When it was announced that the upcoming Nina had cast as its Nina Simone the far more light-skinned and not-at-all-Nina Simone-like Zoe Saldana, the reaction was predictably mixed. Angry blog screeds and petitions were launched, as many said the decision was a typically craven attempt to cast a more traditionally beautiful, "marketable" actress in a role, despite the fact that Nina Simone wasn't traditionally beautiful or "marketable" is such an important part of her story. Simone's daughter, Simone Kelly, was one of the most vocal of those dissenters, and she continues to speak out against the film—which definitely does not have the cooperation of the Simone estate—via her mother's official page and in interviews, including telling The New York Times, "My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise [Saldana] is not the best choice." Yet still a few others insisted that these doubters should give Saldana a chance, and wait and see what she did with the role before passing premature judgment on her.
But this is the Internet, so while the final judgment can probably be put off until at least, say, the trailer hits, these photos of Saldana in her caked-on Nina Simone makeup aren't really helping the film's case. The above posted by Indiewire is obviously cruder than these more polished (in more ways than one) photos from Splash News, but all together they confirm: It's going to take a hell of a lot more than Mike Epps doing a Richard Pryor impression to distract from Zoe Saldana in blackface, wearing a prosthetic nose and buck teeth. That she's doing so for an unauthorized film in which she won't be able to sing Nina Simone songs, and which takes as its premise a completely fabricated romance between Simone and her gay manager certainly doesn't help either, but yeesh, these photos are enough.