Zoe Saldana has opened up about her role in the new Nina Simone biopic, insisting the controversy surrounding her casting is a victory for black women in Hollywood.
The 37-year-old actress was slammed by critics for wearing make-up to darken her skin and a prosthetic nose in the movie, which was released in April this year (16).
The jazz singer's family even called out Zoe after she posted Simone's lyrics on Twitter, and wrote, "Cool story but please take Nina’s name out of your mouth. For the rest of your life."
Nina's brother, Sam Waymon, subsequently accused Zoe and the film's writer/director Cynthia Mort of insulting his late sibling by "painting up" a light-skinned actress to portray her onscreen, while he even went so far as to slam them for "raping Nina's legacy".
Now the Guardians of The Galaxy star is tackling her critics head on, confessing she is glad the controversy is bringing attention to the movie - and to Simone herself.
"The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We f**king won,” she told Allure magazine. "For so many years, nobody knew who the f*** she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else."
Explaining her decision to take the part, which was announced back in 2012, she said, "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.’"
The actress, who is mother to one-year-old twin boys Bowie and Cy, passionately defended her skin color, stating, "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."
And, as for her use of a prosthetic nose in the movie, Zoe had stern words for those who decided to call the jazz singer ugly. "I never saw her as unattractive,” she explained. “Nina looks like half my family! 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?”
The movie, which was released to average reviews, also starred David Oyelowo and Mike Epps.