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I don’t know her and I don’t think she did anything wrong. If I were in her shoes and I admired Nina Simone the way that I hear she does, I would have said yes, too, and I don’t even think I can act. If they asked me to sing Nina Simone, I got that. But I never pursued it because I felt it was not my place. And I don’t know if it was her place to do that.

 

In my open letter I called it “black(er) face.” I didn’t know what to call it either. I have heard that there were black actors who played blackface, back when people did that. I think blackface was putting charcoal on your face and doing a certain type of act on stage, the shucking and jiving. You could be black or white. [The Nina portrayal] is a caricature. You had to put a whole other face on someone’s face.

 

It’s messy to put it that way. I think the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit. It’s not my place to say how Zoe Saldana perceives herself, and I can’t say how anybody else perceives her either. I see her as a black person of Hispanic origin, but I don’t even know what that really means, because I don’t know anything about race and Hispanic culture.

 

It made me sad. The way she looked in the movie was ugly. Whether or not Nina Simone was beautiful in your eyes, I thought she was beautiful. But in this movie, she just looked weird. Her skin looked weird, and her nose looked weird. It made me wonder, was that how the filmmakers see her? Did they not think she was beautiful? Were they like, “Yeah, we got it! That’s how she looked.”

 

Arie, a musical descendant of Nina Simone who portrayed her in a musical performance during a 2003 episode of the 1960s-set NBC drama American Dreams, saw an early version of the movie during a 2013 private screening, and she spoke exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter about why she doesn’t blame Saldana, how this cinematic treatment of Simone fails to understand the icon’s essence and legacy, and why she understands Judd Apatow’s dismissal of the whole controversy: “To be of the most powerful race and gender in the world, of course that’s going to be your point of view.”

 

Outrage over the long-shelved film went viral this week when the trailer was released on Wednesday (March 2), with the harshest response coming from the official Twitter account of Simone’s estate. (Simone’s only child, Lisa Simone Kelly, told Time that although the family disapproves of the film, she does not hold Saldana responsible for its failings.)

 

Grammy-winning soul singer-songwriter India.Arie was an early critic of the Nina Simone biopic Nina, penning an open letter on the decision to cast Zoe Saldana shortly after on-set photos of the actress in darkened skin and facial prosthetics surfaced in 2012.

 

3/5/2016 by Rebecca Sun Rebecca Sun