The Estate of Nina Simone Blasts Zoe Saldana's Portrayal; Distributor Defends

by Newsdesk & VVN Music

The estate of singer Nina Simone has slammed Zoe Saldana on

Zoe is portraying the late singer in the upcoming movie Nina, directed by Cynthia Mort. Following the release of the first trailer for the film on Wednesday, Zoe posted a quote from the singer and activist on which read: "I'll tell you what freedom is to me - No Fear... I mean really, no fear."

Shortly after this, the verified Twitter account @NinaSimoneMusic replied: "Cool story but please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life."

The account is described in its official bio as being the "Official Twitter for the Estate & Legacy of Dr. Nina Simone #ninasimone Pianist, singer, songwriter, activist, icon, mother".

Zoe's casting as Nina has been met with controversy from the very beginning, with the singer's daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, telling the New York Times back in 2012: "My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice."

After the official poster for the film was released on Tuesday (01Mar16), many claimed the actress, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, had her skin darkened to make her look more like African-American Nina.

One person wrote: "QUESTION: Why did they DARKEN Zoe Saldana rather than cast a darker actress since it was such a crucial part of Nina Simone's story?" While another added: "That Zoe Saldana pic as Nina Simone looks like the blackface (theatrical make-up performers use to represent a black person) of a bad Halloween or frat party."

Someone else compared the casting of Zoe to the recent announcement that Shakespeare In Love actor Joseph Fiennes is set to play Michael Jackson in an upcoming television movie, writing: "Zoe Saldana playing Nina is the CLOSEST to whitewashing without a white person. Equivalent to getting a white man to play Michael Jackson."

Earlier today, someone, and it is assumed it is Nina's daughter, posted to the Nina Simone Music Twitter account:

Meanwhile, Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET and the head of RLJ Entertainment who is distributing the biopic, said "Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone. She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent. The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance."

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