All Articles Tagged "nina simone"

How Dare You?! Vogue Suggests Lupita’s Undeniably African Hairstyle Was Inspired By Audrey Hepburn

May 4th, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Vogue Says Lupita's Hair Was Inspired By Audrey Hepburn


Months ago, when Kim Kardashian was credited for making “boxer braids” a thing, Brande, our managing editor, was sure that we were being trolled. I wasn’t. I’m never too quick to dismiss the ignorance of White folks when it comes to Black culture, particularly Black hair. Even though Black girls and women have been wearing corn rows for centuries, I’m not sure that White people pay enough attention to us to even notice. Or perhaps, they were so busy learning how to recreate the style, they forgot to learn the actual name. I don’t know, can’t be sure.

But the most recent incident of cultural appropriation or example of revisionist history comes from Vogue.

This past Monday, Lupita Nyong’o stunned on the Met Gala’s red carpet. It wasn’t just her shimmery jade green dress; but it was the hair, sculpted to point up toward heaven, that had the people really talking. Of course it was African inspired. Black women have been crafting our hair into gravity-defying shapes for centuries. And most Black folk and cultured others could see that. Unfortunately, Vogue was not among that group.

While they reported that Nyong’o herself cited Nina Simone as an inspiration for her hair; in an attempt to bring a White woman into the mix, the publication dug through their archives to locate a picture of Audrey Hepburn rocking a beehive. And to add insult to injury, the headline asked:

Is Lupita Nyong’o the New Audrey Hepburn? Celebrating the Star’s Met Gala Hair

Instead of placing Lupita next to the woman she actually named as her inspiration, it was Audrey Hepburn. They mentioned that folks were saying her hair was reminiscent of a character in Dr. Seuss’ “Whosville.” They referenced a Marge Simpson meme before trotting out that picture of Audrey Hepburn’s updo from their 1963 photo shoot.

They didn’t stop there.

“And the similarities between the two ingenues extend beyond hair; both, like Hepburn’s famous incarnation of Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady,’ have mastered the art of transformation, from head to toe.”


Now, we’re likening a fictional character’s transformation to a real woman? I’m confused. Not only is one fact and one fiction, Lupita is nothing like Eliza Doolittle. If you recall, at the beginning of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle was busted and disgusted. She was dirty, couldn’t speak clearly and had never been anywhere or seen anything. That’s not Lupita’s story. Her father is a politician, her mother the leader of a cancer foundation. She attended Yale’s School of Drama. There is no struggle story here.

Even if Vogue wanted to compare Nyong’o’s character Patsey to Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle, it still doesn’t compute. Patsey was literally whipped for her desire to be clean, while Eliza was content to be filthy.

But if we’re talking about Lupita, the actual woman? From the moment she burst onto the scene, after 12 Years a Slave, she was flawless, fly, red carpet royalty. There was no need for a transformation.

Fascinating that because Lupita seems to have gained the approval of the mainstream that she must be likened to someone White people know, someone White people loved, someone who looks like White people, in order to be fully appreciated.

Not only is Lupita her own woman, she just wasn’t looking to Hepburn on the night of the gala. Furthermore, Hepburn’s stylists in the sixties would have likely been unwilling and unable to create that style on afro-textured hair. It’s a completely different process and an entirely different look. And Vogue knew this BECAUSE LUPITA TOLD THEM.

Their choice to ignore the information, to redirect the attention back to a White woman is more than just a matter of being ignorant, failing to take the time to do the research, or not having a full grasp of cultural appropriation. It’s just irresponsible. And, as Brande said at the top of the year, it is indeed trolling. They know better at this point and are simply refusing to do better. And that decision not only represents a clinging to the past, a refusal to update with the times and be more inclusive, it is truly disturbing in the way it attempts to silence yet another Black woman’s voice and her decision to pay homage to the Black women who came before her.

Thankfully, Lupita, with all her grace, handled the situation very tactfully. She created a slideshow featuring her real hair inspirations, all Black women, and @ mentioned Vogue in the caption.

