All Articles Tagged "nina simone"
During her life, Nina Simone was no stranger to controversy. And now it seems, even years after her death in 2003, there is still some resentment and hurt behind her legacy. But this time, the person with grievances is Simone’s only child, daughter Lisa Celeste Stroud.
Stroud, the product of Simone’s abusive marriage to her former manager Andrew Stroud, became a singer and actress and took the moniker Simone with her on stage. But recently, in an interview with the Daily Mail, she made it crystal clear that there are lingering scars from the strained and often abusive relationship she shared with her mother.
Lisa Stroud told the Daily Mail that her mother suffered from depression and alcoholism which resulted in a tortured relationship between the two. It wasn’t until the late eighties that she was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
In her first time speaking about the relationship with her mom she said,
“My mother could be a monster. I was not a happy child when I was alone with her. My mum shot me down a lot, attacked me in public. It is easy to attack children, they are small and depend on you.”
When Simone died at 70, several family issues surfaced as they battled in the courts trying to settle her multi-million dollar estate.
Stroud said: “Ugly truths have come to and relationships have died because people treated me as a commodity. Too many people had ulterior motives.”
And after her less than normal childhood, it wasn’t an experience she was willing to repeat. As a young girl, Lisa recalls being dragged around the world touring with her mother and when she complained or refused to go, she was blackmailed or beaten. Her life had very little stability. By the age of seven, she had 13 governesses, was working by the age of 10, her mother’s chauffeur at 12. And at 14, she left her home after a beating.
When she got older, Simone did not support Lisa’s desire to join the U.S. Air Force or enter the music business and she disinherited her from her will.
Stroud said, “I’d like to think if she had taken two seconds to think about her behavior she would have done things differently but I’m not sure.”
In an attempt to explain her mother’s behavior Lisa says, “My mother was angry with the world and often the only person around to blame was me.”
She also spoke about the nature of her parent’s relationship. “When my parents were together my mother was more giving and open but with the divorce she turned into someone you didn’t want to know.”
Sadly, Lisa’s relationship with her father wasn’t great either.
“I had nothing to do with my father before his death.”
Stroud’s father Andrew, who married Simone in 1961, died just two years ago in 2012. It’s a well know fact that Stroud, a former firefighter, managed Nina with beatings to keep her in line.
When Simone left him, by simply leaving her wedding ring behind and moving to Barbados, she took Lisa with her. In the island, she had an affair with the married Prime minister Errol Barrow. When their relationship ended and he basically got rid of Simone, Lisa had to deal with the aftermath.
“I got my first job in Barbados. I was 10 or 11, old enough to file papers. I had no option.”
While in the Caribbean, Simone lost control of her business affairs and was fighting the IRS. In response, she moved to Liberia at the invitation of Miriam Makeba.
It was there that Stroud was a her happiest.
“I went to school there and I lived with a surrogate family. But then my mother decided to join me and it went downhill. At 12 I ended up driving around on my own in a Pontiac Catalina running errands. I had to grow up fast.’”
In the span of a month, Zendaya Coleman nabbed the role of Aaliyah in the Lifetime biopic, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, defended herself against a heavy dose of online criticism, and then bowed out of the project this past weekend. While there is only speculation that the family’s strong opposition to the project might have had something to do with her decision to hit the exit, one can’t help but wonder if it was also the discouragement of many Aaliyah fans and those in the general public that would make the 17-year-old want to bail on a film that could have been major for her career.
Someone else who has had to deal with backlash from the public when it comes to being cast in a biopic is Zoe Saldana. For the past year and a half, Saldana has been given the side-eye from Nina Simone fans, many of which, thought that her complexion was too light to play the chanteuse and pianist in the biopic, Nina, including Simone’s own daughter and singer India Arie. She tried to keep her head high despite the attacks, and said that the film was made out of love. But now that the film’s release has been put on hold due to a lawsuit from director Cynthia Mort, Saldana told Monarch Magazine that in reality, all of the comments about her, made in opposition to her casting as Simone, really did irk her, but that she tried not to let people’s criticisms keep her from doing a film she really wanted to:
Nina was a true genius and an iconic artist. It was a dream job for me.
I did a lot of research to prepare for Nina. I took piano lessons, voice lessons, worked with a dialect coach, and I really invested months of just doing research about Nina – her background, her story, her life. My research ranged from reading books about Nina, listening to her music, watching footage of her.
