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Zoe Saldana Talks BACKLASH Over Nina Simone Role In MONARCH Magazine Cover Story + Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo & Mike WILL Made It HONORED At ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards


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Zoe Saldana landed the cover of the newest Monarch magazine issue and she opens up about the backlash she received since it was announced that she would be playing the late iconic Nina Simone and how she prepared for the role. Also, Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo and producer Mike WILL Made It were honored at the ASCAP awards. Peep Zoe’s cover and find out what awards the fellas took home inside…

As she gears up for the premiere of her role as Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic, Zoe Saldana talks about her portrayal of the late jazz musician and classical pianist in the latest issue of Monarch Magazine.

Some people were up-in-arms over the “Rosemary’s Baby” actress landing the role, saying she wasn’t “black” enough to play her. But, it doesn’t seem to have fazed her.   She feels she did the role justice and that her performance will prove the naysayers wrong.

In the cover story, Zoe divulged on how she prepared to capture the legendary singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist and what inspired her to take on a project such as this. She also opened up about all of the negativity surrounding her being chosen to play the legend and how she feels about having to always define her heritage.

Here are the highlights:

Playing the late, great Nina Simone, what inspired you to do a project like this?
Nina was a true genius and an iconic artist. It was a dream job for me. It’s one of the scariest projects I’ve ever been involved with because it was about an iconic figure, and there were so many political [issues] around it from the beginning; but I really wanted it to be a love song to Nina Simone and I wanted it to just come from a place of absolute love. I loved the complexity of Nina and her beauty that she expressed with her music. I wanted to do right by her and knew it would be challenging. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing opportunity to play a true legend.

How did you prepare for the role?
I did a lot of research to prepare for Nina. I took piano lessons, voice lessons, worked with a dialect coach, and I really invested months of just doing research about Nina – her background, her story, her life. My research ranged from reading books about Nina, listening to her music, watching footage of her.

How did the controversy about you playing Nina affect you?
The Nina Simone story needed to be told, and I’m really blessed that I did it. I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me. So it did affect me but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do. Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that [this] was a story that needed to be told. I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help; but then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of everyone – I’m here to be an artist first. Hopefully people will enjoy the film and I helped shed some light on this amazing iconic

Do you feel like your heritage and ethnicity is always questioned?

I find it uncomfortable to have to speak about my identity all of the time, when in reality it’s not something that drives me or wakes me up out of bed every day. I didn’t grow up in a household where I was categorized by my mother. I was just Zoe and I could have and be anything that I ever wanted to do … and every human being is the same as you. So to all of a sudden leave your household and have people always ask you, “What are you? What are you?” is the most uncomfortable question sometimes and it’s literally the most repetitive question. Because I can’t wait to be in a world where people are sized by their soul and how much they can contribute as individuals and not what they look like … I feel like as a race, that’s a minute problem against the problems we face just as women versus men, in a world that’s more geared and designed to cater towards the male species.

Check out Zoe's full interview here.


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Last night, the 27th annual ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards were held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in L.A. And producer Mike WILL Made It (pictured above with Jermaine Dupri, ASCAP VP of R&S Nicole George-Middleton and Ne-Yo) seized the night with winning songwriter of the year, while his publishing firm Warner/Chappell won publisher of the year. Singer Ne-Yo was honored with the the Golden Note Award for his music contributions.

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Super producer Jermaine Dupri got dapper in a black and blue floral blazer to accept the prominent Founders Award. He was honored with surprise performances from Bow Wow (who now wants to be referred to as Shad Moss) and Usher. During Usher’s performance he spoke on JD’s hard work saying, “puts his heart and time into his songs; they’re real. Without JD, I would never have become a writer my damn self.” Nice.

Jennifer Hudson and Mario also performed special sets during the event.

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Preceding JD's honor, legends such as Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder are recipients of the Founders Award. JD felt he could never reach such a prestigious level and when asked about winning the award the overwhelmed producer said, “That’s the part that f*cking me up right now. But regardless of what happens from here, I’m going to enjoy this evening like a motherf*cker.”

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And “Closer To My Dreams” singer Goapele (who’s gearing up for the release of her new album Strong As Glass) came out to show support.

Fun times.

Photos: INF/Monarch Magazine

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