India.Arie Criticizes Zoe Saldana in Role of Nina Simone: "Like a Person in Black(er) Face"

Grammy winner takes issue with the casting of the Latina actress to play an African-American icon despite good prosthetic makeup

By Josh Grossberg Nov 08, 2012 4:17 PMTags
E! Placeholder Image

India.Arie isn't feeling good at all about this.

The singer-songwriter is slamming the choice of Zoe Saldana to play Nina Simone in Nina, an unauthorized biopic on the late High Priestess of Soul, saying the actress's fairer complexion stemming from her Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage is all wrong for the part.

"So today I saw the images of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone…AND I THINK THEY ARE RIDICULOUS," India.Arie said in a caps-riddled post on Simone's official website. "Yes there should be a movie made, and YES they should have chosen someone who LOOKS like Nina Simone, ESPECIALLY since her RACE played such a PIVOTAL role in WHO, WHAT and WHY, she was."

She continued: "That ASIDE for a second, this just looks WEIRD, it looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose….REALLY?!!!!"


The pictures that have surfaced of Saldana on set in Los Angeles made up to look like Simone had the 37-year-old musician feeling "sad," she said, because she feels like she could do the role even though she doesn't consider herself an actress.

Still, India.Arie expressed hope that Zoe's "obvious admiration of Nina" means she can "pull off the portrayal energetically." She then concluded her missive by saying Viola Davis is her pick to play the music legend.

Simone's daughter hasn't been too psyched about the 34-year-old Star Trek star's casting either, telling the New York Times, "My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise [Saldana] is not the best choice."

Some Simone fans agree, with one even launching an online petition calling on writer-director Cynthia Mort to "replace Zoe Saldana with an actress who actually looks like Nina Simone."