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Celebrity Ancestry: Hollywood Actress Zoe Saldana’s Heritage: 100,000 Fans Google Her Ethnicity, Nationality, Parents Race & Family Background

IS SHE BLACK, INDIAN, LATINA? Zoe Saldana's ethnicity and heritage seem hard to place for many fans who regularly Google details about her ancestry and her parents racial background and origins. By Ben Arogundade. Nov. 20, 2019.

MYSTERIOUS ETHNICITY: 'Avatar' and 'Star Trek' actress Zoe Saldana's ethnicity and heritage intrigues fans around the world. 100,000 of them, curious about her race, nationality and her parents ethnic background, turn to Google for answers.

SHE IS PERHAPS HOLLYWOOD'S MOST ETHNICALLY mysterious movie star, able to morph between Mediterranean-style beauty to a full-blown alien, as she appeared in the movie, Avatar. So, is Zoe Yadira Saldana black, Indian, Latina or Other? 100,000 fans are not sure. That is the approximate global number who Google a range of questions about the 41 year old actress's ethnicity, nationality, parents race background and family heritage, each year.


So, what ethnicity and nationality is Zoe Saldana? In fact, the New Jersey-born celebrity's parents are from diverse racial backgrounds. Her mother Asalia Nazario's nationality is Puerto Rican, while her late father, Aridio Saldana, was from the Dominican Republic. He died in a car accident when Zoe was nine years old, after which the family relocated to the Dominican Republic.


Like fellow film celebrity Rosario Dawson, Saldana’s ethnicity intrigues in its ambiguity. She could pass for black, biracial, Brazilian, Indian, Pakistani, Persian or Latina. Her ethnicity has a rich history. The Dominican Republic, her father’s birthplace, is an island located in the Caribbean Sea, off the northern coast of Venezuela. Today the majority of its population are of African ancestry, but also present are “Caribs“ — the traditional race of native Indians after whom the Caribbean was named, plus a large multi-ethnic population, as well as a minority of European nationalities descended from British, French and Irish colonists.


Saldana’s mother’s birthplace, Puerto Rico, is an archipelago in the north east of the Caribbean. Most of the population, who commonly refer to themselves as “boricuas”, are descendants of Taíno Indians, Africans, Europeans, or a combination of these groups. Saldana also shares this side of her ethnic ancestry with one of Rosario Dawson's parents — her mother Isabel is part-Puerto Rican. It is this multi-ethnicity which accounts for both actresses light skin-tone and naturally straight hair.


With Saldana's multi-ethnic background and heritage it perhaps seems fitting then that Hollywood's most aesthetically mysterious actress was cast in the ethnically otherworldly role of Neytiri in James Cameron's epic movie, Avatar. But although Saldana's mixed heritage allows her to cross over into roles devised for both black and white actresses, she admits that she still comes up against narrow racial conventions when casting in Hollywood. “When they say, ‘We want to go white,’ they have a very smooth way of saying it, and the recent one is the word ‘traditional’,” she told Nylon magazine. “‘Oh, you know, you’re just not what we were looking for, your skin is a little darker.’”


But despite all the ambiguities about Saldana's ethnicity, she self-identifies as black rather than Latino — a fact which some sections of the latter community find hard to accept. She was also criticised for being cast in the role of Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic about the singer, by those, including members of Simone's estate, who thought that an actress of a different ethnicity should have been cast. “Zoe is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent — Nina is of African American descent,” said Jennifer Peros, senior news editor at Entertainment Tonight. The anger intensified when it was discovered that Saldana plays the role of Simone in “blackface”, with darkened make-up, and also with a prothetic nose, so that she bears a closer resemblance to the singer.


The controversy illustrates the double standards that exist in Hollywood between its black and white stars. Why does a black actor need to come from the same country as the person she is portraying in a film? Further, why does that actor need to physically resemble that person? These are rules that do not seem to apply to white actors in Hollywood. A recent example is the actor Michael Fassbender, who plays Apple founder Steve Jobs in the Academy-Award nominated biopic. Not only is Fassbender Irish-German, rather than American, he also bears no physical resemblance to Jobs — and yet he drew no criticism for these facts, while Saldana draws anger, mainly from within the black community, for doing exactly the same thing. The question here is, why are blacks harder on themselves than they are on other ethnicities within Hollywood?

Regardless of the controversy, Saldana remains defiant. “It doesn't matter how much backlash I will get it,” she responded. “I will honor and respect my black community because that's who I am.”

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FROM CHILD TO STAR: Top: Zoe Saldana as a child. Her mixed-race heritage gives her hair its naturally fine texture. Zoe Saldana and her mother, Asalia - Zoe's parents are of mixed ethnicity and nationality. Her mother is Puerto Rican, while her late father, Aridio was from the Dominican Republic: Zoe Saldana's multi-ethnic beauty graces the covers of the November 2014 edition of 'Elle', and the July/August 2011 edition of 'Harper's Bazaar' Russia.



The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Zoe Saldana’s parents, mother, father”, each month.


The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Zoe Saldana’s ethnicity, nationality, race background & heritage”, each month.

*All figures for “Actress Zoe Saldana’s Ethnicity, Nationality, Parents Race - According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.

More About Hollywood Celebrities & Ancestry

Actress Thandie Newton’s battle against childhood racism.

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