The Nina Simone story needed to be told, and I’m really blessed that I did it. I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me. So it did affect me but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do. Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that [this] was a story that needed to be told. I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help; but then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of everyone – I’m here to be an artist first. Hopefully people will enjoy the film and I helped shed some light on this amazing iconic woman.
Whenever this movie finally gets released to see the light of day, personally, I’ll be interested in seeing what kind of work Saldana was able to do. But what about you?
When it comes to casting roles some actors seem tailor made for the parts they’re given – think Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris in Training Day and Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. But every once in a while casting directors make controversial choices that are sometimes a success and sometimes a complete fail. Here are 15 controversial casting choices that raised some eyebrows and really got people talking.
Zendaya Coleman as Aaliyah
Earlier this week, news broke that Disney star Zendaya Coleman had been cast to play Aaliyah in a new Lifetime biopic, and the controversy has already been real… and relentless. Though the 17-year old is a pretty talented singer and dancer, everyone seems to be wondering whether she looks enough like Aaliyah and if her acting chops are even good enough for the role.
And of course the fact that Aaliyah’s family is upset about the movie being created in the first place isn’t helping Zendaya’s cause at all.
“I Can’t Stop To Think About Who Thinks Me To Be Black Enough Or Not Black Enough”: Zoe Saldana On Playing Nina Simone And Being Latina
Zoe Saldana is covering the latest issue of Ocean Drive magazine, and in the latest issue, the beauty was asked about her work in the upcoming film Nina, which we all know has stirred up a lot of controversy. Despite all the people who were upset about Saldana being cast as the late Nina Simone because of their physical differences, the movie is in post-production and Saldana feels good about it. The actress says that she no longer pays attention to the naysayers who have something to say about the way she looks or the way she carries herself, and she hasn’t cared for a long time–since she was a kid to be specific.
When asked about filming Nina, Saldana had this to say:
“It’s one of the scariest projects I’ve ever been involved with because it was about an iconic figure, and there were so many political [issues] around it from the beginning, but I really wanted it to be a love song to Nina Simone and I wanted it to just come from a place of absolute love.”
And she shut down any criticism about her work in the movie. While most people felt that from her complexion to her size and her facial features, she wasn’t a good fit to play Simone, Saldana took it as a someone saying she is or isn’t black enough in physical appearance or in the way she acts–but she doesn’t have time for that:
“I can’t stop to think about who thinks me to be black enough or not black enough. I know who I am. I like who I am. And I’m not going to explain who I am. I’ve always been like that—I was raised to be that way.”
Zaldana, of Puerto Rican and Dominican background, says she’s used to people criticizing and bullying her for how she is and what she looks like, and faced this most when she was a child living in the Dominican Republic. She had to move there with her mother and sisters after her father passed away. But she says that after she realized most people only attack others because they’re fearful, she became “absolutely fearless:”
“It was culture shock at first. Kids are going to poke at whatever is foreign to them, and here we come: these three girls speaking English. We’re also very intelligent and kind of sassy, and we were going to a very prestigious private school and we were one of the least fortunate families. Kids tend to be a little cruel to what they don’t know. But even though throughout those years we kind of suffered because we got bullied, as soon as we left we just became these forces. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and it was not going to kill us, trust me!
I’ve been called everything, I’ve been told everything. And yet the moment you realize they were coming from a place of complete fear because they knew that you were the one who was going to get away, you’re free.”
She calls it fearless, others have called it “arrogance.” But whatever Saldana is, she’s winning in Hollywood. Check out her full interview over at Ocean Drive’s website. What do you make of her statements, and do you plan to see Nina?
Lisa Simone Kelly, born Lisa Celeste Shroud, has always been vocal and done what she can to protect her mother’s image, but sources claim the same can’t be said about protecting Nina Simone’s money.
According to TMZ, the daughter of the late singer is being accused of taking more than $2 million from her mother’s estate and using it for a range of things, including putting some money into an account for a company Ms. Kelly owns. The California Attorney General says money from Simone’s estate was supposed to go to fund music schools in South Africa, Ghana and Liberia, according to Simone’s wishes. However, they say that hasn’t happened because Kelly, who is the trustee of her mother’s estate, giving her access to all of Simone’s money, has used the money for other things. The biggest violation according to the Attorney General includes using $1.5 million to put into her own separate business. According to TMZ, the California Attorney General “is now demanding an accounting of funds — which could result in criminal action.” The attorney general also reportedly wants Kelly to step down from her post as trustee of the legendary soul singer’s estate because of such allegations against her.
