Queen Latifah
Latifah in 2018
Born
Dana Elaine Owens

(1970-03-18) March 18, 1970 (age 53)
Occupations
  • Rapper
  • actress
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • film producer
  • talk show host
Years active1989–present
Children1[citation needed]
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Genres
Instrument(s)
  • Vocals
  • piano
Labels
Websitequeenlatifah.com Edit this at Wikidata

Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), better known by the stage name Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, actress and singer. She has received various accolades, including a Grammy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two NAACP Image Awards, in addition to a nomination for an Academy Award. In 2006, she became the first hip hop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

At age 19, Latifah released her debut album All Hail the Queen (1989), featuring the hit single "Ladies First". Her second album Nature of a Sista' (1991), was produced by Tommy Boy Records. Her third album, Black Reign (1993), became the first album by a solo female rapper to receive a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA),[2] and spawned the single "U.N.I.T.Y.", which was influential in raising awareness of violence against women and the objectification of Black female sexuality.[3] The track reached the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and won a Grammy Award. Her fourth album Order in the Court (1998), was released with Motown Records. She has since released the albums The Dana Owens Album (2004), Trav'lin' Light (2007), and Persona (2009).

Latifah starred as Khadijah James on the Fox sitcom Living Single from 1993 to 1998 and landed a leading role in the action film Set It Off (1996). She created the daytime talk show The Queen Latifah Show, which ran from 1999 to 2001, and again from 2013 to 2015, in syndication. Her portrayal of Matron "Mama" Morton in the musical film Chicago (2002) received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has also starred or co-starred in the films Bringing Down the House (2003), Taxi (2004), Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2005), Beauty Shop (2005), Last Holiday (2006), Hairspray (2007), Joyful Noise (2012), 22 Jump Street (2014), and Girls Trip (2017); and provided voice work in the Ice Age film series.[4]

Latifah received critical acclaim for her portrayal of blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film Bessie (2015), which she co-produced, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. From 2016 to 2019, she starred as Carlotta Brown in the musical drama series Star. In 2020, she portrayed Hattie McDaniel in the miniseries Hollywood. Since 2021, she has held the lead role on CBS's revival of the action drama The Equalizer.

Early life

Dana Elaine Owens was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 18, 1970, and lived primarily in East Orange, New Jersey. She is the daughter of Rita Lamae (née Bray; d. 2018),[5] a teacher at Irvington High School (Dana's alma mater), and Lancelot Amos Owens, a police officer.[6][7][8] Her parents divorced when she was ten.[9]

She was raised in the Baptist faith.[10] She attended Catholic school in Newark, New Jersey[11][12] and Essex Catholic Girls' High School in Irvington but graduated from Irvington High School.[13][14][9] After high school, she attended classes at Borough of Manhattan Community College.[15]

She found her stage name, Latifah (لطيفة laţīfa), meaning "delicate" and "very kind" in Arabic, in a book of Arabic names when she was eight.[9] Always tall, the 5-foot-10-inch (1.78 m) Dana was a power forward on her high school basketball team.[16][17] She performed the number "Home" from the musical The Wiz in a grammar school play.[18]

Music career

1988–1989: Career beginnings

She began beat boxing for the hip-hop group Ladies Fresh and was an original member of the Flavor Unit, which, at that time, was a crew of MCs grouped around producer DJ King Gemini. DJ King Gemini made a demo recording of Queen Latifah's rap song Princess of the Posse, which he gave to Fab 5 Freddy, the host of Yo! MTV Raps. The song got the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who signed Latifah and in 1989 released her first single, "Wrath of My Madness". More recent artists, like Ice Cube and Lil' Kim, would go on to sample Latifah's track in their songs "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo" and "Wrath of Kim's Madness" respectively in later years. Latifah has a two-octave vocal range.[19] She is considered a contralto, with the ability to both rap and sing.[19]