Hair Inspiration. Check. @vernonfrancois @voguemagazine #metball2016

A video posted by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

If it were me, in addition the “think piece” above, they would have gotten this gif.

Stop Blaming Zoe Saldana For Your Issues With ‘Nina’

March 6th, 2016 - By Ashley Monaé
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When I first heard that actress Zoe Saldana would be the star of the upcoming biopic Nina, about the late iconic singer and activist Nina Simone, I was a bit confused. Like many, I couldn’t fathom why they’d prefer someone who would have to wear Blackface and prosthetic nose and teeth? Was there no other actresses deserving of such a role that was dark-skinned? But I soon after hearing the controversy over the widely criticized film and its star, I came to notion that Zoe Saldana isn’t the one who people should be side-eyeing or blaming for their issues with the film from the casting to the story itself, which has been said to falsely depict a romantic affair between Simone and her assistant Clifton Henderson, played by David Oyelowo.

Earlier this week, Saldana quoted Simone on Twitter with the singer’s official estate and legacy account replied, “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out of your mouth? For the rest of your life.”

Really, y’all? This is when I realized that the backlash had gone all wrong. While Simone’s brother Sam Waymon thinks Zoe Saldana should have “thought a thousand times” before taking on the role of the singing legend,  Nina’s sister offered kinder words.

“It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture. It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.”

“The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton (Simone’s manager whom Kelly noted was a gay man) which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship. The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother’s life and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”

It’s certain that maybe Saldana wasn’t the right woman for this role, but I do believe that as a working actress in Hollywood, she did take on this role with the goal of highlighting a cultural icon in the Black community. Regardless of her mixed ethnic heritage (Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic) I believe she shouldn’t have been heavily criticized and attacked — even if people felt that she wasn’t “Black enough” or whatever. I mean, so what would have happened if they would have cast a white woman instead? Of course, I’m still a bit uneasy about the Blackface and fake nose, but it’s not as much of a so-called stretch as the story line.

 “Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone.  She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent,” Robert L. Johnson, better known as Bob Johnson, founder of BET as well as RLJ Entertainment, the company that acquired the rights to distribute Nina last fall, said. “The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance.”

I agree and I still plan to see the movie regardless of what people say and the bad taste it has already put in people’s mouth. What about you? What are your thoughts on Saldana’s role as Nina Simone?

Bob Johnson, Founder of BET, Comes To Zoe Saldana’s Defense Amid Nina Backlash

March 3rd, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Founder of BET Comes To Zoe Saldana's Defense feat

It’s very likely that yesterday wasn’t the best day in Zoe Saldana’s professional career. Yesterday, we saw the trailer for Nina, the Nina Simone biopic. And basically, it wasn’t good. The makeup was off, causing her to look, as my friend put it, “muddy.” For a lot of people, it confirmed what many of us feared. That the very features Nina Simone was bold enough to celebrate in herself became a mockery in the film that was meant to honor her.

The backlash was rampant on the internet. But it all came to a head, when the verified Twitter account for Simone’s estate and legacy tweeted this.


This is the very reason I felt so badly writing about the trailer. It is clear that Saldana was not the woman for this role. But I also think she signed up for the project with the intent to honor a Black cultural icon. And now the very people who belong to the same culture that Simone sought to both represent and uplift are dogging her all on social media. That has to be hurtful.

There is one person who is coming to her defense though. And that’s Robert L. Johnson, better known as Bob Johnson, founder of BET as well as RLJ Entertainment. RLJ Entertainment just so happens to be the company that acquired the rights to distribute Nina last fall. After all of the backlash Saldana received, Johnson issued this statement.

 “Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone.  She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent.   The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness.  Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance.  We are proud to distribute the film headlined by Zoe Saldana and David Oyelowo on April 22, 2016.”

Robert L. Johnson, Founder and Chairman, RLJ Entertainment

Founder, Black Entertainment Television (BET)

What do you think about this statement and Johnson’s general decision to distribute the film?

