Vern’s Venting: I Just Don’t Get Zoe Saldana

Zoe-Saldana-Nina-Simone

By Lavern Merriweather:

Actress Zoe Saldana has found herself embroiled in some serious controversy recently for agreeing to play noted soul singer Nina Simone. Many black folks are up in arms about the film company’s choice to hire her and to some extent, I think they are right.

First off, it’s extremely irritating and insulting for her to have to darken her skin to embody the part. There are a number of talented dark skinned actresses that would have made a much better decision to pick.

Second, Ms. Saldana has declared in several interviews that she doesn’t consider herself a black woman. Mind you, I said a black woman, not just a black woman since she does have a multicultural ancestry. Yet, although she doesn’t think she is black she takes this role and the role of Uhura in the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise. She also played the daughter of Bernie Mac in the 2010 remake of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. If Ms. Saldana doesn’t want her range of offers to be limited, then stop taking acting jobs specific to black women, especially when an acting gig requires you to black face your skin for a woman that had a lot of issues with her skin tone.

Much of Nina’s legacy as a songwriter was centered around her pain at being a severely dark woman of color in a world that hates women like that. Nina, who died sadly at 70 years old in 2003, never shied away from making the hurt she felt public knowledge. She wore it bare for all the world to see through her music in a very unapologetic fashion.

I don’t know Zoe personally, but I doubt seeing how much lighter she is that she could relate to what Ms. Simone was singing. That’s another thing they will most likely get, another woman to lip-sync for her. And really, do the studio executives funding this honestly believe that getting Zoe for the role was the best idea? She hasn’t truly pulled her acting chops by what I could see starring in stupid romantic comedies or doing voice work as a creature. I guess Zoe doesn’t see anything wrong with her other films where she doesn’t have to be the ‘black woman’. She is the color of a fucking crayon.

The reason why I am on the side of the people who didn’t want Zoe to play Nina Simone is because of Hollywhite’s notoriously bullshit attitude towards black women. (Well, all women of color, actually, but especially black women.) White males in Hollyweird prefer to pick someone that is kind of black but not too black. This means they just need her to make it look good enough as not to step on too many toes. But that is exactly what they are doing by hiring Zoe. If Nina were alive today and knew about this, she would probably go outside and practice turning over in her grave!

Little miss ‘I’m not really a Negro’ taking this role is a slap in the face to the lady who bravely dealt with the worst type of discrimination. At least 80’s multi-racial actress Rae Dawn Chong played women that were very ambiguous in their racial make-up. Yes, she did star in “The Color Purple”, but there were any number of light skinned black females that resembled her. Rae never said one thing then did another, and she certainly didn’t make a career out of playing puppets.

A memo to Zoe; if you aren’t black, then stop taking jobs from other black women who proudly identify themselves as what you refuse to. Zoe is almost as bad as that embarrassing “SNL” token that doesn’t even look like a token Maya Rudolph. Yes I know that Maya’s mom was the great Minnie Riperton and that she has a white father, which is why she has that skin color but damn! Kate Winslet makes a more convincing black woman than Maya does or Zoe for that matter.

She reminds me of NBC anchor Soledad O’ Brien in that they want to have it both ways. They want to marry white males and live like white females all while saying, Hey I’m maybe, sort of, will pretend to be black. Granted Hollywood is a place of fantasy, and I don’t for one second buy that this movie will tell Nina’s story in any way that is accurate. They already don’t respect what she stood for by who they picked to portray her. However, that doesn’t absolve Zoe who isn’t practicing what she’s preaching.

There is a very rich history to the songs that people like Nina Simone created that shouldn’t be sullied by Hollowood bigwigs. If it feels like I’m throwing shade on Zoe, then that’s precisely what I am doing. She isn’t some babe in the woods; she knows how difficult it is for other black women. She doesn’t want to be associated with them. Yet, she has no qualms always trying to steal their thunder.

I know that Ms. Saldana is not responsible for the racism hierarchy that exists in her chosen profession. What she is responsible for though is selfishly profiting from it because her skin is brighter and her figure that much smaller. Zoe’s attitude reminds me of an excellent point made by a woman in the poignant Bill Duke documentary “Dark Girls”. She said that she was so sick of black folks whining how they are Haitian or Jamaican and not black because when the Klan showed up they weren’t going to care about those folks distinctions.

I wonder how Ms. Saldana thinks she would get treated in a situation not protected by the Hollyweird limelight. Actually, now that I realize it, those feelings are IN Hollywood and come from the very white people with all the power. Whether Zoe cares to admit it that is exactly why she gets picked for the roles that she does. It’s also why much as she imagines that those white males love her, she will never be competing with the likes of Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Lawrence for the big movies. Perhaps they will suddenly decide to trade white skin for fuzzy blue fur, but I highly doubt it.