Kelly is a singer/songwriter who was very vocal with her disappointment that Zoe Saldana was cast to play her mother in the upcoming Nina Simone biopic. The role was originally supposed to be given to Mary J. Blige (she stepped down due to scheduling issues), and Kelly said she would have preferred to see Viola Davis or Kimberly Elise take on her mother’s image. Hopefully Kelly will respond to such accusations because we’re hoping that they’re not true. We will keep you posted on any responses she gives.
Even in death, stars are at risk of being ripped off by major corporations. Last week we told you that the mother of slain rapper Tupac, Afeni Shakur, will be dragging eOne Music to court for allegedly failing to pay royalties to her son’s estate for his posthumous album, Beginnings The Lost Tapes: 1980 – 1991. The family of Nina Simone may also be in court soon, fighting to defend the High Priestess of Soul’s estate.
TMZ is reporting that Nina’s family is suing Taiwanese smart phone manufacturer, HTC, for $1 million. According to filed court documents, the corporation used the instrumental from Nina’s 1965 hit, “Sinnerman,” for one of their “You” campaign television commercials, without obtaining the rights to do so.
HTC has yet to comment on the copyright infringement suit, but it doesn’t really seem like there’s much that they could really say at this point. The proof seems to be in the pudding. As usual, we will continue to keep you posted as this story develops.
Check out the commercial below. What are your thoughts on the family’s lawsuit?
There have been many times when a biopic was made and you wondered how a particular actor got the lead role. You know, you said something like,”they look nothing alike” or “they can’t even act,” that’s why if we could be in the director’s chair these would be our 15 actor picks for biopics.
Zoe Saldana as Phylicia Rashad
Zoe Saldana sure doesn’t look like Nina Simone, but if a director ever casts for a young Phylicia Rashad—she’s it! No word that there is a biopic on Mrs. Cosby, but it would be great to see. Phylicia Rashad’s poise and elegance can surely be pulled off by Zoe.
Are you looking for the silverscreen to give you more heroes/heroines of color? More stories about the black experience in America and not a whitewashed version of how we think and act? I know I am.
Black America has been conditioned to take what few images we can get of ourselves when it comes to entertainment. While we’ve had our onscreen triumphs outside of being portrayed as maids, thugs and wh*res – there is still an empty, canyon-like space where the broader range of our stories could and should be told. Well, black independent filmmakers are slowly but surely filling that space through Kickstarter campaigns and grassroots fundraising for the projects Hollywood repeatedly dismisses as irrelevant and unimportant.
The great news is that we don’t have to sit and wait for “somebody” to do “something.” These filmmakers are putting in the work and turning out stellar projects for our viewing pleasure, discussion and social action. And one of the greatest things about this indie movement is that many of these artists are accomplished black women.
With growing YouTube channels, film festival award-winning projects, Oscar-nominated films – there are a host of black women filmmakers who are working their gifts and talents to ensure that the span of black experiences are brought to screen in truth.
Here are six indie filmmakers/producers that you should keep your eyes open for.
Cynthia Mort, Director of “Nina,” Starring Zoe Saldana, Says People Should Give The Movie A Chance Before Bashing It
Since the news broke that a biopic about Nina Simone’s life was coming to the big screen, and that it would be starring Zoe Saldana–an artist much lighter than the pianist/activist, there has been a full-out push-back on the movie and it hasn’t even come out yet. Just last month, Saldana spoke on her disappointment with people’s negative reactions to her casting (and the fact that they darkened her skin, gave her a prosthetic nose and fake teeth to play Simone), and she said it definitely hurt:
“All I can say is, though it did sting for a bit, that a community that you feel most identified with, would have such a negative backlash and you are at the epicenter of it all, it was very disappointing. But at the same time too, it is understandable. All I can say is the people that came together to do Nina, came together out of love for Nina and that will never be wrong, and I will always stand behind that.”
Another person standing behind the film is the director of Nina, Cynthia Mort. And while she claims that she’s not surprised by the backlash, in an interview with theGrio, she says she’s just bothered that people wouldn’t wait to see the film first before judging it so harshly based on casting:
“This was a creative endeavor, and to judge and to hijack a creative endeavor before it’s finished is the only thing I take any issue with. When it’s done you can say whatever you want.”