Watch Zoe Saldana In Action In The Nina Trailer

March 2nd, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: RHI Entertainment

Source: RLJ Entertainment

I know, I know. We already talked about this biopic earlier this morning, asking whether or not you could get past the blackface and prosthetic nose in Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Nina Simone. But there’s been a new development. Up until now, we’ve just had pictures. But video always tells a much more well rounded story. And now that there’s a trailer for the biopic we can see whether or not Saldana, moves, speaks and inhabits the essence of Simone. And whether or not the makeup looks better in motion than it has in the still images we’ve seen.

I’ll save my judgement, but take a look at the trailer below and let me know what you think.

I really don’t want to bash Zoe Saldana. I think she’s a lovely woman and a real talent. But I really wish she hadn’t taken this role. From these brief two minutes, we can tell that just too many things are off about it. The accent, makeup specifically. Honestly, I didn’t even notice the nose. Which is a plus.

After having watched the brilliant Nina Simone documentary on Netflix, hearing both she, her daughter and her ex husband speak in such depth about her character and life, it’s very difficult to accept this trailer. And more than anything, it serves as yet another reminder that there truly is a need for diversity in Hollywood. Not just, racial diversity, but also the need for actresses of varying, (read darker) skin tones and facial structures.

Will You Look Beyond Zoe Saldana’s Prosthetic Nose & Blackface And See Nina In April?

March 2nd, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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nina simone biopic

Production for the biopic Nina started back in 2012, and ever since photos surfaced of Zoe Saldana wearing dark makeup and both a prosthetic nose and teeth, it’s been a movie plagued by controversy. Simone’s daughter criticized Saldana’s casting, India Arie called Saldana’s transformation “ridiculous,” and the actress went from saying that she couldn’t let her detractors phase her to saying she was quite hurt by all the criticism, and director Cynthia Mort could only implore the skeptical public to see the movie before judging it.

But actually seeing it seemed like something that would never happen. Again, the film started production in 2012–it’s 2016. What happened? As Saldana would go on to say last November,

As Saldana would go on to say last November, the project was severely mismanaged:

“The people behind the project weren’t my cup of tea. The director was fine, but there was a lot of mismanagement, which is why we’re still here three years later. And I’m still trying to fight with everybody to get the movie finished. Nina deserves better.”

Could the fight to get the movie finished and out to the masses finally be over? If this exclusive movie poster delivered to the (digital) doorsteps of Entertainment Weekly is any confirmation, Nina might really get to see the light of day, and sooner than we all thought:



According to EW, the biopic will finally hit theaters and VOD on April 22. Selma star David Oyelowo will co-star in the picture as Clifton Henderson, Simone’s assistant who would go on to become her manager and “love interest.” There’s been some additional controversy over that being the focus of the film because as Lisa Simone put it, “Clifton was gay so he could not have had an affair with my mother, which is what the film implies.”

Perhaps, the critical success of the Academy-Award nominated Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? may have opened up a lane that this film, thought to be shelved, could finally make its way to the masses through. But the question is, would you actually see Nina?

I mean, damn. We all ripped the movie to shreds years ago. And really, it was doomed to be ripped apart the minute Saldana was pegged as the star, replacing Mary J. Blige. Those who thoroughly appreciated Simone for more than just her music and who acknowledge the fact that she spoke about the impact her looks and being Black, in general, had on her career and life are the ones who have reacted to the film with words like “offended,” “sad,” calling it “a mockery.”  The rest have just been turned so off by how poor this so-called transformation appeared at first glimpse, they don’t know what to think.

But, to be honest, if this film came across the “Recommended for You” section of my Netflix account, I just might give it a chance. I will admit that I’m tempted to see Saldana try to put on her best portrayal of the music legend and Civil Rights icon. Can’t say I would pay for it, though…

Oh yeah, if you were wondering what Saldana had to say about this new information when it comes to the project, she didn’t share the exclusive poster on her social media. However, six days ago, she did share this bit of wisdom from the High Priestess of Soul via her Instagram account:


#NinaSimone #truth #alwayslove

A photo posted by Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) on



“Nina Deserves Better” Zoe Saldana Explains Why The Nina Simone Biopic Hasn’t Come Out Yet

November 5th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Image Source: Ealing Studios

Image Source: Ealing Studios

Have you been wondering what happened with the Nina Simone biopic, starring Zoe Saldana? We haven’t either. But in a recent interview with Latina, Saldana explained why it’s taken so long to get the project off the ground.

