Zoe Saldana Gets Boycotted For Being Too Light Skinned For Movie Role

zoe saldana nina simone

By: Amanda Anderson-Niles

Zoe Saldana has never made it a point to hide that she considers herself to be a Black Latina. Born to a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican mother; Zoe has had a variety of roles since breaking into acting. She’s generally not the most controversial of actresses, and mainly keeps a low profile in a tabloid centered industry, however, the actress has landed herself right in the middle of the recent controversy surrounding the upcoming Nina Simone Biopic. And as the criticisms grow louder, it’s been made apparent that most of the complaints are stemming from other women of color. Turns out, there is a large number of people who just feel that Zoe Saldana is too light skinned to play Nina Simone, although she’s already been pursued by the producer of the film to take the lead role.

Since the begging stages of the planning of the upcoming biopic, it was originally said that Mary J, Blige would play Nina Simone. This was the first blow to Simone’s daughter, who is currently the head of her mother’s estate. Eventually since so many people complained that Mary J. Blige’s acting chops weren’t strong enough to play Nina, Blige was eventually replaced by Zoe Saldana. Immediately, again Nina Simone’s daughter expressed her disappointment that Hollywood had once again selected a lighter skinned woman to portray a dark skinned woman on film.

Here’s what Nina Simone’s daughter who goes by ‘Simone said to Ebony:

“I love Zoe Saldana’s work. I’ve seen some of her movies more than once and really enjoy what she brings to the screen. As an actress I respect her process, but I also know that there are many actresses out there, known or not, who would be great as my mother. The one actress that I’ve had in my heart for a very long time, whose work I’m familiar with already, is Kimberly Elise. Many people have spoken to me about Viola. I love her look. I love her energy. Both of the actresses that I’ve mentioned are women of color, are women with beautiful, luscious lips and wide noses, and who know their craft. I also have no problem introducing someone we’ve never heard of before who can play my mother.”

Things have gotten so intense about the casting decision, that an online petition was created urging the producer to replace Zoe Saldana with an actress who has darker skin. There seems to be a growing number of people threatening not to see the film if Zoe is not replaced. The petition reads:

Replace Zoe Saldana with an actress who actually looks like Nina Simone .

Nina Simone, dubbed The High Priestess of Soul, is an American icon and a music legend. Because of this, it is without a doubt straight up disrespectful to Ms. Simone and her legacy to get an actress who looks nothing like she did to portray her in a movie about her life. Getting light complexioned actors to play the roles of dark complexioned historical figures is not only a sign of blatant disrespect to the persons they are portraying, it is also disrespectful to history, to the people who look like the persons being whitewashed, and to the intelligence of the audience. For too long Hollywood has gotten away with this practice of revisionist history and it is time that we let our voices be heard be it by this petition or by boycotting the movie if no change has been made as to who will portray Nina Simone.

The petition has already garnered close to 3,000 signatures.

And as we’ve previously mentioned, Zoe considers herself to be Black and Latina. In an interview, she even talks about the ongoing battle over understanding her race and how she gets ganged up on by other people for referring to herself as a black woman and not mixed:

“When I go to the D.R., the press in Santo Domingo always asks, “¿Qué te consideras, dominicana o americana?” (What do you consider yourself, Dominican or American?) I don’t understand it, and it’s the same people asking the same question. So I say, time and time again, “Yo soy una mujer negra.” (“I am a black woman.”) [They go,] “Oh, no, tú eres trigueñita.” (“Oh no, you are ‘dark skinned’”) I’m like, “No! Let’s get it straight, yo soy una mujer negra.” (“I am a black woman).”

But for those who understand that one’s ethnicity does not always equal their race, the problem is greater than just this role; considering that Hollywood has overlooked dark skinned actresses in favor for those of lighter complexions for serious and lead movie roles.

But what do you think? Is it fair to petition against Zoe Saldana who considers herself to be a black woman because she’s light skinned, wanting to portray a dark skinned woman? Or do you think people have taken this a little too far?

