Sunday, 28 October 2012

Nina & Zoe and 50 Shades of Black

Nina Simone was unique rare diamond, she wasn't just great singer with unique voice but an classically trained pianist who was child prodigy Nina was also civil rights advocate.She was one of the best known Jazz singer and woman of many talents
Her voice is one of the most distinctive and most famous and her songs have become soundtrack to millions and used by many films and adverts from Chanel 5 which was directed by Sir Ridley Scott, starring former Bond Carole Bouquet 
and Dior Jadore with Charlize Theron. To Coca Cola and Renault and Muller. And her music has been covered from rock to pop bands. Today as she was when she was alive Nina is an cultural icon.She was and still is inspirational woman.After decade of her death, Nina is receiving an Hollywood treatment with biopic 'Nina' based on her 1992 biography I put spell on you.
The upcoming film will be directed  by Cynthia Mort who wrote the screenplay for Brave One starring Jodie Foster.. 
All seems normal so far, well the casting has caused an hiccup in this much anticipated biopic.
               THE HICCUP
Before the film has been filmed there is already a controversy surrounding the casting.Queen of R&B and Hip Hop Mary J Blige, was meant to portrait Nina.Mary has been tied to film since Nina's death in 2003.But she turned down the project because of schedule problems. 
Cynthia and her casting director hired Zoe Saldana. And there is backlash which has resulted in good old petition.Playing the part: The 34-year-old actress was the spitting image of the late songstress in her chic ensemble - consisting of the beige-coloured accessory paired with a matching beige shift dress and cape  
                    THE BACKLASH
The backlash comes from the fact that light skinned Zoe has to wear darker makeup to resemble Nina. Controversial issue, and because of this many argue that Cynthia should've hired an actress who resembled Nina instead of hiring one who has to be modified to resemble the Queen.There are some valid points in this argument.And I understand that.Viola Davis, India Arie do bear some resemblance to Queen. Now would they be better fit as actresses for this role than Zoe, because of this?             

I can understand if the conversation was about this, rather than starting a petition and a campaign on particular actress, because she doesn't fit who people want to play Nina.
I understand that in entertainment industry, how one looks reigns supreme most of the time. The more you bear Eurocentric features the better, this way the cosmetic companies will hire you to front their campaigns campaigns and magazine covers are yours.This idea has created bridge between black people who see light skin black people as different species or race. Forgetting that even the whites come in different shades from blonde, blue eyed Swede from Malmo and the dark haired brown eye Spaniard from Madrid are both white despite their skin colour variations.Unfortunately, we are, still living with the ideology that was sown in days of colonies. Black women with strong African features is not beautiful. And because of it we have seen many women in the entertainment industry trying to justify their beauty to others that they have ten different races running their veins just to be consider beautiful.That is one problem we have work to overcome.And country such as USA where racial issues are like opening of a Pandora's box, because of its history, those issue are run deeper.        
         But isn't Zoe black?
I am puzzled by the backlash and I am trying to understand. Zoe is another non Caucasian actress fighting for roles in tough industry. She is at the moment, one of hottest and one of the visible black actress around with Kerry Washington. Perhaps the reason why Cynthia and her casting director hired Zoe was that. Zoe could bring the story of Nina to a whole new audience. I still don't get the the reason why many oppose Zoe's casting. Is it the fact that she isn't, African American... even though she was born in New York to black Afro Latino parents. If the issue is about casting African American actress, would Kerry Washington or Halle Berry been better?
despite the fact that they both of bear more Eurocentric features than Zoe.I personally don't believe Zoe should've backed from this project because she isn't ''dark enough''.Zoe is Dominican-Puerto Rican and both of her parents are black Afro Latinos. And as far as genetics go she isn't white or Asian or middle eastern but black woman who is from the former Spanish colonies. The likely hood of her having mixed ancestry is very likely because most African descended people of the America's most likely have both Native American and Caucasian bloodline either because of slavery or someone who is of Cushtic origin looking it at from outside, Zoe looks like an Cushtic African. In other words blacks that people argue isn't pure black ( whatever the fuck that means)
 Zoe is talented actress and she will take on the role like she has done with many others. From Uhura in Star Trek to Neytiri in Avatar.

