- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

The much-anticipated release of a Nina Simone biopic next month is renewing criticism that actress Zoe Saldana’s skin isn’t dark enough to portray the iconic jazz singer.

After several years of rumors, speculation and backlash, “Nina,” co-starring David Oyelowo, is finally scheduled for release in theaters and on VOD April 22.

The casting of Ms. Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, to play Simone, who was famously proud of her African roots, sparked a wave of backlash, including calls for a boycott and an online petition for a casting change. Even Simone’s daughter, actress and singer Lisa Simone Kelly, has disavowed the film, telling The New York Times in 2012 that she respected Ms. Saldana but was disappointed by the casting decision, CNN reported.

Because much of her work centered on her treatment as a dark-skinned black woman in America, many fans said the casting choice was an affront to her legacy, CNN reported. The earlier uproar has returned after the first trailer for “Nina” debuted on Tuesday, showing Ms. Saldana wearing facial prosthetics and dark makeup.

“I’m a huge Nina Simone fan. So this matters. Nina battled racism/colorism to have her complexion painted on a face of a lighter hue. Damn,” best-selling author Eric Jerome Dickey tweeted Wednesday.

“Nina Simone didn’t write ‘Four Women’ to have her actual skin color demeaned for a movie about her life. Come on now,” feminist writer Mikki Kendall tweeted.

In a piece published Wednesday by Slate magazine titled,” Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone Is What Happens When Diversity Doesn’t,” writer Damon Young argued that Simone’s work was “specifically centered in her specific experience as a dark-skinned black woman who existed outside of America’s — white America’s and, sadly, black America’s — general standard of what’s considered beautiful.

“Zoe Saldana, on the other hand, doesn’t just exist within the standard. For many, she is the standard,” he wrote.

Ms. Saldana has stood by the role, urging the public to withhold judgment until the film comes out, CNN reported.

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