“If I told you once, I told you twice…” or so the refrain goes. Lil’ Kim is making headlines again with a familiar tune. Because, in case you didn’t know, she is still seething over the casting of Naturi Naughton in Notorious, the 2009 biopic dramatizing the rise and demise of Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G.
Naturi Naughton initially made waves as an original member of the starlet R&B/Pop trio, 3LW. The group released their debut single in the fall of 2000, “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)” and went on to a series of Disney film and T.V. projects under the alternate name of The Cheetah Girls alongside Raven-Symoné and Sabrina Bryan. Naturi would be replaced early on after a series of disputes; one in particular allegedly involved a weaponized plate of KFC.
After her stint in the music industry, Naughton resurfaced as an actress in the Broadway play, Hairspray, from 2005-2008. Naturi recounts her excitement in being cast as Lil’ Kim and their initial encounter, “I’ll never forget. I was at the production office in Brooklyn, Kim comes off the elevator, I happen to be there for rehearsal…huge, beautiful fur. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the queen is here.’”
According to the singer-actress, the feeling was not reciprocated, “She walks right by me with her crew. She goes into the director’s office. They close the door. All I hear is, ‘What the f–k?!’ They’re arguing. They’re yelling and I’m like, ‘I hope this is not about me.’ But it was. I guess there was some miscommunication about the casting process. But again, I’m just an actress. I was just hired to do a part. So I was hoping and praying. I reached out via phone. I was there, that time in person. Maybe my look had something to do with it. Again, it started to replay the memories of 3LW saying I’m not good enough or because I guess she thought I was darker than the character should have been. I just wanted to have her blessing. I really did. To this day, I have nothing but love and respect for Lil Kim. She really is what spawned the careers of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. They just took from that book and did it now. No disrespect to any of these artists. But please give her-her just due. So for me, I have nothing but love and respect. And I hope that she knows I was honored to play her. And I hope one day she can see that and really know that.”
While it is possible that some of Kimberly Denise Jones’ aversion to Naughton’s casting was due to her perception of the actress’ ability, her own words and actions lead many to speculate otherwise. During a recent interview with fellow N.Y. emcee Fat Joe, Kim reiterated her stance on the film and the casting, “Yeah, no. I hate that movie. To me, it was like a spoof…I didn’t like who played me. No, no, no. I would’ve went through BROOKLYN and find a girl who has that experience that I feel represents Brooklyn, that has that experience – knows what it’s like to grow up in Brooklyn.”
For the uninitiated, Brooklyn is approximately 13 miles from East Orange, New Jersey; the hometown of Ms. Naughton. While some differences are very real and not to be glossed over, the relatively short geographical distance has to correlate to some short cultural and experiential differences between the two locations.
Additionally, Voletta Wallace, mother of the slain rapper about whom the film was made, responded back when Kim’s criticism was originally voiced, “She felt the character we chose for her was too dark… Do you know why the character was too dark for her? Because she’s a white woman trapped in a black woman’s body, and you can tell the world I said it, because those are Lil Kim’s words. She should be ashamed of herself.”
MadameNoire also shared back in 2019, although Lil Kim has never said why she didn’t want Naturi to play her in the movie, the implication was clear – “she didn’t want to be portrayed by a darker skinned woman—even if she was a secondary character in a story that wasn’t her own.”
Last year when Lil Kim did an interview with Rap Radar, the rapper was asked if she wanted Christina Milian to play the role. Although, the rapper insisted that rumor was incorrect she did say, “[The] whole point and the matter of the fact [is that] I should’ve got to pick the girl that played me. And not necessarily Christina Milian or whoever else, but she could’ve damn sure played it better than that girl and I know that because Christina is my friend.”
Lil’ Kim has had numerous cosmetic surgeries over the years and has even bleached her skin. In her words, “You know, I’m a Spanish girl trapped in a Black girl’s body.” Back in a 2000 interview with Newsweek, she admitted, “I have low self-esteem and I always have. Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking…you know, the long-hair type- really beautiful women. That left me thinking, ‘How can I compete with that?’ Being a regular black girl wasn’t good enough.”