 Actors are meant to be chameleons and become what the role requires them to be. Even better if they are ''method'' actors. There has always been many actors who have transformed for roles and walked away with an Bafta and Oscar.
Forest Whitaker blacken up to play Idi Amin. In 2007 biopic Last King of Scotland.

Forest Whitaker in 2007 won the best actor Academy Award for his role as former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada in The Last King of Scotland. (AFP)and he won multiple awards and accolades around world for his portrayal of Idi. Forest also won the big awards actors all gun for.
Critic's Choice Awards,Golden Globe,Screen Actors Guild. Bafta and Academy Award.
Now wouldn't it been better if Kevin MacDonald and his casting director had given the role of Idi Amin to darker actor who didn't need to blacken upRecently passed Michael Clarke Duncan perhaps would've been fine for the role of Ugandan dictator..
Kerry Washington blacken up to play Kay Amin in the same film.
The truth of the matter is, sometimes casting directors are not going cast someone just because either fans like particular actors or they loathe them.Film roles go to actors who bring characters to life. Sometimes some casting end up being fantastic as actor who gets the roles brings so much to the role.
Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles was epic. Fellow Academy and Bafta Award winner Jennifer Hudson is great casting as Winnie Mandela in 2013 biopic Winnie

And sometimes casting of project can be ruined because of wrong casting.Lindsay Lohan was casted as eternal beauty Violet eyes Elizabeth Taylor And we all, remember how everyone was saying Megan Fox or Kate Winslet was better suited to play the Hollywood legend, than Lindsay. 
In 2013 two Hollywood actors will be portraying the Great Man that is Nelson Mandela on screen. In Nelson Mandela biopic based on Nelson Mandela autobiography Long Way To Freedom Idris Elba will be portraying Mandela with fellow Brit Naomie Harris as Winnie.

In another film Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard will be portraying Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Winnie.
There is argument, that both Naomie and Idris bear no resemblance to either Nelson or Winnie. If we, went with this view. Should the story that needs to be told, not be brought to the silver screen because actor tied to the project doesn't look like people they are portraying. This isn't new to Idris. He received backlash when he was casted to play Heimdall the Scandinavian God who is called the whitest God of Norse God's in Kenneth Branagh's Thor.
In upcoming God's of Egypt, Scandinavian (Denmark) Nicolas Coster-Waldau will be playing patron God of Egypt Horus should there be an petition that demands Hollywood cast someone of African origin to play Horus and not Dane.


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  2. Before we attack we need know the story for why we attacking. Zoe Saldana has to think about herself and she knows this role is the meaty role that could get her what she's been looking for. And Cynthia is thinking about herself too, she needs well known actress to get people to see the film and Zoe Saldana is that hot black 'latina' actress of the moment. Hollywood is slowly changing and more and more ''exotic'' actress are coming for roles only black American actress could get before. There are many black British actress who are coming through such as Thandie Newton, Freema Agyeman, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sophie Okonedo and Naomie Harris who is in the new James Bond and more and more women of colour coming through the ranks and not only from UK.
    Zoe isn't going to be the in the only in demand hot ethically acceptable easy to the eye black actress in Hollywood as long as Halle Berry did as the times are changing slowly all be it. We are talking about Hollywood here people, when has film roles ever gone to actress who could portrait the role best. Lindsay Lohan got the Elizabeth Taylor film over Megan Fox. And white women portrait mixed women and that women was Angelina Jolie in Mighty Heart. Come on we should be happy that least someone who is black got the role. Like the girl said black comes in 50 shades and not in one shade when comes to skin tone.