1989–2002: Rap and hip-hop

Latifah made her mark in hip-hop by rapping about issues black women face. She wrote songs about topics including domestic violence, street harassment, and troubled relationships.[20] Freddy helped Latifah sign with Tommy Boy Records, which released Latifah's first album All Hail the Queen in 1989, when she was nineteen.[9] That year, she appeared as Referee on the UK label Music of Life album 1989 – The Hustlers Convention (live). She received a Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1992.[21] The single "Ladies First" featuring Monie Love became the first collaborative track by two female rappers not in a group.[22] In 1993, she released the album Black Reign, which was certified Gold in the United States[23] and produced the Grammy Award-winning song "U.N.I.T.Y." In 1998, co-produced by Ro Smith, now CEO of Def Ro Inc., she released her fourth hip-hop album Order in the Court, which was released by Motown Records. Latifah was also a member of the hip-hop collective Native Tongues.

Latifah performed in the Super Bowl XXXII halftime show, making her the first rapper to do so.[24]

2003–2009: Change to traditional singing

Queen Latifah hosts LEAGUE National Awards and Recognition Luncheon 2008

After Order in the Court, Latifah shifted primarily to singing soul music and jazz standards, which she had used sparingly in her previous hip-hop-oriented records. In 2004, she released the soul/jazz standards The Dana Owens Album. On July 11, 2007, Latifah sang at the famed Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles as the headlining act in a live jazz concert. In front of a crowd of more than 12,400, she was backed by a 10-piece live orchestra and three backup vocalists, which was billed as the Queen Latifah Orchestra. Latifah performed new arrangements of standards including "California Dreaming", first made popular by 1960s icons the Mamas & the Papas. Later in 2007, Latifah released an album titled Trav'lin' Light. Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Joe Sample, George Duke, Christian McBride, and Stevie Wonder made guest appearances.[25] The album was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album" category.[26]

In 2009, Latifah, along with the NJPAC Jubilation Choir,[27] recorded the title track on the album Oh, Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration, covering the song that the Edwin Hawkins Singers made popular in 1969.[28]

2008–present: Return to hip-hop

In 2008, Latifah was asked if she would make another hip-hop album. She was quoted stating that the album was done already and it would be called All Hail the Queen II. The following year, in 2009, she released her album Persona. The song "Cue the Rain" was released as the album's lead single.[29] 2011 saw Queen Latifah sing "Who Can I Turn To" in a duet with Tony Bennett for his album Duets II.[30] In January 2012, while appearing on 106 & Park with Dolly Parton, to promote Joyful Noise, Latifah stated that she had been working on a new album.

Film and television

1991–2001: Early career

She began her film career by having supporting roles in the 1991 and 1992 films House Party 2, Juice and Jungle Fever. Moreover, she has guest starred in two episodes during the second season (1991–1992) of the NBC hit The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and had a guest role as herself on a TV sitcom Hangin' with Mr. Cooper in 1993. From 1993 to 1998, Latifah had a starring role on Living Single, the FOX sitcom, which gained high ratings among black audiences; she also wrote and performed its theme song. Her mother Rita played her mother on-screen. Latifah appeared in the 1996 box-office hit, Set It Off, and had a supporting role in the Holly Hunter film Living Out Loud (1998). She played the role of Thelma in the 1999 movie The Bone Collector, alongside Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. She also had her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, from 1999 to 2001 and revamped in 2013. On January 6, 2014, The Queen Latifah Show was renewed for a second season. However, on November 21, 2014, Sony Pictures Television canceled Latifah's show due to declining ratings. Production of the series closed down, taking effect on December 18, 2014, leaving new episodes that were broadcast until March 6, 2015.

2002–present: Mainstream success

Queen Latifah performing at the "Kids Inaugural: We Are the Future" concert in 2009

Although Latifah had previously received some critical acclaim, she gained mainstream success after being cast as Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago, a musical film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture.[9] Latifah herself received the nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role, but lost to co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones.[9] Latifah is one of five hip-hop/R&B artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category. The others are Will Smith (Best Actor, Ali, 2001, and The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006), Jennifer Hudson (Best Supporting Actress, Dreamgirls, 2007), Jamie Foxx, (Best Actor, Ray, and Best Supporting Actor Collateral, both in 2004, also winning the first) and Mary J. Blige (Best Supporting Actress, Mudbound, 2017).

