India.Arie Rips Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

India.Arie Rips Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

The soul singer didn't hold back.

Published March 8th

Zoe Saldana can't catch a break after the trailer and poster for her long-troubled Nina Simone biopic, titled Nina, was released. The latest swipe comes from India.Arie, who made it clear how she feels about the Dominican and Puerto Rican actress playing the jazz icon.

As one of the people on fans' short list of who should have played Simone, the controversy is clearly personal for the soul singer. "To make a movie about a person like that and cast an actress that has to wear blackface and a prosthetic nose is tone-deaf," she tells The Hollywood Reporter

She continues, "It made me sad. The way she looked in the movie was ugly. Whether or not Nina Simone was beautiful in your eyes, I thought she was beautiful. But in this movie, she just looked weird. Her skin looked weird, and her nose looked weird. It made me wonder, was that how the filmmakers see her? Did they not think she was beautiful? Were they like, 'Yeah, we got it! That’s how she looked.'”

India also addresses the confusion about Saldana's race, and whether or not her performance should be considered blackface even though she's not white. "I think the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit," she says. "It’s not my place to say how Zoe Saldana perceives herself, and I can’t say how anybody else perceives her either. I see her as a Black person of Hispanic origin, but I don’t even know what that really means, because I don’t know anything about race and Hispanic culture." 

Still, despite her criticism, India says she doesn't fault Zoe personally for taking on the role. "I don’t know her and I don’t think she did anything wrong," she says. "If I were in her shoes and I admired Nina Simone the way that I hear she does, I would have said yes, too, and I don’t even think I can act."

Watch Saldana herself talk about the backlash against her portrayal of Simone in our exclusive interview below:

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Written by Evelyn Diaz

(Photo from left: Ealing Studios Entertainment, Ealing Studios, Londinium Films, Mike Windle/Getty Images for Weinstein Carnegie Philanthropic Group)

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