But she says she is okay with folks questioning the casting, it’s only natural:
“It’s fine. They should. Nina was about how you feel. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was about some of the stuff that’s going on, but that’s not my business.”
But in her opinion, Zoe is the best choice:
“Zoe’s life vision is very clear, and very strong and very direct. She’s a fantastic actress. She’s brave. She’s courageous and she’s super-talented. She’s astonishing in all of her films, which I don’t say lightly. I think Zoe embodies a lot of the characteristics [that] I was looking for. She’s compelling and she’s fierce and she’s strong and she pulls us in the way Nina’s music pulls us in. You know what? That’s hard to come by.”
What everyone has to remember is that ‘Four Women,’ which everyone has to remember is one of [Nina’s] most powerful songs, is about different shades of four different women.”
Also interviewed about the film for the same article was executive producer Gene Kirkwood (previously behind Get Rich or Die Tryin’), and he believes people are going to have something to say about everything, but no press is truly bad press:
“People don’t like anything. If Jesus Christ walked in here right now, they’d say, ‘Great carpenter, but terrible guy.’ They’ll find something about everything. There’s nothing positive until they see it. Diana Ross was as close to Billie Holiday as you can get, but when [Lady Sings the Blues] came out, they were worried about that[.] With Rocky they said, ‘Who wants to see a fight movie?’ You had to get them in there. There was only one fight in the whole movie. The picture is eventually going to have to make its own track no matter what. But I think every knock is a boost, as long as they’re talking about it.”
Interesting point. Folks had a lot to say about Django, but we see how well that did and was received. But check out her full interview with theGrio and let us know what you think of her comments on the Nina backlash.
In Zoe Saldana’s recent Allureinterview, the Afro-Latina female actor has once again stated that she is unconcerned with any backlash she receives for playing legendary singer and activist Nina Simone. In a perplexing statement, she compares her controversial casting as “The High Priestess of Soul” to Elizabeth Taylor playing Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII in the 1960s.
“Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina — I’m sorry,” Saldana, 34, said unrepentantly. “It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honor and respect my black community because that’s who I am.”
Who Saldana is may be clear to her, but her understanding of who Nina Simone was and from where the criticism stems appears to be minimal.
Saldana: Out of touch with African-American audiences?
Contrary to Saldana’s personal beliefs, the vast majority of observers who have weighed in on director Cynthia Mort’s decision to cast Saldana, from India.Arie to Nina Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, are black and view it as the ultimate show of disrespect. Not only because it is an aesthetically horrific choice that relies on blackface and prosthetics to pull off, but because Nina’s rich, dark skin, kinky hair and full lips shaped her life’s experiences, subsequently shaping her music.
Nina Simone would not have been able to conjure “Mississippi Goddam” and “Four Women” from the depths of her soul had she been born with more European features and straighter hair.
Further, it is both fitting and unsettling for Saldana to compare herself to Taylor. Cleopatra, whose black African heritage has been passionately argued for and against, has been described as both “tawny” by Shakespeare and a “negress” in some historical texts. For Saldana to claim that casting the extremely pale Elizabeth Taylor to play her somehow justifies her own misguided role as Nina Simone is a slap in the face of the black community she claims to represent.
Her history of ignoring racial history
And this is not Saldana’s first time brushing off criticism as inconsequential.
“What keeps me focused and what kept me from getting stressed from being hurt by the comments is I’m doing it for my sisters, I’m doing it for my brothers, and I don’t care who tells me I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am, and I know what Nina Simone means to me,” Saldana said in an interview with HipHollywood.com.
“I can only rely on that and maintain as much humility as possible, so that when I have to face the world and we have to then give the movie to the world to see, and share it with them, that if it comes back in . . . a negative fashion or positive, I’m gonna keep my chin up. And Nina was like that too. I did it all out of love for my people and my pride of being a black woman and a Latina woman and an American woman, and that’s my truth.”
Colorist privilege with questionable consequences
That curious blend of arrogance and accessibility seems to be the root of criticism aimed at Saldana. She is not embracing her community; she is saying through her dismissiveness that how we feel doesn’t matter. By ignoring the hurt of Nina’s family and the pain of black women who have been deemed too dark, too heavy, too ugly to be portrayed on film as anything other than maids, slaves, and whores, Saldana becomes part of the problem.
Read more on TheGrio.com.