We move from the Oscars being “so white,” to not casting “black enough,” in an uproar over the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in the upcoming film Nina; further supporting the tried and true old adage that you cannot please all of the people all of the time, no matter what you do.
The movie industry is just that; an industry. A business with a goal to make money above all else. This becomes ever so apparent with the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. Zoe is a known star. Although she has been attached to big budget productions, I have not seen her in a role that affords her an opportunity to do much acting. (Pardon me, but I did not see Columbiana. I did see the first part of the Rosemary’s Baby remake and honestly I wasn’t impressed either way.) In order to get butts in seats inside of theaters, a studio has to do what a studio has to do; even at the expense of authenticity. Part of the decision may be based on the theory that using a lesser name would not motivate people to see the movie. I like Zoe Saldana, but have never heard anyone saying they must see a movie because Zoe is in it, or saying that Zoe lit up a screen, or nailed a role (with the exception of Columbiana, which, again, I have not seen. I have one friend who told me Zoe did a great job and she loved the movie).
The project has been plagued with scathing and scolding editorials which criticize every aspect of the film. The writer is not black, the man who told the story is gay and of questionable character, the story is fictitious, the family did not cosign on the project nor were they consulted to fact check any detail of the story, Zoe Saldana is all wrong to play Nina – The list of complaints is long. Whoever coined the phrase “There is no such thing as bad publicity” surely never came into contact with this project. It’s pretty bad.
It is my opinion that at the heart of all this controversy is this – There is a temporary, fleeting beauty that fades over time and under other circumstances which we the people admire and fawn over until that fading begins, and then there is beauty that cannot be affected by anything. This is inner beauty, that cannot be measured or touched. Most importantly, what it can do is be felt. This latter is the beauty, the essence and the spirit of Nina Simone. Similarly to Maya Angelou, who many would not consider “classically” beautiful, Simone had an undeniable fire inside that could not be contained and made her gorgeous as a complete package.
Nina’s specific beauty is the type that only the nappy of hair and thick of lips can honestly relate to or relay. If the actress chosen could have met THAT criteria, I believe the issue of “skin tone” would become of less importance.
More generally, we call them Nina, Janice, Cass; women who don’t necessarily have that “classic” beauty, but whose inner beauty is so powerful and shines so brightly through their craft that it cannot be denied. To this day think of the reaction and cruel statements, jokes even, made about talented powerhouses such as Susan Boyle and Adele; even Celine Dion got the treatment early on in her career – based simply on outward appearance. I am certain that any of these women would tell you that to leave out her appearance, is to leave out a huge part of her story.
To cast someone who does not look like Nina is an insult really. Even today, “that look” isn’t even acceptable in her own story. Think about that for a minute.
Again, I know little to nothing of Zoe Saldana’s acting skills so I am more than willing to reserve judgment until I see the finished product. I have never seen Zoe in a dramatic role such as this, driving a film, but Zoe Yadira Saldaña Nazario, I want you to be fierce. I want to look at this movie and see you acting so well I forget all about the makeup, and the controversy, and everything else but Nina! I want you to shut up all the naysayers and act your ass off! I hope you set that screen on fire!!!
Nina premiers in studios on Friday, April 22. Come back and I will let you know what happens.