That is the question that I tweeted after reading both sides of the argument for the casting of Zoe Saldana in the Nina Simone bio pic. Zoe Saldana tweeted this quote – “The meanest,most contemptible kind of praise is that which first speaks well of a man,and then qualifies it with a “but”.”~Henry W. Beecher
I definitely understand her perspective as she is an Afro-Latina and I am sure she can identify with Nina’s story as she is a person of colour in Hollywood. I also believe her to be a formidable actress who is capable of telling the story. Yet I can understand the outrage of many black women who feel that their black is not beautiful in Hollywood and this just illustrates that again. Far too many times female lead characters are uber thin, fair skinned women, especially in this case when the movie is a bio-pic and the actress hired looks nothing like the person she is hired to portray.
As a mother of a dark skinned daughter and as a photographer of women who constantly discusses self image and the media I felt compelled to write this post. I am sure Zoe Saldana feels like how dare people say I am not “black enough” to play this part. At the same time she may not be able to understand that their are millions of black women who long to see their stories, their body shapes and their complexions reflected in Hollywood. What makes this particular casting even more of a hot button is that Nina Simone’s lyrics resonated so well because she questioned these ideas (blackness and beauty) in her music. Here is one of my favourite songs by Nina Simone… When I listen to the lyrics I wonder who would Nina want to play her?