All Articles Tagged "nina simone"

“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

December 6th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Zoe Saldana

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?


Say It Ain’t So: Nina Simone’s Daughter Accused Of Stealing Millions From Late Singer’s Estate

November 25th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Nina and Lisa

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.


Nina Simone’s Estate Sues HTC For $1 Million

September 30th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Nina Simone

Source: NewsOne

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?

They Look The Part: Our Actor Picks For Biopics That Need To Be Made

September 25th, 2013 - By Meghan Reid
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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.

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.

Black Women Telling Black Stories: Female Indie Filmmakers To Watch And Support

August 15th, 2013 - By La Truly
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

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

June 4th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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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.

Zoe Saldana’s Curious Blend Of Arrogance And Accessibility When It Comes To The Media

May 21st, 2013 - By Madame Noire
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Zoe Saldana

Image Source:

From TheGrio

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

“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.


Don’t Knock It Until You See It: Celebs Who Were Side-Eyed For Biopics Because They Didn’t “Look” The Part

May 20th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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Before Zoe Saldana signed on to play Nina Simone, or Idris Elba said he would try his hand at doing Nelson Mandela, or even before there was any kind of talk of Lenny Kravitz playing Marvin Gaye (which he eventually changed his mind about), actors were getting major side-eyes from movie fans and critics alike for trying to portray certain people on-screen. It’s always going to be something, and it has always been something for people to complain about: She’s too light, she’s not the same culture as that person, he’s not light enough, he’s not cool enough. People are often shut down by folks before there’s a trailer, a scene–anything to judge by. But as these actors went on to prove (some didn’t though), talent can trump a lot of that criticism. Here are nine people who initially were counted out from their biopic roles but ended up either killing it, or embarrassing themselves.

Zoe Saldana Talks About Being Tired Of Discussing Her Ethnicity, The Nina Simone Backlash And Bisexuality

May 16th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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"Zoe Saldana pf"


Zoe’s name has been a little bit of everywhere this week. If it’s not for appearing undressed on the cover of Allure, having her 115-pound weight exposed to the world, it’s for claiming she might settle down with a woman later in life. Has she really said anything about Star Trek 2 Into Darkness yet?

Anywho, while being interviewed by, the actress discussed why she’s so uncomfortable with people always asking about her ethnicity, why she doesn’t appreciate people trying to categorize her, and why she can understand the Nina Simone backlash, but why it also hurt her. Here are the tidbits that had us talking:

Why she’s sick and tired of talking about her ethnicity and race:

“I find it uncomfortable to have to speak about my identity all of the time, when in reality it’s not something that drives me or wakes me up out of bed every day. I didn’t grow up in a household where I was categorized by my mother. I was just Zoe and I could have and be anything that I ever wanted to do…and every human being is the same as you. So to all of a sudden leave your household and have people always ask you, “What are you? What are you?” is the most uncomfortable question sometimes and it’s literally the most repetitive question. Because I can’t wait to be in a world where people are sized by their soul and how much they can contribute as individuals and not what they look like.

…I feel like as a race, that’s a minute problem against the problems we face just as women versus men, in a world that’s more geared and designed to cater towards the male species.”

On the rumors that she is bisexual after her statements in Allure:

“It’s again, I’m telling you, the saddest situation. I encourage every human being to spend one hour a day without categorizing and stereotyping anything, or using any titles. It is almost impossible for us to get through one cache without having to go, ‘Is she Mexican? Is she gay? What kind of car does she drive?’ Our lives are going to slip and we are never going to grow and realize that it’s so much more beauty in this earth and so many more things that are important besides stereotyping ourselves and limiting ourselves just by putting ourselves in little boxes.

That said, I’m an artist and if I was to limit myself as an artist and go, ‘As a an artist, I can only like feminine art because I’m a woman,’ I’d be the stupidest person on earth and I wouldn’t be an artist at all. If I look at beauty, I’m going to love and admire beauty no matter if it comes in the form of a masculine essence or a feminine essence. Beauty is beauty. So, up until now, I’ve known my life to be with men, I’ve been attracted to the male species, but if one day I wake up and I want to be with a woman, I’m going to do that. And I know I am going to be supported by the creatures that have raised me and love me and know me.”

And of course, her thoughts on people being very vocal about their disdain for the lengths she was going to in order to play Nina Simone:

“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.”

Good points. Check out the full interview and series of videos from her sit-down where she looked visibly uncomfortable over at

Zoe Saldana Isn’t Allowing Your Opinions About The Nina Simone Biopic To Deter Her, Says She’s Doing It For Her ‘People’

February 27th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Actress Zoe Saldana has been forced to bear the brunt of much criticism since it was announced that she was the actress selected to play iconic singer Nina Simone  in the long-awaited motion picture about her life. Fans and celebrities alike have publicly voiced their disapproval of Zoe assuming the role of the singer, especially when photos of the actress on the movie set, all dressed up (and painted up) in her Nina costume surfaced.

“So today I saw the images of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone… and I think they are ridiculous! 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. THAT ASIDE for a second, this just looks WEIRD, it looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose … REALLY?!!!! DOES NOT THE ONE NINA SIMONE’S LEGACY DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS?” singer India Arie expressed.

While public frustration can certainly be understood, Zoe has been hired to play the role of Nina Simone and she still has a job to do, whether we like it or not. Hip Hollywood recently caught up with the actress to discuss the intense level of criticism that she has received for her role in the biopic. Here’s what she had to say:

“The reality is what keeps me focused and what kept me from I guess getting stressed or being hurt by the comments is that I’m doing it for my sisters. I’m doing it for my brothers. I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free. You know, I can only rely on that and maintain as much humility as possible so that when I have to face the world and I 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 because that’s who I am and that’s who I’ll be and Nina was like that too. So I did it all out of love, out of love for Nina, out of love for my people and who I am and my pride of being Black woman and a Latina woman and an American woman and that’s my truth.”

What are your thoughts on Zoe’s response? Does she make valid points or did she totally miss the reason why people are upset?

You can check out a clip of Zoe’s interview on the next page.

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