my reaction to the trailer for the film “nina,” based on nina simone’s life: zoe. girl. why?!? the dark makeup and prosthetic nose make zoe saldana look more like an alien cast in a minstrel show than nina simone.
what stings most about zoe’s caricature of the music icon is how the actress and those who cast her in the film are completely ignoring the politics of race and skin tone. when a light skinned woman is “darkened” for a role, it sends the message that an actress who is authentically dark skinned isn’t good — or beautiful — enough for the role. when a fake nose is added to zoe saldana’s face to imitate nina simone’s, it sends the message that an actress who authentically possesses a full nose isn’t good — or beautiful — enough for the role. these notions are rooted in the exact racism and white supremacy that nina stood against.
here’s a list of five black actresses who must have been deathly ill the day zoe saldana auditioned to play nina simone. any one of them would have slayed the part.
1. emayatzy corinealdi, the newcomer who stole our hearts as the devoted wife in ava duvernay’s middle of nowhere.
2. viola davis, greatness in motion, needs no introduction.
3. adepero oduye, i’m still haunted by her gut wrenching portrayal of a young woman navigating her adolescence and sexuality in the 2011 sundance favorite, pariah.
4. danai gurira, writer and actress best known for her role on the walking dead, she’s curently making broadway history.
5. lorraine toussaint, og actress who’s never gotten the accolades she deserves. her portrayal of vee on orange is the new black was masterful.