? It’s shitty at best. This is a caricature of a legend gone extremely WRONG. My only gripe with Zoe is that she should have walked- NO. She should have run from this project and been honest enough to know that she wasn’t a good fit for his role. She couldn’t even portray Celia Cruz. I don’t imagine that she has ever had the struggle of not being accepted because she was too black or her hair was nappy. Even as an afro-latina, she isn’t on the dark end of blackness.

I don’t know what she will do to promote this film. I’m not supporting it and I know many others who will not either. Hopefully, this will flop just like “Gods of Egypt” and rightfully so.

As black folks, we need to know when we to stay in our lanes in terms of color as well. We, also, have to know when to walk away from certain projects. Better yet, let’s tell our own stories.

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