34 comments

      1. She has a point! Light skin women are always looked down in the black community for not being black enough! Stop being ignorant!

        1. It’s not hate against Zoe because she is light skin. It’s about respecting the beauty and legacy of Nina Simone.

  1. It’s fair. Hollywood is wrong for selecting a woman who doesn’t even look black to play the role of a dark sinned black woman. Zoe isn’t even all that as an actress, so I know it’s all because of how she looks. She needs to do the right thing herself and back away from this project. Right is right.

  2. Wait a minute though. Are people this slow when it comes to race and ethnicity in this country? It’s like they don’t understand that a woman can be black and still be a latina. The latina part is her ethnicity, but her race is still black. Zoe has to black latino parents! For goodness sakes I wish people would stop their hatred for light skin black people. We have been coming in so many shades forever!

    1. It’s not about Zoe being light skinned, or a “black latina.” It’s about them casting a woman who looks nothing like Nina Simone. Nina was a dark skin woman. Was she not beautiful enough for them to allow a dark skin woman to play her role? Is being dark skin not beautiful in the media to the point that they have to cast someone with none of Nina’s characteristics? It’s deeper than Zoe being light skin. Dark women in the media is close to non existent. We hear rappers rap about light skin, we see mixed, and or light skin women representing black women in commercials. We hear Young Berg, Little Wayne, and Neyo talk about how they prefer light skin women. How about seeing dark skin women playing roles on tv, how about rappers rap about dark skin beauties, how about having more than a light eyed light skin curly haired black woman being in commercials to represent black women? There is more to our culture than one specific look. Even Black Africans come in many different skin tones and features. Why not show that diversity? They even lighten the pics of Beyonce, why so? Why can’t the media embrace the skin tones of all black women? Why can’t a woman with Nina’s characteristics be chosen to depict her legacy? To be honest Zoe Saldana is not that great of an actress. Whether you are a light skin or dark skin black person it doesn’t matter. People have looked down on both parties for different reason. I remembered being picked on when I was younger just for my skin tone alone. Now I’m older and learning to embrace it and ignore the ignorance. Nina Simone was a dark skin woman with Afro textured hair. People should remember her that way and the media should be able to display that.

  3. I like Zoe. But let’s be real here. She shouldn’t be playing Nina Simone. Not only are her acting skills limited, but Nina was a dark skinned black woman with black features. Why hide that in the movie that’s supposed to be about her life? Because Hollywood doesn’t find that part about her attractive enough to sell movie tickets? Sad.

  4. From what I heard, the story they plan to tell in this movie won’t be an accurate portrayl of Nina anyway, so they might as well just scrap the whole project and let someone like Spike Lee do it.

    1. You know what i don\’t understand, people are upset because she is too light-skinned playing a dark skinned woman role, but everyone was ok when Denzel played Malcolm X which was a brick, which means a light- skinned person with reddish hair. Oh and Spike Lee was the producer….

      1. I think the difference is that Denzel was the top Black actor at the time. The color discrepancy was largely overlooked because of the acting skills and star power Denzel brought to the role. Zoe is a decent actress, but there are actresses that are not only equally or more talented than her, but also resemble Nina Simone a heck of a lot more too.

  5. I see both sides. The thing that sucks the most is Zoe has basically been fighting all these years to be viewed as a black woman, and then black women turn around and boycott her because she’s not dark enough to play the lead character in a movie. Yeah black people have been mistreated in Hollywood, but did we have to throw another black woman under a bus in the process to make them listen to our concerns? I’m torn on that.

    1. You’re right. That is the problem. Zoe Saldana is too light skinned in my opinion to accurately portray the role, however, all this talk about disrespect is completely absurd. I’m sure Zoe was honored to play the role and was not trying to be disrespectful in any way. Above that, she is a VERY TALENTED actress and I’m sure she would have done the role justice. We don’t have to talk down about Zoe just because she doesn’t look like Nina Simone. Everybody, chill.