First, she explained how she prepared for the role of Simone:

“I read as much as I could and spoke to as many people who knew her, who interviewed her. I listened to her voice, to her tone. She was angry, and rightfully so. She was a black woman born ahead of her time. Her soul, her spirit was never able to accept or adapt to the heartbreaks that life was giving her. Those are means for insanity. She was bipolar, and at that time, very little was known about bipolar disorder. A lot of people were self-medicating through substances, and she was doing it with alcohol. I wanted to understand all those things, and see what that was going to bring out of me. I never wanted to judge her.”

And though she felt she had prepared herself for this complex character, there were many people who took issue with Saldana being cast as the darker complected Simone, particularly when she took great pains fighting for representation of Black women and Black people in society. Nina Simone’s daughter, who goes by the name Simone, even told Ebony, that she was sure issues of colorism stayed with her mother throughout her life, as she was told she was “too dark” and her nose was “too wide.” All of this makes the casting tragically ironic, particularly when the shots of Saldana in makeup are absolutely distracting.

In addition to the criticism, according to Salana, there are some behind the scenes issues that have kept the film from being released.

“I needed to walk her path. As a woman, it wasn’t difficult to empathize with another woman. But I needed to be very isolated. I moved out of my house for three months. I wasn’t really talking to anybody that I knew. I just needed to be all things Nina. It was so intense, and everything happened really fast. The people behind the project weren’t my cup of tea. The director was fine, but there was a lot of mismanagement, which is why we’re still here three years later. And I’m still trying to fight with everybody to get the movie finished. Nina deserves better.”

A part of me feels sorry for Saldana. It seems like she was surrounded by a large number of people who were, and apparently, still are unequipped to tell this story. And from the looks of things, it seems like the universe doesn’t even want this film to come out. In that regard, Nina Simone certainly does deserve better.

What do you think about the upcoming biopic? Do Saldana’s comments surprise you?

Lauryn Hill’s ‘Tonight Show’ Performance Will Have You “Feeling Good”

August 1st, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

A Lauryn Hill performance in itself is a rare happening, so when the musical legend made a TV appearance Thursday (July 30) night on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, we were all shocked and glued to our televisions.

Her performance featured a show-stopping number paying tribute to the late and great Nina Simone. “Feeling Good” was Hill’s choice of song as she put her own twist on the track with her signature raspy vocals.

Lauryn is featured on Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone compilation, the accompanying soundtrack to the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone. Hill’s contributions to the project include vocals on several tracks like “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” “Wild Is the Wind,” “African Mailman” and “I’ve Got Life

Watch her rock the house with a stellar performance of “Feeling Good.”

Pass Or Play: Lauryn Hill Covers Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”

June 19th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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It looks like the Nina Simone documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? is shaping up to be a huge success. Not just from the looks of the trailer but also the soundtrack.

Earlier, we told you that Jazmine Sullivan covered Simone’s song “Baltimore” about poverty and racial injustice in the city…much like today.

As the June 26 Netflix premiere date approaches, more information about the soundtrack is coming out. Turns out, Lauryn Hill is covering “Feeling Good.”

Any decent Lauryn HIll fan can recognize that her voice has changed over the years. It’s more raspy, grittier, with perfectly timed breaks.

These changes lend itself very well to this song particularly.

Take a listen to Lauryn Hill’s cover below and check out the full soundtrack list below.