In 2003, she starred with Steve Martin in the film Bringing Down the House, which was a major success at the box office.[9] She also recorded a song "Do Your Thing" for the soundtrack. Since then, she has had both leading and supporting roles in a multitude of films that received varied critical and box office receptions, including films such as Scary Movie 3, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Taxi, Kung Faux, Beauty Shop, and Hairspray. In early 2006, Latifah appeared in a romantic comedy/drama entitled Last Holiday.[9] Film critic Richard Roeper stated that "this is the Queen Latifah performance I've been waiting for ever since she broke into movies".[31] Also in 2006, Latifah voiced Ellie, a friendly mammoth, in the animated film, Ice Age: The Meltdown (her first voice appearance in an animated film), and appeared in the drama Stranger Than Fiction.

The summer of 2007 brought Latifah triple success in the big-screen version of the Broadway smash hit Hairspray, in which she acted, sang, and danced. The film rated highly with critics. It starred, among others, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Allison Janney, James Marsden, Christopher Walken, and Zac Efron. Also in 2007, she portrayed an HIV-positive woman in the film Life Support, a role for which she garnered her first Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy[32] nomination. For her work, Queen Latifah received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on January 4, 2006, located at 6915 Hollywood Blvd.

Latifah performing God Bless America at Super Bowl XLIV in 2010

Queen Latifah produced the 2007 film The Perfect Holiday. In addition to producing the film, Latifah starred alongside Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Charles Q. Murphy, Jill Marie Jones, and Faizon Love.[33] In 2008, Latifah appeared in the crime comedy Mad Money opposite Academy Award–winner Diane Keaton as well as Katie Holmes and Ted Danson. She appeared on Saturday Night Live on October 4, 2008, as moderator Gwen Ifill in a comedic sketch depicting the vice-presidential debate between then-Senator Joe Biden and then-Governor Sarah Palin[34] and played in The Secret Life of Bees. In 2009, Latifah was a presenter at the 81st Academy Awards, presenting the segment honoring film professionals who had died during 2008 and singing "I'll Be Seeing You" during the montage. Latifah spoke at Michael Jackson's memorial service in Los Angeles. She also hosted the 2010 People's Choice Awards. Latifah sang "America the Beautiful" at Super Bowl XLIV hosted in Miami, Florida, on February 7, 2010, with Carrie Underwood. Latifah hosted the 2010 BET Awards on June 27, 2010. She starred with Dolly Parton in Joyful Noise (2012).[35] In June 2011, Latifah received an honorary doctorate degree in Humane Letters from Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. On September 16, 2013, Latifah premiered her own syndicated daytime television show titled The Queen Latifah Show.[36][37] On January 26, 2014, Latifah officiated the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples during a performance of "Same Love" by Macklemore at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.[38] In 2015, Latifah received a Best Actress Emmy nomination for her lead role as Bessie Smith in Bessie, an HBO film which received a total of 12 Emmy nominations.[39]

On April 26, 2017, MTV announced that Latifah will be an executive producer for the third season of the slasher television series Scream. The show will undergo a reboot with a new cast and Brett Matthews serving as show runner. In addition, Matthews, Shakim Compere and Yaneley Arty will also be credited as executive producers for the series under Flavor Unit Entertainment.[40][41] On June 24, 2019, it was confirmed that the third season is scheduled to premiere over three nights on VH1, starting from July 8, 2019. The third season titled Scream: Resurrection premiered on July 8, 2019.[42]

Latifah played the sea witch Ursula in The Little Mermaid Live!. Although the production itself was not well received, critics widely praised Latifah's performance,[43][44] with The Hollywood Reporter calling her performance "the best moment of the evening".[45]

In 2021, CBS premiered the new active TV series, The Equalizer, a reboot of the 1980s detective series of the same name, starring Latifah in the lead role (renamed as Robyn for her version).[46] More recently, she signed a deal with Audible.[47]

Artistry

Latifah's music usually contains hip-hop, jazz and gospel and has the elements of R&B, soul, and dance. She possesses a two-octave vocal range. Queen Latifah is a contralto, and she has the ability to rap and sing. Her biggest musical influences are EPMD, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Run–D.M.C.[48] She also cites Bessie Smith as one of her influences.[49]

