Zoe Saldana

Actress Zoe Saldana apologizes for portraying Nina Simone

The American actress played iconic jazz star Nina Simone in 2016, but it wasn't well-received. During a recent Instagram Live interview Saldana apologized for her role in the biopic. Take a look.

  • Zoe Saldana is best known for her breakthrough role in the famous 2009 Avatar film.
  • Four years later the actress of Dominican, Haitian and Puerto Rican descent says she shouldn't have played the role of Nina Simone.
  • Her portrayal can be considered 'blackface' and insulting.
  • Singer and civil rights advocate, Nina Simone died in 2003 at the age of 70.

Saldana was heavily criticized by Simone's estate as well. Lisa Simone Kelly, the pianist’s daughter had praised Saldana in 2012 as an actress, but said of the biopic “Appearance-wise, this is not the best choice”. When the film was Simone’s estate tweeted “Please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”

During the Instagram Live interview Saldana said the pianist deserved better. “I should have never played Nina. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I know better today". Somebody else should tell her story.” 

When accused of blackface in 2016 the actress said that “If Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina” “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.” 

However, today the actress says that although she "had the permission" for being a black woman "it was Nina Simone. And Nina had a life and, she had a journey that should have been, and should be, honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual".

Zoe Saldana in 2016 biopic Nina Simone

Estefanía Martínez

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