  6. Tough but sorry, this protest needs to happen. It is wrong to overlook dark skin actresses for a part that was created just for them. Zoe needs to be humble and back away from this film. When there’s better actresses with darker tones like Viola, Angela, Kimberly; do the right thing and walk away. She should not have this role. Period.

  7. Zoe shouldn’t have to walk away. The producers need to do the right thing on the first given opportunity. You call yourself trying to tell the story of a dark skinned black woman, then hell, go get an actress that looks like her! It’s not rocket science, it’s blatant racism in Hollywood. It’s been going on for too long and it’s not even about light skinned women being “hated on.”

    1. Girl. I so appreciate this comment and agree with you wholeheartedly. The crazy thing is that the racism in Hollywood is coming off as self-hatred among black women because of the way it’s being handled. I don’t disagree with the overall preference (to have a dark skinned actress), but the way people are going about it? It’s saddening. Even on this thread alone, the criticism is repulsive. I think the “hatred” or whatever you want to refer to it as is totally misdirected and the ultimate message is being and will continue to be overlooked. I can only imagine Zoe’s thoughts and feelings as she hears what’s going on with this whole thing.

    1. Me too. And I won’t be seeing the movie either along with others if Zoe is not replaced. I’m totally with this boycott. Enough is enough.

  8. awww people are still looking at us lightskin girls as the lighter version of black but we get the good movie rolls and tv spots people hire black females to be ghetto:Nene to be loud:Tarajhi to show they a– whenever given moment:a good amount of them if the price is right. They crying about how theres not enough black movies but yet want to stop another black female from doing this one just because the color of their skins. They worried about white people still being racist their racist to their own kinds. Ignorant at it’s best. Whether she plays this role or not she still going to book her movies while theses black hating rusty females will be crying foul. Get over it your black love it don’t hate on the lightskins geez cant never make a black person happy. Hateing a– black people who stay in line for their EBTs their 5.99 hair and a house full of kids playing peek a boo with their daddies.Instead of signing petition sign one for upgrading yall section 8 noneducated 5 baby daddies but still getting pregnant hair full of weave mouth full of cavities a–es

      1. I don’t hate on other lightskinned girls/boys me being an hypocrite would be taking her side but then talking about her. Thats what some black people do talking about other black females/guys like they not the same color but yet when someone bash them they get mad and wanna defend them.#bloop

    1. This rant was not only very disrespectful but irrelevant. Have you seen Nina Simone? Much of her story centers around her struggle and pride with being a dark skinned black woman at a time when light complexions were preferred. This is not a light vs. dark issue, it’s about honoring Nina’s legacy. Are they going to have to put Zoe in dark makeup? The point is, the same struggles Nina dealt with with her dark complexion are still going on today. How can you justify selecting Zoe over women who favor Nina more and are good actresses.

      1. It wasn’t that irrelevant that you paused to read it. You all worried about this Zoe thing like you all the director and worried if it’s not going to be a hit. Either way some of you all talk this disagreement but will be watching the movie or sitting commenting on the reviews about the movie sooo

  9. Smh some of the comments let me know that a lot of folks don’t know who Nina was and her story, thus the importance of an accurate portrayal.
    Her being black and having strong African features is SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART of telling the story of Nina Simone. Take a second to Google who she was, what she did, and her music and you too would agree that Zoe, although a lovely woman and good actress, will not embody Nina Simone on film.
    Just think of how well Jamie Foxx played Ray!! That’s how good this biopic needs to be y\’all!!!!
    We’re NOT hating on another black woman, sh-t we wish ALL our black women were given as many roles as whites.
    We just believe Zoe can’t do Nina justice on film. Period.

  10. If Nina Simone’s Daughter’s response was read correctly… there is absolutely nothing wrong with Zoe. She’s a talented actress. There is nothing wrong with her skin tone. But those that are familiar with Nina Simone’s work, her life, her vision, her soul… fully understand that an actress like Zoe is a poor fit for her portrayal. That’s all. There are so many deserving Black actresses that aren’t household names that would have been excellent as Nina Simone. This isn’t an attack on her skin color. This is a full-blown assault on dark skinned black women. Only in Hollywood does it make sense to take a black woman with STRONG black features, and mollify her legacy by placing a slim, light-skinned, conventionally featured half black woman.

