Zoe Saldana Fires Back at Critics of Nina Simone Biopic

"I'm black the way I know how to be," she said.

ByABC News
June 21, 2016, 11:06 AM

— -- Zoe Saldana is firing back at critics of her biopic "Nina," which is based on the life of the late accomplished singer and songwriter Nina Simone.

The film was released in April and criticized by the Simone family.

"Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful," the Simone estate tweeted from its official account in March.

Saldana talked to Allure magazine about the role she took on almost four years ago, saying, "There's no one way to be black," referencing the physical differences between her and Simone.

"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," she said. "I never saw her as unattractive. 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, so the wider you get, the more insulted you become?"

Simone's estate responded to Saldana's Allure interview last week on social media.

Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, reacted to Saldana's casting in an interview with The New York Times in 2012.

“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice," she said.

In the Allure interview, Saldana explained why she took on the role despite the challenges.

"The script probably would still be lying around, going from office to office, agency to agency, and nobody would have done it," she said. "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.'"

She added: "The fact that we're talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We f----- won. 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."

Saldana also challenged other filmmakers to do it better if they have a problem with "Nina."

"Let ours be version number one of ten stories in the next ten years about the f----- iconic person that was Nina Simone," she said.