NEWS

Nina Simone's Daughter Defends Zoe Saldana Over Biopic Racial Backlash

by Meredith B. Kile 7:41 PM PST, March 04, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Lisa Simone Kelly, the only child of legendary singer Nina Simone, defended actress Zoe Saldana in an interview with Time on Thursday.

Saldana has come under fire since being cast as the singer in an upcoming biopic, Nina, and this week, a verified Twitter account in Simone's name slammed the actress after she posted a quote promoting the film.

"Please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life," the tweet read.

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Simone Kelly, who doesn't run the Twitter account, told Time she wasn't aware of the tweet beforehand and it is unclear who actually posted it.

Most of the criticism of Saldana's role in the movie comes from the actress being cast over a black actress with darker skin, and donning dark makeup to portray the late jazz and blues singer. But, according to Simone Kelly, the backlash is being misdirected.

"It's unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture," said Simone's daughter, also an actress and singer. "It's clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she's being attacked when she's not responsible for any of the writing or the lies."

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Simone Kelly has "disavowed" the movie, for which she says her family was not consulted. The singer's daughter says that while her family is "not upset with Zoe," she didn't think the Guardians of the Galaxy star was the "proper choice, appearance-wise."

"There are many superb actresses of color who could more adequately represent my mother and could bring her to the screen with the proper script, the proper team and a sense of wanting to bring the truth of my mother's journey to the masses," she said. "And Nina, in my opinion, doesn't do any of that."

Simone Kelly said that she "didn't feel much of anything except for poor Zoe," upon watching the recently released trailer, but says that the film's focus -- on the personal relationship between Simone and her manager Clifton Henderson (Selma star David Oyelowo) -- is yet another misrepresentation.

"The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship," claimed Simone Kelly, who also said that Henderson was gay. "The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother's life and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered."

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A more apt memorial, according to the singer's daughter, is the authorized Netflix documentary,What Happened, Miss Simone?, which was nominated for an Academy Award this year.

"I'm no longer bothered by it because the truth is already out there," said Simone Kelly. "I don't have to justify, define or educate anybody about my mother anymore. It's a wonderful feeling. I'm free in a way that I have never been before."

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