1. Lisa Simone – “Nobody’s Fault but Mine (Intro)”
2. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Feeling Good”
3. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “I’ve Got Life” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
4. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Ne Me Quitte Pas” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
5. Jazmine Sullivan “Baltimore”
6. Grace – “Love Me or Leave Me”
7. Usher – “My Baby Just Cares For Me”
8. Mary J. Blige – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
9. Gregory Porter – “Sinnerman”
10. Common & Lalah Hathaway – “YG&B”
11. Alice Smith – “I Put A Spell On You”
12. Lisa Simone – “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl”
13. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair”
14. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Wild Is The Wind”
15. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “African Mailman”
16. Nina Simone – “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”


Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood: Nina Simone’s Heirs In Another Legal Battle With Sony

May 22nd, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Nina Simone in 2002. Jimi Celeste/Getty Images

Nina Simone in 2002. Jimi Celeste/Getty Images

Nina Simone’s heirs are going to battle against her former music label, Sony Music. According to the legendary singer’s estate, the company is operating a piracy ring. According to court documents filed by the estate, 80 albums of recorded Simone performances are being sold via iTunes and other digital venues without authorization.

This tug-of-war between the estate and Sony has been going on for a while. At one point it seemed the dispute over Simone song rights was resolved last fall, but it has now escalated.

The family claims that Sony is pirating the songs through Orchard, a distributor of independent recordings which feeds tunes to Apple’s iTunes store, Google Play,, and others. In March Sony acquired Orchard for $200 million.

There have been many legal fights over Simone rights, particularly between Steven Ames Brown, an attorney who represented Simone, and Andrew Stroud, Simone’s former husband, manager, and producer. “In the midst of the fighting, Sony got involved because its predecessor RCA had contracts with the singer that date back to 1966,” reports Billboard.

But last October, Sony Music, Brown, and the Simone estate came to a settlement deal. However two weeks ago, Sony Music filed a claim in court to rescind the agreement because the other parties allegedly didn’t live up to their part of the deal. According to Sony, Brown believed that only reproduction rights had been given to Sony; this would limit Sony’s use of the singer’s music.

In response, Brown and the Simone estate made copyright infringement claims against Sony and Orchard regarding more than 80 albums of recorded Nina Simone performances that have been uploaded to digital outlets without authorization.

Brown and the Simone estate also don’t like Sony’s authorization of tribute albums or how “Simone’s name and likeness” is being used for “recordings made by other recording artists.”

Brown and the Simone estate want an injunction that would stop “Orchard from exploiting Simone’s music, a declaration that Sony can’t enjoy anything of the $84 million judgment against Stroud’s estate, and additional general and exemplary damages over additional claims that cover whether Sony has breached contract,” reports Billboard.

Still Relevant: Jazmine Sullivan Covers Nina Simone’s “Baltimore”

May 5th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Jazmine Sullivan Covers Nina Simone's "Baltimore"

If you think 2015 is the first time the citizens of the city of Baltimore have risen up, think again. From the end of World War II and 1968 the Black citizens have Baltimore had suffered. There was a serious case of “White flight,” and the city, where many of the Black residents remained, was depleted. Black communities, much like today, had subpar housing, high infant mortality rates, fewer jobs and thus, more crime. Black Baltimore unemployment, at the time, was more than double the national average. Those who were employed worked in unsafe conditions or were paid less.

Then on April 4, 1968, there was an injustice much like the death of Freddie Gray. Dr. King was assassinated. During the memorial there was peace and then the rage set in. Windows were broken, fires were started. Police and the national guard moved in. By the end six people had died, 700 were injured, 1000 small businesses were damaged or robbed and 5,800 people were arrested.

The uprising inspired Nina Simone to return after a four-year recording hiatus to release the 1978 album Baltimore. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the song, Simone says,

The city is dying 

And they don’t know why

And then…

Oh, Baltimore

Ain’t it hard just to live 

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the new Nina Simone documentary coming to Netflix and contemporary R&B vocalist Jazmine Sullivan is recording a cover of the original and there’s a video for her rendition that is quite poignant.

You can listen to Nina Simone’s original and watch and listen to Jazmine Sullivan’s beneath it. Both are sadly beautiful and extremely reflective of the times in which we live.