I Said it; I’m HAPPY Zoe is Playing Nina Simone!!

For many weeks I have been silently watching the furor over the decision to cast Latina actress Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in a loosely-based biopic. Many critics argued that a Black woman of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent would not have the depth to play such an iconic Black American figure, and that her “light” complexion and more “european” features are a huge slap in the face to everything Nina and her music stood for. I, however beg to differ, and I am no longer holding my tongue on the subject. While I understand the anger over Zoe and other actresses like Halle Berry and Paula Patton getting “preferential treatment” in Hollywood due to this country’s narrow standard of beauty, in THIS specific instance, I believe it is misguided. Below for my take on why.

 

First I will have to get two major annoyances off my chest; the first being everyone suddenly labeling Zoe as “light-skinned”. All I read are blog after blog complaining that directors had the audacity to cast a “light-skinned” actress to play Nina. While Zoe is by no means the gorgeous mahogany hue of Nina, she is far from the tone of a woman that would catch, say…Lil’ Wayne’s eye, so I really need all that mess to stop. There are a plethora of actresses that are Zoe’s complexion that no one has ever complained about in the industry. For example, have you ever heard anyone complain about Nia Long’s “blackness”, or lack thereof?

For argument’s sake, I decided to include Paula Patton and yours truly…

 

Second, all color-struckness (yes I made that up) aside, the fact that Zoe is playing a character that she does not look like, in my opinion, is irrelevant. She does not have an honor-bound committment to the Black community, she has a committment to her career. And as past history has shown…

…transformations get Oscars. And movie roles where you get to play something other than a sidekick or a sex object. Sure Zoe has been IN two of the largest-grossing movies of this decade, but when have you seen her really act? For Zoe, this role is an opportunity of a lifetime and one I highly doubt she will take lightly.

But really, when it all comes down to it, even though I a not related to Nina nor do I know her family, I believe she would not have as much of an issue with it as we think. Why? Because the most important thing to her was that her story was told- AND THAT PEOPLE HEARD IT AND LISTENED. And numbers talk. Let’s be completely honest here. Right now the only Black female name “hotter” than Zoe’s is at best Viola Davis, and as tremendous a talent as Davis is even she is not the selling point for the films she has been in this year. Other names like India.Arie and  Adepero Oduye (of “Pariah” fame) were better choices for the role, but people need to understand that it may not necessarily be the best choice for the film. People will see this film because of the controversy her casting drummed up, to see if she really has acting chops, to see if she did Nina justice, out of sheer curiousity- but who except for us was watching for the story? Red Tails showed us that people aren’t really running in droves to the theaters when the “story” is the only selling point of the film, and the makers of Nina’s movie are not made of money. No one is making this movie as a charity project close to the heart. The way I see it, they want to ensure that butts get in the seats. We want to ensure that our stories continue to get told, and that people actually pay attention. And most of all, we want to see black actresses in the kind of roles that don’t include an appearance as a maid, a harlot, a sex object or a sidekick. Let’s save the debates for when we have enough women of color in substantial roles and have choices. Until then, my support (and dollars) are behind Zoe.

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