More than 6,000 online petitioners believe that Puerto Rican-Dominican actress Zoe Saldana is lacking one major qualification to portray jazz legend / activist Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic about her life: She just doesn’t resemble the iconic entertainer.
The backlash against the decision to cast the ‘Avatar’ beauty has been thick since it was announced but Cynthia Mort, who is set to direct the film, says the project isn’t a traditional biography. She also revealed to the New York Times that she is still in the process of confirming that Saldana will take on the lead role.
“There’s a difference between telling a story that includes and involves emotion and experiences and doing a biopic — she was born here, she did this, she did that,” Mort explained. “That is also a great story, but that’s not what we’re telling in that kind of linear fashion.”
The High Priestess of Soul’s daughter Simone Kelly took to the official Facebook page for the late singer vented her own frustrations in an open letter, writing:
“How many of you know my mother’s first love was classical music? Do you know the hours she practiced preparing to audition for the Curtis Institute of Music only to be rejected because of the color of her skin?”
She continued: “As a child, my mother was told her nose was too big and she was too dark yet she graduated valedictorian of her high school class – The Allen School for Girls – and, skipped two grades.”
Kelly, who honors the legacy of her famous mother through her own music, also took issue with the portrayal of Clifton Henderson as Nina’s caretaker and love interest in the film. “Clifton Henderson was gay. He was not attracted to women. So, the truth is Nina Simone and Clifton Henderson never had a relationship other than a business one.”
Kelly later told the New York Times, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this [Saldana being cast] is not the best choice.”
Video: Nina Simone – Four Women