…but have you seen yourself lately?
Meditate on the above foolishness while I bring you up to speed. This week, Nina–the biopic of music icon Nina Simone–will debut at the highly esteemed Cannes Film Festival in hopes that the film will receive a deal to be released to widespread commercial success. If that happens, the controversy that has plagued this film since its inception will possibly spark a boycott.
I have always wanted to know more about the “High Priestess of Soul”, so when news first broke that her story was being brought to the big screen, I was genuinely excited. Not only would I finally get more insight into Nina Simone’s life and music, but it was profiling a woman who was unseemly according to many’s standards of beauty. The likeness of her dark skin, nappy hair and big nose would be celebrated along with her contributions to music and The Civil Rights Movement.
Then along came Zoe…
When the casting announcement was made, protests soon followed, including an online petition that amassed 10,000 signatures requesting a “do-over”. Even the Simone estate was up in arms about the choice as they voiced their anger in not having a say in this unauthorized project. I don’t think anyone protests Saldana’s ability to portray Simone (I watch Columbiana every chance I get!), but I think we needed the actress who was given such a huge charge to at least resemble her. If the same makeup team that transformed you in Avatar altered you to look like Simone, <—Problem! She required a prosthetic nose, clown makeup and a wig from the Moms Mabley collection to still miss the bullseye?
Secondly, one of her most notorious songs is “Young, Gifted and Black”, not “Young, Gifted and of Puerto Rican and Dominican Descent”. No, I don’t own a monopoly on the term “Black”, but for all who want to pull the African diaspora card, it doesn’t carry much weight in an argument like this. In that legendary piece, “Black” represents not only the hue of one’s skin, but the experience that came with it on AMERICAN soil. Racial injustices that occurred in other countries are no less despicable, yet irrelevant in this case. Zoe’s casting as Nina Simone is likened to producing “The Life and Times of Celia Cruz” starring Viola Davis. It’s doable yet disrespectful.
We have to stop letting Hollywood get away with this. Until we grasp just how powerful our dollar is, they will continue to serve up whatever tripe they want, expecting us to devour it. I opt out. Nina Simone and her legacy deserve better.
Tanya Tatum is the outstpoken host of “The Tatum Talks,” a live Blog Talk Radio show focusing on African-American interests. Feel free to join her for this week’s episode: The Definition of a Weak Woman, this Wednesday, May 22, from 9-10p EST at www.blogtalkradio.com/thetatumtalks. You can also join her for a daily discussion at www.facebook.com/thetatumtalks and follow her @TheTatumTalks on Twitter.