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26 thoughts on “Vern’s Venting: I Just Don’t Get Zoe Saldana

  1. “Second, Ms. Saldana has declared in several interviews that she doesn’t consider herself a black woman”

    That’s just blatantly FALSE. There are plently of interviews where she says she’s a proud black woman and never ever denied it. She claims her african heritage far more than some so called african-american actresses that never talk about it but because she’s afro-LATINA people like you keep spreading this lie that she denies being black (but never post any quote supporting it)

    “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).”

    I agree about her being wrong for Nina but I stopped to read this article the moment you lied about her and claimed she denies being black. Completely tainted your argument.

    1. Maybe she has never denied it be she certainly has a resentful attitude and I’m not talking about just because she isn’t just black. As for that comment I think it was purely for show because she has made some questionable comments then took heat for it.

      1. Must be super cool to have the power to read people’s minds and see that what they really feel is the opposite of what they say.

        Idk how you can even expect people to take your articles seriously when they are tainted by lies and bias and for which purpose? It makes you sound resentful. If someone claims that a person said something and you base your article on that fact, you should at least post quotes supporting it. Your reply now make it even worse because it seems you read her interviews but posted a lie well knowing it was a lie. Lame.

      2. Perhaps she has never claimed to deny her blackness but she’s not exactly doing much to embrace it either especially in how she lives her life. Nina didn’t get the luxury of playing it both ways so this casting choice is insulting to what Nina experienced and stood for.

    2. I am glad you said it, because I sure was about to point it out. She is a very proud black woman. I will have to wait for judgement on whether or not she is a good fit for Nina Simone. While the complexion is not in point, I have seen other actors and actresses completely nail a role that people thought they were ill-fitted for. What Ms. Zaldana is against, is the constant labeling we do in society, not against who she is or loving her heritage.

  2. 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.”)

    ~ Zoe Saldana

    I always did admire her for this quote. I’ve come to realize that I admire her for little else.

  3. The great wisdom of Ms Saldana”

    I literally run away from people that use words like ethnic. It’s preposterous! To me there is no such thing as people of color cause in reality people aren’t white. Paper is white. People are pink, it’s a bit ridiculous when I have to explain to a human being, that is an adult like I am, that looks intelligent but for some reason I have to question his intelligence and explain to him as if he was a two year old, my composition in order for him to say, ‘Oh I guess I can chill with you, I can work with you.’
    I will not underestimate a human being and I will not allow another human being to underestimate me. 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.”
    *sigh*

    1. She never said hat poc don’t exist as she herself claims she’s a woc and that’s what her mother told her too. She resents the way people who are NOT poc use these terms.
      Fyi, many “people of color” especially black who live outside the usa despise the word “people of color” and ethnic for the reason Zoe stated: because when whites use them they are saying that white occidental people are the norm and default while the rest is a minority that needs to have a different word for them. It’s complete bs.

      1. Okay I see. You make a valid point. Whites do se themselves as normal and everyone else as “the other”. My problem with Zoe is she never should’ve taken that Nina Simone role. She doesn’t look anything like Nina. That role should’ve went to someone else. Also Zoe doesn’t seem to identify with the struggle of black people as whole. She has become the Hollywood go-to interracial(Avatar,Star Trek) black girl. I think she is embracing this position with open arms. After all,she recently had a baby with her white husband. This woman just rubs me the wrong way.

  4. ..Saldana needs to have several thousand seats for the fact she is Blatantly willing to “darken uP” for the role of Nina Simone alone..I just can’t with her lack of self-respect!!!

  5. I’m against Zoe playing Nina Simone. I’ve even read where her own daughter was also opposed to her playing her mom and I can’t blame her.

    They could have gotten someone like Viola Davis to play her( That’s ok she’s doing a great job on How To Get Away With Murder). It would have been great because she is such a superb actress and she looked closest to her. I cannot believe Zoe’ selfishness of wanting to play this role..especially when she doesn’t look like the woman or respect the right of her daughter not wanting her for the role.

    I guess she want some work because she’s getting older and becoming ..respectfully irrelevant. Maybe it’s just me, but you don’t hear talking about her as much as they did in the past. That’s also the thing about Hollywood, once they make a Black actor/actress famous ,they will overexpose them to the point that their level of fame starts to decrease. I recently read an Huffington post article where folks wondered if Wil Smith relevancy was dying because of his lackluster movie sales. I don’t know ,but to be as overexposed like Zoe was can take some toll on their careers.

    If she want more work, find another movie to do,but she shouldn’t do the Nina Simone Biopic. It’s a slap in the face for her family and the people who knew her. I won’t be watching..that’s for sure.

  6. If you want to get a good example. Hallie Berry play black/African roles like Storm from X-Men. She’s a mix woman.
    Zoe acknowledge herself being a black woman from DR. The whole blackface Nina was ugly move from Follywood and Zoe.

  7. What about David Oyelowo? He is in the movie too playing a real person whose homosexuality got erased for the sake of making him Nina’s love interest in the story. Isn’t his choice to accept the role very problematic? Of course, no one cares about his choices he’s a man and he’s the cool guy right now.