Al Hail the Queen features hip-hop, reggae, soulful back-up vocals, boppish scatting, snappy horn back-ups, and house music. She described the work as "a creative outlet... and sometimes it can become like a newspaper that people read with their ears."[50]

Early in her career, Queen Latifah's lyrics were described as woman-centered and Afrocentric. The rapper often used Afrocentric attires during public appearances and music videos, looks that became her trademark.[51] In 1990, The New York Times' Michelle Wallace described her art as "politically sophisticated", which "seems worlds apart from the adolescent, buffoonish sex orientation of most rap."[52] For AllMusic, her "strong, intelligent, no-nonsense" persona made her "arguably the first MC who could properly be described as feminist".[2] Queen Latifah did not identify as a feminist at the time, and expressed that her music was not exclusive for the female audience.[53] On the topic, author Tricia Rose wrote that Black female rappers likely did not identify with feminism during that time because it was perceived as a movement that focused primarily on white women's issues.[54]

Products and endorsements

Latifah is a celebrity spokesperson for CoverGirl cosmetics, Curvation women's underwear, Pizza Hut, and Jenny Craig.[55] She represents her own line of cosmetics for women of color called the CoverGirl Queen Collection.[56] Latifah has also launched a perfume line called "Queen" and "Queen of Hearts". On May 23, 2018, Latifah was named the godmother of Carnival Cruise Lines' vessel Carnival Horizon. Apart from singing, Queen Latifah has written a book on confidence and self-respect called Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman.[57]

Personal life

Raised in East Orange, New Jersey, Latifah has been a resident of Colts Neck, New Jersey; Rumson, New Jersey; and Beverly Hills, California.[58]

Latifah's older brother, Lancelot Jr., was killed in 1992 in an accident involving a motorcycle that Latifah had purchased for him.[9] A 2006 interview revealed that Latifah still wore the key to the motorcycle around her neck,[9] visible throughout her performance in her sitcom Living Single. In 1995, Latifah was the victim of a carjacking, which also resulted in the shooting of her boyfriend, Sean Moon.[59]

In 1996, she was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a loaded handgun.[60] In 2002, she was arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles County.[61] She was placed on three years' probation after being convicted.[62]

On March 21, 2018, her mother, actress Rita Owens, died due to heart failure, an issue she had been battling since 2004.[63]

Latifah long refused to address speculation around her sexuality and personal life, telling The New York Times in 2008 that "I don't feel like I need to share my personal life, and I don't care if people think I'm gay or not".[64] At the BET Awards 2021, during her acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award, she publicly acknowledged her partner Eboni Nichols and son Rebel for the first time, ending the speech with "happy Pride!"[65]

In the January 2020 season 6, episode 4 of Finding Your Roots titled "This Land Is My Land", Latifah learned that her family were descended from a line of freed Negroes, since her ancestors were listed by name in the U.S. pre–Civil War census of 1860 in Virginia.[66] Slaves were almost never listed by name in pre–U.S. Civil War censuses. Latifah also learned the exact date her ancestors became free which was October 1, 1792, the date her second earliest known ancestor, a woman named "Jug" or Juggy Owens, was emancipated from slavery.[67]

Feud with Foxy Brown

Disagreements between Foxy Brown and Queen Latifah began in mid-1996, where media reports indicated that Brown was a prime target of Latifah's diss record "Name Callin'", which was featured on the Set It Off soundtrack.[68] In response, Brown made allegations of Latifah "checking her out" at musical events and further questioned Latifah's sexuality in various public radio interviews. In 1998, Brown released a diss record titled "10% Dis", where she continually questioned Latifah's sexuality and accused her of being jealous.[69][70]

By late spring of 1998, Latifah responded to Brown through another diss record titled "Name Callin' Part II".[71][72] On the record, Latifah disses Brown about her heavy reliance on sex appeal, in which she implies that Brown has to rely on skimpy outfits to hide her "half-assed flow".[71][73] Foxy Brown retaliated via a response-diss record titled "Talk to Me", in which Brown made fun of the ratings of Latifah's television talk show and went on to make various homophobic remarks to both Latifah and then-newcomer Queen Pen.[74]

