Indepndent

LOS ANEGLES -There is growing frustration with the tendency for light skin to be privileged over darker skin shades in Hollywood and the media. The Hollywood actress Zoe Saldana has responded to criticism that she is too light-skinned to play the African American singer-songwriter Nina Simone, commenting: ‘I can’t stop to think about who thinks me to be black enough or not black enough.’

The actress, whose mother is of Puerto Rican descent and whose father was from the Dominican Republic, discussed the controversy surrounding her casting in the film Nina in this month’s Ocean Drive magazine.

The casting choice has elicited considerable anger because while Zoe Saldana’s skin shade should not matter, prejudice on the basis of skin shade known as colourism or shadeism, means that it does. There is growing frustration with the tendency for light skin to be privileged over darker skin shades in Hollywood and the media, with the implication that light skin is more attractive and more palatable than darker skin shades.

Given the obstacles Nina Simone faced because of the shade of her skin and what she then represented for other black women who faced similar oppression, the casting selection is emotive.

Nina Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, told the International New York Times that in terms of appearance it was not the best choice because her mother was told that ‘her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark.’

Colourism continues to affect people of colour, and particularly women, all over the world, helping to perpetuate hierarchies based on skin shade.