  11. Lets separate the disapproval of Zoe being cast as Nina, from personally attaching Zoe. The real issue is Hollywood itself and its nothing new, until WE control our OWN image, these things will persist. “Hollywod has the illusion of inclusion” Paul Mooney

  12. People who state that Zoe’s skinstone and facial features are not like Nina’s have a very valid argument. My biggest problem is why are they making this biopic on an untrue story?Future generations will see this and as they say “a lie becomes the truth.” Nina’s daughter has stated that this love story is false. Cynthia Mort was told not to talk or involve Nina’s family members in this movie project. Something smells fishy about this entire biopic. To cause distress/disrespect to Nina’s surviving family speaks volumes about the people surrounding this movie including Zoe herself. Zoe’s integrity has question mark right now. Would she do a movie that is false and cause undo hurt to Nina’s family? Why would Hollywood deliberately make a movie on a false story? I hope Nina’s family will fight this with every ounce of courage they possess. I don’t care what racial group one is in, factual history in movies should come first. Sometimes I think we are still living in the Stone Age.

  13. It’s not about Zoe being light skinned, or a “black latina.” It’s about them casting a woman who looks nothing like Nina Simone. Nina was a dark skin woman. Was she not beautiful enough for them to allow a dark skin woman to play her role? Is being dark skin not beautiful in the media to the point that they have to cast someone with none of Nina’s characteristics? It’s deeper than Zoe being light skin. Dark women in the media is close to non existent. We hear rappers rap about light skin, we see mixed, and or light skin women representing black women in commercials. We hear Young Berg, Little Wayne, and Neyo talk about how they prefer light skin women. How about seeing dark skin women playing roles on tv, how about rappers rap about dark skin beauties, how about having more than a light eyed light skin curly haired black woman being in commercials to represent black women? There is more to our culture than one specific look. Even Black Africans come in many different skin tones and features. Why not show that diversity? They even lighten the pics of Beyonce, why so? Why can’t the media embrace the skin tones of all black women? Why can’t a woman with Nina’s characteristics be chosen to depict her legacy? To be honest Zoe Saldana is not that great of an actress. Whether you are a light skin or dark skin black person it doesn’t matter. People have looked down on both parties for different reason. I remembered being picked on when I was younger just for my skin tone alone. Now I’m older and learning to embrace it and ignore the ignorance. Nina Simone was a dark skin woman with Afro textured hair. People should remember her that way and the media should be able to display that.

  14. I have noticed for several years now, the manipulation of the image of AA women on television. The Pine Sol woman, for example, was chosen for her “fat,black, mammy’ honey-child sterotype. There are usually two images: 1) overweight, honey-child, Miss Scarlett types, or 2) the Zoe Saldana types. Somewhere in between are a myriad of skin tones and distinct features to represent the diversity of women of color.
    Rappers and various other entertainment icons currently being foisted as the “standard” within the Black community need to take off the Money Glasses and consider the damage they are doing do an ethic group long vilified for simply having melanin (don’t need to tan to wear vibrant colors; thank you Michelle Obama for your natural beauty).
    Ethics is not something that can be learned. Hollywood is owned by the powers -that- be who have hated the Black woman since we were kidnapped to cook, clean and birth everybodies babies. Telling the truth is not a money maker. An illusion is worth more. To sell one’s soul for a buck is modern day slavery.

  15. I totally agree. She should back away. I am so tired of black people supporting, celebrities, movies, rappers and any other black person, group or entity that brings division to our race and we wonder why white people treat us the way they do. We need to get our own house in order first. I am considered lighter skinned but I have dark skinned kids and mom and I hate the way the problem is overlooked. There are beautiful dark and light skinned women and we need to stop spending our money on celebrities etc… that don’t support us or unite us…

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