A significant part of media dubbed Latifah "the winner" of the feud.[72] Hip-hop magazine Ego Trip stated that Latifah won the feud with her diss record "Name Callin' Part II" and added that she showed that "the lady's still first", in reference to Latifah's 1990 single, "Ladies First".[72] In 2000, Brown and Latifah reconciled; to prove that the truce was real, Brown performed her song "Na Na Be Like" on The Queen Latifah Show.[75]

Legacy

Music

Often cited as one of the best female rappers,[76] Queen Latifah achieved groundbreaking success[77] in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and became what Pitchfork considered as the "most recognizable female rapper" of the golden era of hip hop.[78] AllMusic writer Steve Huey stated that Latifah was "certainly not the first female rapper, but she was the first one to become a bona fide star."[2] In the book Notable Black American Women, Jessie Carney Smith hailed her as "rap's first feminist" and "one of the few women to make a mark in the male-dominated field of rap music".[79] Variety called her "one of the major forerunners for women in modern hip-hop,"[80] and The Guardian referred to her as a "pioneer of female rap".[81]

Throughout her career, several media publications have referred to her as the "Queen of Rap"[50][82][83] including New York magazine (1990) via editor Dinitia Smith,[79] as well as "Queen of Hip Hop".[82][81][84][51] Latifah became the first solo female rapper to receive a RIAA certification for an album (Black Reign), a commercial breakthrough that the AllMusic editor considered as creating a path for "a talented crew of women rappers to make their own way onto the charts as the 90s progressed".[2] Her breakthrough also helped place New Jersey on the hip hop map.[51] In 1998, she performed in the Super Bowl XXXII halftime show, making her the first rapper to do so.[24]

According to an African American Review journal, her afrocentric feminist music video for "Ladies First" presented a "televisual moment" and disrupted the continuity of sexism and racism that dominated the music videos at the time.[85] The song was listed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll,[86] and was one of the firsts texts to address the declining standards of male-female relationships in community life.[54] Author Tricia Rose expressed that it "offered hip-hop for the development of pro-female pro-black diasporas political consciousness."[54] In Consequence, Okla Jones noted that the song "U.N.I.T.Y."—which lyrics confront slurs against women in hip-hop culture and address other types of disrespect—created a path for future female rappers to be "their authentic selves".[87]

Acting

Vibe magazine has noted her as the first female rapper to cross over into TV & film,[88] as an artist that "broke barriers and set standards" for Black women in music to follow, and cited her as the "First Lady of Hip-Hop".[22] For her performance as Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago, Latifah earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first woman in hip hop to earn an Oscar nomination.[89]

Cultural impact

Queen Latifah has been cited as an influence on R&B, soul, and hip-hop artists, such as Eve,[90] Da Brat,[91] Lil' Kim,[92] Fugees,[93] Jill Scott,[94] Lauryn Hill,[95] Missy Elliott,[96] Remy Ma,[97] Ivy Queen,[98] Foxy Brown,[99] Ms. Dynamite,[100] Naughty by Nature,[101] Rapsody,[102] Megan Thee Stallion,[103] as well as actors Michael K. Williams,[104] Keke Palmer,[105] Vin Diesel,[106] and author Jason Reynolds.[107]

Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda has stated that Latifah inspired the portrayal of Angelica Schuyler in the musical Hamilton.[108] In 2020, Vogue editor Janelle Okwodu considered her a fashion icon that "helped to start a conversation about body image that continues to this day", crediting her among the first artists that pioneered the "climate of size inclusivity and muses of all shapes".[109]

Influence on The Entertainment Industry

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Challenging Eurocentric Standards

Queen Latifah has demonstrated several forms of activism over her lifetime, challenging Eurocentric ideals and representing the black, female body. An initial sign of the beginning of her resistance to these Eurocentric standards started with her name. Her entire name was self-chosen, and while ‘Latifah’ came from an Arabic book, ‘Queen’ originated from her desire to create a strong, black identity, which was fueled by her mother, Rita Owens, who gave her the foundation to develop into a self-proclaimed Queen.[110]

