More Colourism in Hollywood?

Why Use Blackface When These Famous Actresses Could Have Played Nina Simone?  – This article was posted on Runway Riot on March 3rd, 2016 by Lindsay Peoples. It discusses the recent controversy regarding the casting in the new movie, ‘Nina’.


The movie recounts the life and struggles of Nina Simone, an African American individual who is a highly noteworthy musician, civil rights activist, and journalist.


Nina Simone

Zoe Saldana was cast to play Simone in this 2016 film despite being of mixed Latino and African heritage, and a lighter skinned individual than Simone. However, Nina Simone’s African racial identity had played a significant role in her life and many are unhappy about this casting decision. In order to make Zoe Saldana look like Simone, her face was actually painted several shades darker and she was given a prosthetic nose! These are human facial features; they are not supposed to be a costume! How come Hollywood can’t just hire the several other amazing actresses that actually fit this description? A controversial choice indeed.


Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

India Arie, the actress who portrayed Simone in the TV movie ‘American Dreams’ has commented on this issue:

“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.”

Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly has also commented on this:

“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.”

This article talks about how this casting can be considered, in many ways, insulting. It marginalizes and takes away opportunities of dark-skinned actresses in Hollywood. Why should darker-skinned individuals be denied opportunities to play characters that actually are supposed to look like them?

This kind of incident is often referred to as Hollywood whitewashing. Hollywood whitewashing refers to non-white characters being played by white individuals dressed up of a different ethnicity. This has been evident for years now and some change is well overdue. Examples of this include John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956), Massai played by Burt Lancaster in Apache (1954), Elizabeth Taylor as Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra in Cleopatra (1963), and the list goes on. This is problematic, as this pattern continuously denies opportunities for ethnic minorities to succeed in Hollywood!


The recent Oscars awards also revolved around this issue of the lack of diversity in Hollywood. For the second year in a row, only white actors were nominated. The media is one of the major agents of socialization, and if all we are exposed to is Caucasian individuals in Hollywood, how will we ever expect to achieve true racial equality in our society? It shocks and saddens me that this is still a problem. It is already 2016, and this needs to change!

Article link here!


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