Zoe Salanda: Is Hollywood “White-Washing” American Icon Nina Simone?

Nina Simone, was one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century. Known as the ‘High Priestess of Soul’ Simone was known for weaving a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment.  (Click here for Bio)

There have been countless remakes of her classic, “Four Women” which tells the story of four black women during her time and the struggles they struggled through life with based off of skin color, status, and financial means.

In 2003, the world lost Simone.  Currently, a biopic is in the works, yet an outcry has risen against Hollywood star, Zoe Salanda being cast to portray the icon. The debate arises because Salanda’s lighter skin complexion, is being called not dark enough to portray the singer, Nina Simone, who overcome racism and was accused of not having the “right look” throughout her life.

Cofeerhetoric goes into detail on the “white-washing” practice… Black actresses – particularly those with darker skin- often lament their experiences having to navigate the politics of an industry, that’s rarely willing to cast them in non-stereotypical roles, because [despite being attractive and immensely talented and right for the role] they don’t have the palatable “mainstream look” the Hollywood machine requires of some of its Black actresses; so they often lose plum roles to, what I call, the Halle Berry/Paula Patton appeal… and that destructive notion often places Black identified but racially ambiguous looking actresses on a pedestal as ideal representations of the Black female aesthetic.

It’s a frustrating system of white-washing that incited people to chorus when biracial actress Jaqueline Fleming was cast as Harriet Tubman in Tim Burton’s farcical [and poorly rated] fantasy-horror flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and when Thandie Newton was cast as an Igbo woman, for the film adaptation of Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, Half Of A Yellow Sun, earlier this year.”

A petition is currently circulating to dispute the casting choice which claims : “Getting light complexioned actors to play the roles of dark complexioned historical figures is not only a sign of blatant disrespect to the persons they are portraying, but it is also disrespectful to their families, to history, to the people who look like the persons being whitewashed, and to the intelligence of the audience. For too long Hollywood has gotten away with this practice of revisionist history…

Listen to an interview completed with Nina Simone’s daughter completed by the Current where she shares her thoughts on the casting of Salanda. Click Here.

Salanda responded to the criticism with this Retweet:

“Omg! I just got the petition for someone “blacker” than @zoesalanda to play Nina Simone. Reverse racism at its best.

Clutch Magazine offers an opposing argument by saying: “Just because she’s not in the latest Tyler Perry movie, or tends to have white men as love interests in the movies she’s appeared in, doesn’t make her any less black than the next black actress….You could also bring up the fact that Angela Bassett, looked nothing like the lighter Tina Turner, but she did get that role and was *** amazing. No one yelled or hollered about that. Sure, there are probably more talented actresses out there, but if they were lighter as well, would the talent surpass their color?” (Full Article)

So what are your thoughts? Do you think another actress who closer resembles Ms. Simone in complexion, features, and statue should be chosen and is Hollywood trying to “lighten” Simone in order to appeal to a mass audience? Or is this backlash a sign of reverse racism?

By: Brittany Vickers

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2 thoughts on “Zoe Salanda: Is Hollywood “White-Washing” American Icon Nina Simone?

  1. This is GREAT, it just show you how people think today even though our frist African American presiden tis in office. People need to get they mind right and leave the foolishness behind. It’s a new day, DONT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. And in that order..

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