Afrocentric Queendom is a concept that Queen Latifah uses to demonstrate her resistance to Eurocentric standards. This term, Afrocentric Queendom, refers to African centered customs that also incorporate female empowerment. Eurocentric constructions are challenged by this concept because Afrocentrism deconstructs oppressive environments, essentially disrupting centralized European spaces.[110] The notion of the term Queen was intentionally crafted by Latifah, redefining what plus size, black women were in society. Over the twentieth century, the term ‘mammy’ coincided with black women because many were left to take care of white children. This term stripped many black women around this time of their name, forcing them to adopt the new identity of ‘mammy.'[111] Following the emergence of this term, African American women have been stereotyped as mothering figures, while also signaling a loss of identity.[111] This is what Queen Latifah aimed to avoid when creating her stage name, with the intention of opposing the Eurocentric construction of the term mammy. The sole idea of her choosing her name imitates power and promotes strength within herself.[112]

Latifah also rejects Eurocentric standards by embracing Afrocentric ideals and incorporating this concept within her work. She claims that Afrocentricity is a great way of living, creating a sense of pride around her heritage.[112] Within her music, Latifah incorporates Afrobeats and language while also centering black women within her lyrics and visuals. This can be clearly identified in her  1989 ‘Ladies First’ music video, to where South African culture is present in her work, which included Afrocentric visuals and clothes that align culturally with South Africa.[112]

The idea of the black, female body has been criticized and mocked, as well as being imitated over the past couple of decades by celebrities. Queen Latifah, a plus sized, black woman has continued to challenge Eurocentric standards by advocating for body positivity and incorporating her size as a part of her music identity within her early Hip Hop career. Her goal was to politicize and posterize her body to influence young, black girls that all bodies should be accepted, especially in her male dominated field at the time.[110] Throughout her early career, Latifah challenged the Eurocentric mythology of the inferiority of black, female bodies, by creating a marketable figure that was respectable within the Hip Hop industry in the mid-1990s.

Queen Latifah didn't always center Africanness around her career, eventually embracing more Black American customs, while not completely abandoning African ideals. This was present through her physical appearance and her music. In her 1993 rap song, U.N.I.T.Y.she incorporates more jazz and soul sounds into her music, as well as empowering lyrics.[110] Her lyrics address concerns regarding harassment and domestic violence within the black community, as well as lyrics to uplift black women, and lyrics that address misogyny within the hip hop community.[113]

Early Influence of Feminism

While Afrocentric influence and pro-black productions were what Queen Latifah focused on, she also incorporated Feminism throughout her work. Latifah's demonstration of Afrocentricity co-existed with how she also demonstrated her feminism. The message of hip hop and rap began to change around the mid nineties, with rappers like Queen Latifah, as well as Monie Love and Lil' Kim, changing the narrative. The lyrics of the songs produced by several of these women related to sexual liberation, female autonomy, and sexual domination.[114] Language in hip hop was changed through female artists, reclaiming derogatory words that are used against women and incorporating them within their music.

Queen Latifah's name, while it's self empowering and challenges Eurocentric ideals, also demonstrates feminist action. The term queen refers to a female ruler who is in a higher position than those around her. By placing ‘Queen’ in her stage name, Latifah set herself in a position to counter sexist ideals in the hip hop/rap music industry, which was primarily dominated by men during this time.[114]

While there were several women, like Latifah, who associated with feminism, there were several women who rejected the idea of incorporating this into their artistry due to negative connotations of this movement. Involvement with feminism could adversely affect their career, especially if the idea of feminism is rejected by people who dominate the music industry. Queen Latifah was not a follower in this situation, subtly incorporating Third-wave feminism within her lyrics, which specifically addressed the inclusion of women of color in feminism and the elimination of homophobia.[114]

