The Blackest Black History Month just ended, and we’re now in Melanin March, but folks are trying to steal our joy!
In October 2012, it was announced that a movie based on the iconic singer, activist and overall badass Nina Simone was being produced. Excitement quickly turned to confusion and then anger when we learned that the person playing her would be Zoe Saldana.
When pictures of Zoe Saldana on the set of Nina dropped three years ago and everyone saw the face paint and prosthetic nose that she had to don to bring the character to life, collective tantrums happened. She didn’t really bring Nina to life as much as she killed her dead, looking casket-sharp in some post-mortem makeup.
She looks utterly ridiculous and nothing like the resplendent Nina Simone.
Everyone assumed that common sense would catch up with the team behind the film and they would silently drop it and moonwalk out. But no. They just let the dust clear for three and a half years before making it rise from the ashes like an evil phoenix no one wanted to see.
On Tuesday, the film’s official poster was released, and we found out the movie’s release date. Wednesday, the trailer dropped, and all the cuss words in the world dropped from my mouth. It looks even worse than I imagined, and Zoe’s performance ain’t worth a lick nor does it redeem that horrific makeup job we initially saw in pics. Now I’m mad all over again.
And that’s just the trailer. Just. The. Trailer.
Zoe Saldana is a decent actress. I like her well enough, but this was a bad decision for her to make. When her agent – or someone – floated the idea of her playing Nina, she should have just laughed the suggestion off. We gotta know where we fit in. In the last chemistry class I took, I got a D. If someone asks me to come teach a chemistry class right now, I better say a hearty “NO.”
Because I know my lane. Saldana should have done the same and declined the role.
In 2015, the actress admitted she didn’t think she was right for the part in an interview with InStyle magazine.
It has nothing to do with the fact that she is Afro-Latina, either. That has been a retort folks have lobbied at those of us who are shaking our fists here. That ain’t even the point, so tuck that in.
It has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that she is a light-skinned actress playing a figure who was defined by her dark skin, reveled in it and prided herself for it. The fact that Zoe had to get her face PAINTED and a fake nose to play this role should have let her say “Nah, not for me.”
Instead, she took it on and chose to endure what looks like hours in the makeup chair just to end up looking like the Avatar version of the beautiful Nina Simone. Or a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum copy. Twitter user Brandon Caldwell said she looks like Eddie Murphy’s character from Dreamgirls, and I have been unable to unsee that very accurate visual.
Can a black person don blackface? Look at this pic and tell me the answer is a clean ass “no.” BET YOU CAN’T.
Zoe ain’t the only one at fault here, though. The ragtag team of decision-makers who decided to do a movie on Nina Simone’s life but said “to hell with accuracy” get a huge chunk of blame too.
Not surprisingly, they’re mostly white – the director, casting director, producer, and lead makeup artist to be exact. Zoe’s face is an ash brown, and my face is red with anger.
What adds insult to injury is the dearth of f’s they gave in making the best product they could.
They should have chosen an actress who didn’t need to be painted like a canvas to look like Nina Simone. They did not need to use her for this role when there are loads of other actresses who wouldn’t require them to make weekly Sephora runs because they kept running our of MAC NW45 foundation.
For starters, Adepero Oduye would have been perfect for this. She LOOKS like Nina and is a gifted actress. Was Danai Gurira busy? She could have rocked this too. What about India.Arie? There’s also Viola Davis. That would have been great to see. Many people said Lauryn Hill could play this part, but I disagree. She’d have to play Nina from the future, because she’d show up 45 days late to set.
It is just so indicative of Hollywood’s laziness, their lack of desire to do right by us and the arrogance that comes with all of that. The Nina Simone estate has denounced this film from jump too, so it’s been layers of disrespect.
Wednesday night, they must have had enough. After Saldana quoted Nina on Twitter, this happened:
If those of us who are just fans of Nina are feeling this frustrated, I can’t imagine how folks who know her are dealing with this K-Mart version of her life.
Even David Oyelowo’s appearance in the trailer wasn’t enough to make me wanna stop kicking teddy bears. Someone said he woulda played a better Nina than Zoe, and I howled to the blue-corned moon.
That trailer, man. WHY, SWEET ALABASTER BABY JESUS IN A MANGER WITH TIMBS ON? Whew. The devil is busy. They need to return this movie to sender and then we can all agree it never happened.
And I pray to the Heavenly Father that Zoe’s edges grow back after they were snatched in that clapback on Twitter.
Luvvie is a side-eye sorceress and writer who talks pop culture at Awesomely Luvvie, technology/business at Awesomely Techie. She is also the Executive Director of The Red Pump Project. She can be found loitering on Twitter (@Luvvie), Facebook and Instagram.