    Maybe the problem’s that she is not african-american & she doesn’t get the free pass that ppl like Forrest Whitaker and Kerry Washington get for their blackface in “The Last King of Scotland” that no one ever mentions.
    Or ppl like Lupita who is producing a movie where she cast herself in the role of an african woman who doesn’t look like her one bit.
    Mixed afro-american actors steal every role of african characters (Halle Berry’s Storm anyone?) and no one cares.

    The saddest thing is that you are telling lies about Saldana denying being black to cover up the fact that You don’t want her to identify herself as a black woman.

    In a world where ppl give a pass to abusive men or phedophile apologists, it is incredible to see that a woc gets all this hate for playing a role offered to her, for a movie that might never see a cinema…

    1. I don’t hate her I just feel that she keeps trying to play it both ways. Let’s not kid ourselves here she knows good and well her mixed race gives her something more appealing to white males in Hollyweird so she took the ball and ran with it. It’s not hate it’s that I think it’s wrong for her and whoever hired her to give her that role. It’s a slap in the face to the legacy of a woman that spent YEARS fighting for respect because she was dark and wasn’t considered conventionally pretty.

      1. Zoe Saldana is not mixed, both her parents are afro-latinos even her maternal grandma is black. That’s the typical presumption of americans: If history of slavery is not an opinion, she isn’t more mixed than the average afro-american actress calling themselves black.
        As for playing it both ways: it’s called identity. She’s both black and latina, the latter is not a race but just cultural. Hispanic is her language. They are not mutually exclusive, unless you think afro americans play it both ways if they claim both their nationality and their race.
        Being latina and hispanic doesn’t make her half white or mixed.

  8. Zoe Saldana makes an awesome action star if I do say so myself. I loved her in Colombiana and Avatar, but Nina Simone Biopic, me thinks, no no absolutely not, She does not in anyway reflect Nina Simone. If I were to make a recommendation I would suggest either Crystal Fox, Tika Sumpter, Tichina Richmond or Lillie McCoud

  9. Apparently she is proud to be black and latina now. To me it seems like she changes her opinion on her identity and is flaky. Here is a video of her explaining her position of accepting the role of Nina Simone. Seems more like an opportunist than anything else.

    1. That was my point she’s very much an opportunist especially when you take into the very troubling history her industry has with race and black women. Her getting picked and taking the role seems thoughtless and insensitive to what Nina had to go through in life.

      1. In the video, she gives the standard answer that most mixed people provide. ” I don’t care who tells me I’m not this or not that. I know who I am etc. ” Then she goes on to say that she knows what Nina Simone means to her?!? But yet she has to wear blackface in order to play the part. At the end of the video she goes on to say she is proud to be Latina and Black etc. I just don’t understand why she brings up the Latina part. What does that have to do with Nina Simone? Maybe she should consider another sister to play the part of Nina instead of her. Going on saying that she is doing it for her sisters and brothers.

    2. “Apparently she is proud to be black and latina now. To me it seems like she changes her opinion on her identity and is flaky. ”

      bullshit. It’s impossible to find an interview where she ever claimed she wasn’t black because she never said that.
      She said she was a proud black woman before and after the Nina thing. the quotes posted in the comments above are from years ago when the Nina movie wasn’t even in talks!
      You guys need to take several seats and stop spreading this urban legend about her ‘denying she’s black’.

      1. I don’t think I said anything about her denying her blackness. I’m just saying that she is claiming other things too and seems flaky. Maybe she can be proud of multiple aspects of herself. I just find it strange that she has to wear makeup to make herself look darker for a person that was darker complexion. Why don’t they just hire an actor that has a darker skin complexion?

      2. Isn’t it funny? All these people claiming that Zoe “used to” deny being black but they never cite any actual sources. They think talking about your nationality or cultural constitutes as denial of blackness.

    3. She has not changed her opinion, she was never not proud. The quote someone posted earlier is from 2006. You guys accuse Zoe of hating herself with no source.

  10. This is VERY old news.

    I have seen where she claims to be black & latino. She does play a lot of roles playing the interest of some white male each… And… Every… Time. She is definitely not fighting for black on black love on screen (or off **wink**).

    When I first heard of this years back Mary J. Blige was to play Nina. Which I was ecstatic. Mary not too far off the mark in looks to Nina and they share similar backgrounds in how they grew up. That’s less direction an actress has to take because of her experience.

    Zendaya even backed off the Aaliyah project b/c the people wasn’t behind it.

    It won’t do numbers if released.

  11. This topic is now trending in 2016. I’ve been on top of this issue since it was first announced back in 2013 that Saldana was offered the role. First and foremost, are people aware of Zoe’s past comments regarding skin color? http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2013/05/girl-bye-zoe-saldana-claims-people-of-color-dont-exist/ To top that off, she’s married to a blond white man. What does she have in common with Nina? This is a thumbs down. Even Nina’s daughter felt that another actress should have been selected to play her mother. Dominican’s have a long history with self-hatred and colorism. I don’t want her to play her because of the identity issues that many Black Latino people have… People are not feelin’ it. Sorry Zoe. You’re not the right choice for this movie.

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