Portraying Nina Simone in a new biopic


Zoe Saldana caused no controversy when she played a blue-skinned alien in Avatar. But her skin colour is sure an issue in her latest project. Some people think she's not dark enough to portray the singer Nina Simone. We examine the issue of light-washing, and whether the outrage being expressed over the casting for the Nina Simone movie might be enough to change things. Nina Simone's daughter, Simone Kelly joins us.

Portraying Nina Simone in a new biopic - Nina Simone's daughter

We started this segment with Nina Simone's 1966 song Four Women , it tells the story of four black women grappling with the legacy of slavery. It explicitly deals with the issue of colourism, how lighter coloured skin often means better treatment. It is the kind of song that secured Nina Simone's iconic position in American music and in the civil rights movement.

Simone's life story is expected to soon be made into a film with Hollywood star Zoe Saldana in the lead role. But Saldana's light-coloured skin has some critics accusing Hollywood of "light-washing" -- the tendency to prefer light-skinned actors in leading roles.

Simone Kelly is a singer, songwriter, performer and the daughter of Nina Simone. She's concerned about the film's casting. She joined us from Miami.

Cynthia Mort - the director and writer of the Nina Simone film - declined our request for an interview. Now, Simone Kelly mentioned being with her mother when she wrote Young, Gifted and Black. We played a bit more of Nina Simone.

Portraying Nina Simone in a new biopic - Panel

Our next two guests believe the controversy over casting is part of a much broader issue of racism in North America.

Camille Charles is the chair of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Yaba Blay is an Africana Studies scholar and the author of One Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race. They were both in Philadelphia.

Last Word - Simone Kelly

We've been listening to some of the music of Nina Simone today -- her daughter Simone Kelly is a powerful voice as well. As promised, she gets the Last Word today with Work Song a prison tune her mother covered as well.

Other segments from today's show:

Uganda cracks down on gay play

Facebook reveals organ donor tool online

Comments are closed.