Many people took issue with Saldana for accepting the role and the—primarily White—filmmakers for hiring an actress whose lived experiences don’t closely mirror those of Simone, then using dark makeup and a prosthetic nose to conjure up a distracting image of a woman who poignantly sang about the harm colorism has on the Black psyche.
From the interview, which appears in the July 2016 issue:
The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We fucking won. For so many years, nobody knew who the fuck she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else….
But if you think the [prosthetic] nose I wore was unattractive, then maybe you need to ask yourself, What do you consider beautiful? Do you consider a thinner nose beautiful, so the wider you get, the more insulted you become?…
The script probably would still be lying around, going from office to office, agency to agency, and nobody would have done it. Female stories aren’t relevant enough, especially a Black female story. I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the “right” Black person will do it, or do I say, “You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told….”
Let it be the first movie. If you think you can do it better, then by all means. Let ours be version number one of ten stories in the next ten years about the fucking iconic person that was Nina Simone.
She went on to address critics directly: “There’s no one way to be Black. I’m Black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am Black. I’m raising Black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”