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India.Arie: ‘Zoe Saldana looks ugly in Nina Simone biopic’

Singer India.Arie has continued to voice her disapproval of Zoe Saldana portraying late jazz star Nina Simone.
The Avatar beauty has faced a backlash from the iconic musician’s fans ever since landing the lead role in Nina in 2012, with some claiming the actress, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, looks nothing like Simone.
The controversy was reignited last Wednesday (02Mar16) when the first trailer for the long delayed project was released, and appeared to show Zoe’s skin had been darkened with make-up to better resemble the African-American musical icon.
Simone’s estate representatives and the musician’s brother have made it clear they disapprove of the casting, attacking Zoe online, while Nina’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, urged detractors not to take out their frustrations on the actress.
Now India, who played Simone onscreen in TV series American Dreams in 2003, has weighed in on the fresh controversy in a candid interview with The Hollywood Reporter, insisting filmmakers made Zoe look “ugly” onscreen.
“I think the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit,” explained India, who saw an early cut of Nina three years ago. “It’s not my place to say how Zoe Saldana perceives herself, and I can’t say how anybody else perceives her either.”
However, she claims, “The way she looked in the movie was ugly.”
India had previously slammed Zoe’s portrayal online, insisting the make-up and prosthetics used in the biopic, written and directed by Cynthia Mort, “looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose”.
India stands by her remarks, claiming she “didn’t know” how else to describe Zoe’s movie appearance at the time, but now she is clear: “(The Nina portrayal) is a caricature,” she continues. “You had to put a whole other face on someone’s face.”
But the Video singer is adamant she doesn’t hold anything against Zoe herself.
“I don’t know her and I don’t think she did anything wrong,” she states. “I think they cast Zoe Saldana because they wanted a big name, but that makes me ask, ‘Is the name Nina Simone not big enough to get people to come to the movie?'”
Zoe has yet to address the latest criticism, but she has previously defended her casting.
“I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that,” she told HipHollywood.com. “I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free.”

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