What's ironic is that Saldana considers herself black. One of her most famous quotes, to Latina Magazine in the May 2006 issue is, "When I go to the D.R., the press in Santo Domingo always asks, "¿Qué te consideras, dominicana o americana?" (What do you consider yourself, Dominican or American?) I don't understand it, and it's the same people asking the same question. So I say, time and time again, "Yo soy una mujer negra." ("I am a black woman.") [They go,] "Oh, no, tú eres trigueñita." ("Oh no, you're just tanned'") I'm like, "No! Let's get it straight, yo soy una mujer negra." ("I am a black woman.")"
Saldana has often played an African American on the big screen, from Uhura in the Star Trek reboot to Nick Cannon's love interest in Drumline, or Ashton Kutcher's girlfriend in Guess Who, but no one seemed to care about those movies in the way that they care about Nina Simone - for obvious reasons. We're dealing with an icon here.
But as a woman of color, Saldana deals with many of the same issues herself that her fellow black actresses deal with - and people tend to forget that. At the party celebrating the premiere issue of Cosmopolitan For Latinas, for which she was the cover girl, Saldana told The Huffington Post, on camera: "I can't yet pose for any magazine [referring to mainstream magazines like Vogue or Vanity Fair] and I wish I could. That would be great. Because there are still some magazines that only cater to a certain demographic and only put certain people no their cover, and that's fine, I never lose hope that one day certain big magazines can broaden their exposure of what is an American face."
So you'd think when she does the covers of certain niche magazines that she'd be safe from the backlash, but that's not always the case. Her September 2011 cover of Ebony had the cover line "There's Something About Zoe: Black, Latina, Fierce…Fall in love with Hollywood's freshest star." But the cover story interview made it kind of hard to do that.
In the story, she is quoted as saying: "When I go after a part, [people] better watch their backs," she says. "Not because I'm going to crush everybody, but because I'm going to give the best that I can because I strive for excellence. When you don't get a part, it is for a reason, and these pieces will fall into place soon. … We have a Black president right now, so why the f--- would I sit down and talk about how hard it is for Black women in Hollywood when there's a Black president in my country?"
I can see how that comment would rub people – particularly working black actresses – the wrong way. But Saldana is known to speak freely, almost aggressively, often with curse words, especially when asserting her strength, confidence, or independence. I know because, though I haven't interviewed her myself, I've edited more than one cover story of hers for which I read entire interview transcripts and thought to myself, "She's not exactly coming across as the most likeable person here, but I know what she means." In the case of that Ebony quote, I'm almost sure she wishes she had stated whatever she meant more articulately. I'm guessing part of that tough-girl demeanor has a lot to do with losing her father at a young age and growing up having to pretend she was stronger than she was at times, but that's just my take.