  3. Hollywood really cares only about who is hot at the right moment and not creating factual and close presentation of Nina Simone. With right actress this is a film that could be critical and award winning hit, but instead idiots choose to cast an mid range actress to role that needs soul. Zoe Saldana is one of those Afro Latino's who have ship of shoulder of being ashamed of being called black and she was quick to tell the world not call her black, but latina forgetting that real Latino's aka Italian, Spanish, Portuguese people are white and don't look like East Africa. As you showed the pictures of Yasmin and Liya it's clear there many people from Africa who have more eurocentric looks than Zoe who I am still shocked hasn't had nose job to get rid of that black nose of hers. Now lets see how this plays

  4. Cynthia Mort is joke, how you gonna make film based on life of someone who felt so much racism because of her looks and cast someone who is confused about what her real race is. There are many lighter skinned more european looking Afro Latino's who are proud of their Africa blood compared to 'Even though I look like average black girl and I have African nose, don't you dare to call me black cause I am race I am not, I am Latino'''. Black people come in different shades and looks, and there are blue eyed whiter than white Africans in Tunisia and Algeria who are proud of their African roots. And you got Cushtic people who have smaller noses than most Afro Latinos and some of them look like white people dipped in chocolate or caramel but are proud of being black. Then you have confused ignorant Afro Latino's who believe that because their surname is Spanish that they are not black but Latino. Forgetting that, they and the one whose surname is Saxon/Anglo ancestors came in same boat from Africa and were slaves to different Europeans.
    Zoe Saldana is not an actress who has the calibre to portrait life of Nina Simone. She is an average actress and Cynthia had chance to hire someone who could've taken this film to another level. How is audience going to pay Zoe attention when she herself is in denial of what her race is and top of play someone who felt scrutinized because of her Afrocentric looks. Once again Hollywood shows its true colours.

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  6. Zoe thinks because she has Spanish name whites would never call her black but Spanish. Newsflash Penelope Cruz is Spanish. Zoe 'Average at best' Saldana is African descended who comes from former Spanish colonies and bears the Spanish surname of her former slave owner and has some white blood in her veins just like most likely Nina and Viola do, because of the slave owners who raped their slaves. This film could go either way, it all depends on the editing and the supporting actors. I personally don't buy your argument as you said yourself ''looking from outside as Cushtic'' you dont get the racial issue that is involved here. If actor or actress has blacken up for role then that role should go to someone who shouldn't.

  7. wtf some of your excuses for this self hating woman getting cast as Nina are stupid. People are not mad at her or the dumb director but the fact Hollywood needs to need to cast average actress for story like Nina's.
    I understand and i applaud that you made the Forest case but Forest got cast to play Idi Amin because he is better actor than Michael Clarke Duncan ever was. Zoe is not the best actress to play Nina. Viola is way better and casting her wouldn't've demeaned the biopic of Nina. Lets be honest, Hollywood has place for one woman of colour at A list table. Lucy Liu is the Asian, J.Lo was the ''Hispanic'' and for long time Halle Berry was easy in to the eyes black woman.Now Halle is in her 40's you got average Zoe and Kerry joining in the A list actor table representing the woman of colour. Zoe despite having strong African features thinks she olive skinned real Latino and not black woman from former colony of the Spanish.

  8. when i was back in college non black friends of mine said that they found beyonce had strong african features, and that she just manipulated her features with make up and later on some surgery. Looking at her early loreal campaign you can see that beyonce is a black woman and not as she likes to claim ''mixed of french and native american''. in the americas from canada, usa to the caribbeans and south america black people whether they are light skin yellow to darkest brown. all have some white blood in their veins most from the slaves being raped by their masters. zoe just like many black people suffers from self hate and denial. peeps in usa forget that afro latinos are latinos by blood by colony and slavery. african american can walk around saying they english because of their surname and the fact they have adapted english culture. this film was casted with who could bring most attention and zoe is that black actress of the moment.

  9. Great post! I really enjoyed reading this.
    I'm sure Zoe was thrilled to get the role of Nina. This backlash for her "not being black enough" can't be easy to take. I'm sure she acquired the role because she's a wonderful actress and kicked ass her audition. I agree that darkening ones skin tone is controversial but in this case, there would have been much more backlash is Zoe maintained her natural skintone for the role.

    Really great blog. :)
    Your new follower,

  10. Great post. Zoe Zaldana is black to rest of the world but Africsn American despite being black woman she is Spanish. Because her surname is Spanish because her ancerstors were owned by Spaniarda. Does that mean African American who were owned by English are English?