Zoe Saldana drops no mics in Allure
My problem with Zoe Saldana is that she is so goddamn likeable. She’s on the cover of Allure for a story with the headline, Star Trek's Zoe Saldana Drops the Mic and for the first half of the piece, she comes across as an authentic human being, not a Hollywood robot. While there really isn’t a “mic-drop moment,” you want to invite her and her husband over for dinner, even if they’ll just talk about their twins the whole time. She appeals to the gossips by revealing that Cindy Crawford and Jessica Alba reached out to her when she got pregnant to share mommy advice but she keeps it real for the MiniVan Majority when she says she still hates changing diapers. She’s seems genuinely relatable when she recalls growing up in Queens with her sisters. Zoe describes her mother as “the goddess of 'I could give two sh-ts about what you have to say about me; I do it all my way.'" So you get the feeling Zoe approaches life with the same zero f-cks attitude and it’s refreshing. She shares about the time she fought for childcare on set and bit back at a director who tried to reduce her to a hot chick in her “underwear holding a gun.” The takeaway is don’t f-ck with Zoe Saldana on set. She will speak her mind. She’s a woman of colour in Hollywood headlining massive blockbusters. I really want to give into her charm.
But then, she casually quotes Nina Simone and the tone changes. Here’s where it gets annoying that Zoe Saldana is so likeable. The last time I wrote about Zoe, it was her first appearance since the controversy surrounding her role as Nina Simone in Nina. I made it very clear that I don’t think Zoe was the person to play Nina Simone. I made it very clear that the fact that she had to be plastered in dark makeup and wear a prosthetic nose was messed up. In response to the controversy about her appearance, Saldana said this:
"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."
Zoe is black. That’s not the debate. Everything she says here is right but the problem isn’t that she is black. The problem is that she is a light skinned, thin actress with features that are the exact antithesis of what Nina represented.
It’s also annoying that the writer of this piece clearly doesn’t push Zoe to answer the tough questions about her role as Nina. Instead, they reduce the controversy to this:
The very idea that Saldana could be considered too pretty to play Simone seems to make the actress more sad than defensive. "I never saw her as unattractive. Nina looks like half my family!" she says. "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, so the wider you get, the more insulted you become?"
Here is where it becomes painfully obvious that Saldana just does not understand. She talks about the difficulties of being a non-white, non “traditional” actress in casting rooms but that directors like James Cameron, J.J. Abrams and Ben Affleck have looked at her and said, “’Why not you? You're "traditional." You're everything.'"
No director in Hollywood today would ever say this to Nina Simone. I’m going to be gross and quote myself for a second so humour me. I wrote, “Zoe Saldana is not white but she’s arguably been given opportunities because her beauty is more palatable than an Adepero Oduye or an Uzo Aduba.” And this is exactly what Zoe doesn’t understand. She’s coming from a place of privilege whether she realizes it or not.
She also defends her decision to play Nina by saying that if she didn’t, the story would not have been told. She implies that without her, no one would know who Nina Simone is.
"The fact that we're talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We f-cking won…For so many years, nobody knew who the f-ck she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else."
First of all, Nina was a BLACK woman above everything else and second, the exceptional documentary What Happened Miss Simone? was nominated for an Oscar a few months before Nina came out. We were talking about Nina Simone without Zoe’s misguided film.
The piece ends with a note that Zoe Saldana would like to move on from this controversy and focus on her new Ben Affleck-directed film Live By Night, the new Star Trek, the second Guardians of the Galaxy and the onslaught of Avatar sequels. I’ll just be over here, trying really hard not to like her in any of those movies, for Nina.