India.Arie Sounds Off on ‘Ugly’ Nina Simone Biopic (Starring Zoe Saldana)

Published: Sunday 6th Mar 2016 by Rashad
india arie thatgrapejuice nina simone biopic

Since the announcement of Zoe Saldana assuming the role of Nina Simone in the legendary singer’s unauthorized biopic, the actress has been fielding slam after slam for donning blackface to make her portrayal true to character.  And, while film critics and fellow entertainers continue to speak out on the hot topic, there’s one detractor who has long taken personal issue with the casting – ‘Brown Skin’ beauty India.Arie.

After taking to the net in 2012 to pen an open letter damning the film for its “parody” of Simone’s story, the songstress recently visited our friends at TheHollywoodReporter to continue her less-than-complimentary weigh in on the film (click here to see its trailer).

Asserting the film ‘propagates institutional racism,’ is ‘tone deaf,’ and even made Simone look ‘ugly,’ tuck in below to read these thoughts and more from Arie:



What did you think of the movie?

India:  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.

Why are some people calling this a blackface performance? Isn’t Zoe Saldana black? Or is this about her not “being black enough”?

India:  It’s messy to put it that way. I think the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit.


Why does it matter that Zoe Saldana doesn’t look like the real Nina Simone?

India:  I do kind of agree with that argument that we are diminishing the creativity of acting if you have to cast a person who looks exactly like her..

…in the context of the politics of race in America and the politics of race in the entertainment industry in America, 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. To propagate that institutionalized racism that is historical in Hollywood in a movie about her is ironic in the worst possible way.

(Adepero pictured left, Nina Simone pictured right)

What kind of movie would you like to see about Nina Simone, and who would you want to play her?

India:  The thing for me is that Nina Simone is part of a small sorority of women who came from being considered the least valuable human beings in all of America — a dark-skinned black woman from Jim Crow South, from very oppressed societal situations— and who became self-defined and venerated and successful and influential and made history.

If I was going to pick someone I know, I would choose Adepero Oduye [a Sundance breakout for 2011’s Pariah, most recently of The Big Short] because of her acting chops and her facial features. But also, wouldn’t it be cool if somebody just came out of nowhere, like a stage actress or how Lupita Nyong’o just came out of nowhere?

Read the interview in its entirety by clicking here.

Your thoughts?

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  1. Bravo!! March 6, 2016

    I agree!!

  2. ~The Arcade~ March 6, 2016

    *Applause* Ms. India Arie ?

  3. Authentic March 6, 2016

    These white people are loosing there grip on US. We don’t need you… & I hate that they try to define our people without even educating themselves…. The Bet awards is becoming bigger then the VMAs times are changing…. We are tired of mediocrity & not being included in a nation that We push forward… African Americans are the driving force behind popular culture #Facts Please Bey,Rih,YE,Jay & the other A listers support your people we got you!!!?

    • rosy March 6, 2016

      Black people tear each other apart everyday they drag bey daughter blu ivy down call her ugly they bully rih so how is black people supportive of each other when they drag their own all day whites Spanish Jews stick together blacks not so much look at this blog it’s own by black person and he put bey and rih against each other sandra ugly ass rose put bey and rih down mediatakeout b***** all these are black m************ hate on their own

      • Danyboo March 7, 2016

        Reasons we tear each other down are because black people, since we been in america, have never had anything. White people separated us as a people during slavery by the color of our skin and programed us to think that the lighter you were the more beauitful you are. Not only that but they flaunted there ownership and dominion over them all making them fell worthless. Thats why when black people get something they feel has value, they feel better than the next black person because unlike whites, asians, arabs etc. we own nothing on our own neighborhoods. We still suffer from the economic trails of our forefathers. We hate each other because we have no value for ourselves. You dont even see a dark skin pop diva ever. Why? Because society doesnt value her.

      • Danyboo March 7, 2016

        @rosy programming is far from getting in the heads of people. People are controlled. Our history isnt even taught in schools but we learn about tge holocaust in history and English. Its a systematic slavery. Slavery isnt over it exist to this day. When the call the the queen just the queen of wngland but never acknowledges that she’s the queen of all the the black islands you speak of controlling them aswell, its a problem.

    • Bravo!! March 7, 2016

      it’s ok for them to use are culture for advertising and are catch phrases to make money. We are the most influential culture in America…

      • rosy March 7, 2016

        I’m tired of hearing about slavery it’s long ago it gives black people no excuse to hate on each other island people African black people don’t hate on each as much as the black Americans you tear your community and each other apart are you going to use slavery as an excuse for the rest of your lives black Americans allow whites to get in their heads Spanish come here work build up their own people by sticking together a maid is working now to send her child to college to become a doctor and help the rest of the family to climb the ladder that’s how u build a community a Jamaican is sending their family to come here and better their life education is key American blacks do not appreciate what they have you kill rob each other and tear yourself down in the sixties Martin Luther fought the fight but yall gotten worst white cannot build the community unless blacks start doing it themselves from within

  4. HailBeysus March 6, 2016

    She spoke no lies. Just watch these white supremacist come up in here finding an explanation for this! I can’t at how bitxhes who chose to remain blind to the racism that very much exist right before are eyes.

    • Bravo!! March 7, 2016

      Donald trump is the antichrist!!

  5. RealNegro March 6, 2016

    Just realized that India Arie should have played her. Not sure about her acting though..

    • IOWNTHEWORLD March 6, 2016

      India says she wasn’t confident enough in her acting ability to play Nina, therefore she wasn’t interested in taking the part.

  6. Anti ain’t ready to talk another time March 7, 2016

    Nina daughter did speak out and said it wasn’t Zoe S fault it the people who made the movie fault however nice of India

  7. Coolness March 7, 2016

    A few years ago, when the backlash was just starting to brew, Zoe made mention about how she will not allow people to tell her ‘she’s not black enough’. Sure, Black people come in different shades but does she not recognise that she is furthering the wrath that colorism holds in our community? Nina OFTEN spoke about how being a dark skinned woman with broad features hindered her from getting her proper due because she did not fit the mold of what a classically trained pianist should look like. India was right, biopics are not all about getting someone that looks like a carbon copy of the person being portrayed, but a little likeness will not hurt. However, this movie wants to reduce Nina’s legacy to nothing more than a bad wig, horrible make-up and stupid prosthetics all because those involved are clearly oblivious towards colorism. It’s sad because I was genuinely a fan of Zoe once upon a time (y’all remember Drumline?) but this right here has turned me all the way off.

  8. The-Engineer March 7, 2016

    this was nothing but blatant blackface especially since Zoe doesn’t not identify herself as an african american. As much as the producers must be blamed Zoe should also face the same criticism.

  9. Ziggy Stardust March 7, 2016

    I think Uzo Aduba from, “Orange Is The New Black” would have been a good choice to play Nina Simone as well. She favors her in the looks department, plus she can act and sing. Even Indian Arie herself would have been a good choice. But, she wasn’t confident in her acting abilities, so she declined. I can respect that. Nina was a very talented woman. Her story would have been a great one to be told. But, I feel all of the controversy is overshadowing her story. Therefore, it may not do so well at the box office.

    • Ziggy Stardust March 7, 2016

      I meant, “India Arie”.

  10. The XX March 7, 2016

    Are people really having problems with this? This chick is probably a good actress, they just wanted to make her look good. Everything is not racist.

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