Why Do People Hate Zoe Saldana?

Zoe Saldana is an American actress known for her roles in major blockbuster films like Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Trek.

However, in recent years, she has faced backlash and criticism from some people online. In this article, we’ll explore the possible reasons why some people seem to dislike or “hate” Zoe Saldana.

Reasons Why People May Dislike Zoe Saldana

She Was Perceived as “Not Black Enough” for Certain Roles

One of the main criticisms Zoe Saldana has faced is that she is not “black enough” or does not fully represent the African American experience in some of her roles.

For example, when she was cast as the iconic singer Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic Nina, many people felt she was the wrong choice because of her lighter skin tone and more European facial features. Nina Simone was known for her darker complexion and wider nose, which were central parts of her identity and struggles. Some saw Saldana’s casting as “colorism” in Hollywood.

Similar criticism was levied when she played Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. As the only Black woman in the main cast, some felt she did not fully or accurately represent a Black character.

She Played Uhura in Star Trek – A Role Strongly Associated With Another Black Actress

The character of Uhura in Star Trek was originated by Nichelle Nichols in the 1960s. Nichols’ portrayal was groundbreaking as one of the first empowered Black women on television.

When Saldana was cast as Uhura in the Star Trek reboot films, some original fans of the series were unhappy that she was taking on the iconic role. They felt the character should have gone to another Black actress more similar to Nichols.

She Has Been Accused of “Blackface” for Her Role as Nina Simone

One of the most controversial points against Saldana is the “blackface” accusations surrounding her performance as Nina Simone. She wore makeup and a prosthetic nose to darken her appearance and give her more similarity to Simone.

Many saw this as an offensive form of 21st century blackface, equating it with the racist minstrel shows of the past. Saldana and the filmmakers defended it as an attempt at historical accuracy, but some dismissed this as an excuse.

Her Comments About Race Were Viewed as Problematic by Some

In interviews over the years, Saldana has made statements about race and identity that rubbed some people the wrong way. For example:

  • Saying she doesn’t identify with any particular race or color
  • Stating she feels Latinas are under-represented in Hollywood compared to Black women
  • Suggesting issues of race in Hollywood are overblown or overhyped

While she may have intended these comments to be unifying or inclusive, some saw them as dismissive of the real racial barriers and prejudices that exist in the entertainment industry and society overall.

A Defense of Zoe Saldana

However, there are also perspectives in defense of Zoe Saldana and her career choices:

She Has Broken Barriers for Black Women in Major Franchises

While the criticism is valid, it’s also true that Saldana has achieved rare heights for a Black actress in Hollywood’s blockbuster franchises. She is the only Black woman to lead such major sci-fi film series, bringing visibility and representation.

As Uhura, she inspired a new generation of Star Trek fans of color. And she has spoken about feeling a responsibility in her roles to give young minority girls heroic characters to look up to, like she lacked growing up.

She Should Have the Artistic Freedom to Play Any Role

Some argue that as an actor, Saldana should have the freedom to portray any character, including those of a different race and background than herself.

Limiting actors strictly to characters matching their real identity could narrow diversity and representation in films even further. Her talent and box office draw have allowed her to access complex roles often off-limits to women of color.

She Is a Light-Skinned Afro-Latina Woman Navigating Identity

It’s important to consider Saldana’s own multiracial identity as an Afro-Latina woman. She has spoken openly about growing up with a Puerto Rican father and an African American/Salvadoran mother and being told she was “too black” by some and “not black enough” by others.

As someone with a light-skinned privilege not afforded to all, she still faces struggles of identity and ignorance that should not be dismissed.

Makeup Was Intended to Honor Nina Simone’s Image

While the Nina Simone “blackface” makeup remains very controversial, Saldana has said her intent was to honor Simone by transforming fully into her likeness on screen. The process took hours each day to darken her skin, widen her nose with prosthetics, and modify her facial structure.

Whether or not it was an advisable choice, she has stated she did not take the role or makeup lightly and studied extensively to represent Simone with dignity and respect.

Zoe Saldana’s Recent Responses to the Controversies

In the last few years, as criticism against her has grown, Saldana has been more vocal in addressing the issues surrounding her career and public image. A few examples:

In an 2021 interview with InStyle, she discussed learning from past mistakes:

“I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless.”

In 2022 at the Women in the World Summit, she addressed identity and race head-on:

“It would be an honor, but until I’m 90 years old, I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe being a woman and being a woman of color in spaces that are very afraid, that are very lacking in humility, that are very in denial.”

And speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2023 about the Star Trek backlash:

“I was too young to understand that when you are a minority, you’ll end up being the representative of millions of voices and many demographics, even when it’s unsolicited.”

She has shown more reflection on how her words and actions as an Afro-Latina actress impact wider social narratives around race and representation.


There are clearly complex perspectives on both sides of the debate around Zoe Saldana that raise larger issues in Hollywood and society. Her career cannot be absolved of valid criticism and controversy.

Yet also has broken barriers for Black women in major franchises and should have the room to grow in understanding her impact. While the anger comes from understandable places, there might also be value in viewing Saldana as a flawed but well-meaning person who is still learning how to best use her voice and platform.

With more nuanced conversations, along with better representation behind the camera, the entertainment industry can work to uplift diverse stories without harm. Zoe Saldana remains a polarizing figure but still has the potential to bring more multifaceted portrayal of women of color to the mainstream.

If she continues showing willingness to listen, reflect and improve, her next body of work could tell the tale of an actress who found her way to balance activism with art.

Frequently Asked Questions About Why People Dislike Zoe Saldana

Why were some people upset with Zoe Saldana playing Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy?

Some criticized her casting as Gamora as not authentically representing a Black character, since she was the only Black woman in the main cast. They felt a darker-skinned actress should have been chosen.

How did people react to Zoe Saldana playing Uhura in Star Trek?

Some original Star Trek fans were unhappy about her taking on the role made iconic by Nichelle Nichols. They felt Uhura should have gone to another Black actress more similar to Nichols.

What is the “blackface” controversy about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone?

To transform into Nina Simone, Saldana wore makeup and prosthetics to darken her skin and alter her facial features. Many accused this of being an offensive modern-day version of blackface.

Has Zoe Saldana responded to the criticism against her over the years?

Yes, in recent interviews she has addressed the controversies more directly, showing reflection on how she could have handled things differently and the complexities of identity politics.

Why do some people think Zoe Saldana should be able to play any role as an actor?

Some argue she should have artistic freedom to portray any character, and limiting actors to only roles matching their identity could decrease diversity in films even further.

How has Zoe Saldana talked about her own multiracial identity as an Afro-Latina?

She has discussed growing up between identities, being told she was “too black” by some and “not black enough” by others. She faces privilege as light-skinned but also struggles of identity.

Did Zoe Saldana intend to honor Nina Simone with the makeup choices in that film?

She has said the hours-long process of makeup and prosthetics each day was intended to fully transform into Simone’s likeness on screen, not mock her, though it remains controversial.

What barriers has Zoe Saldana helped break as a Black actress in major Hollywood films?

She achieved rare heights for a Black actress in leading major sci-fi franchises like Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy, bringing more visibility and representation.

How has Zoe Saldana shown growth recently in responding to criticism?

In newer interviews, she has shown more reflection on mistakes made, understanding her impact on social narratives around race, and a willingness to listen, grow, and use her platform for good.

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