Flavor Unit Records

Latifah also founded a production company, which was referred to as Flavor Unit Records, eventually Flavor Unit Entertainment, co-launching it in 1995 with her business partner Shakim Compere.[115] Near the creation of this label, she helped several artists create their music, such as Daddy D. Daddy D was Latifah's first artist to create a single with. Her purpose was to create a multimedia company that operates at full service. Several music artists at the time wanted to join Queen Latifah's label because they easily identified her success, from an artist herself, to a self made label chief.[115] The label remained quite small in the nineties, but eventually gained traction as Queen Latifah gained more attention. While her record label helped several artists start up their career, she remained at Motown Records for her own benefit.[115]

Portrayal of Characters

Queen Latifah expanded her career from music, branching out to acting, as well as producing. Her first role that she took on was in the movie Jungle Fever, which was released in 1991, where she performed among several significant black actors, such as Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry. Her role in this  movie was not major, but displayed her overall talent enough in the film. She later moved to entertainment television, starring and co-producing certain episodes of the show Living Single.

Living Single

Queen Latifah was the star of her own sitcom, which followed her character, Khadijah James, and three of her black, female friends. This sitcom that aired for three years aimed to highlight the Black American experience by demonstrating Black excellence.[116] Laitfah's character is described to embody what black womanhood was in the early nineties. Her character was well rounded and represented the idea of a ‘girl boss’ was. With this all black cast, the possibilities for characters to be presented in a variety of ways were endless. Some characters, such as Maxine Shaw, played by Erika Alexander, were depicted as lawyers, while others were depicted as wealthy, such as Regine Hunter, played by Kim Fields. Khadijah was everything from a business owner, to a songwriter, to a friend, all while maintaining the lead role in the show. Depth and duality behind black characters on sitcoms within the nineties was not very common outside of Black Entertainment Television (BET), so it was quite significant to television when Queen Latifiah took on such an important role. With the help of Queen Latifah, Yvette Lee Bowser, the executive producer and creator, was actively changing the perception of Black Americans, painting a new light on the Black experience.[116]  

Through her performance through the show, Latifah showed the complexity of Black womanhood successfully. There were several parallels that were identified between Living Single and Queen Latifah's life, such as how both her and her character both had to navigate a male dominated industry while trying to be successful.[117] Their personalities also align, both being outspoken, confident, and driven. Latifah realistically depicted a black woman on television by simply acting as herself on Living Single.

Early Influence of Sexuality In Entertainment (Before The 2000s)

Queen Latifah's sexuality has always come into question through her on- screen performances. In one of her 1996 films, Set It Off (film), Latifah takes on a more masculine role. Cleopatra Sims (Cleo), Latifah's character, can be described as a butch, lesbian bank robber, which highlighted her sexuality.[117] She was so successful while playing this masculine role, that rumors about her sexuality started spreading.[117] In the early stages of her career, Latifah chose not to address the rumors regarding her sexuality, letting the public categorize her in their own way. Queen Latifah's ambiguity played to her strengths when acting, allowing her to have versatile roles and not become constrained to certain acting roles because of her off screen sexuality.[117] This can be identified in many of her later films in her career, playing a range of either oversexualized characters or sexually muted characters. The distance Queen Latifah created from assumptions about her sexuality in her early career excluded her from any queer discourse throughout the nineties.[118] Her involvement in offhanded politics and pro-black work productions helped define her work, while her sexuality did not affect her work, early on.[118]

Accolades

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Queen Latifah

Latifah at the 2023 Kennedy Center Honors

Queen Latifah became the first female hip-hop recording artist to get nominated for an Oscar. In 2003, Queen Latifah was awarded Artist of the Year by Harvard Foundation.[119] In 2006, Latifah became the first hip-hop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,[120] and was also inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2011.[121] In her music career, Queen Latifah has sold nearly 2 million albums in the US.[122][123] The Root ranked her at number 35 on The Root 100 list.[124] In 2017, American Black Film Festival honored Latifah with the Entertainment Icon award.[125] In 2018, she received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree by the Rutgers University.[126] In 2019, Harvard University awarded the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal to Queen Latifah for cultural contributions.[127] In 2023, Queen Latifah's debut album All Hail the Queen, was added into the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry, making it the earliest female rap recording to enter the National Recording Registry,[128] and made her the second female hip-hop recording artist to have her music included after Lauryn Hill;[129][130] however some outlets incorrectly reported her as the first to accomplish the feat.[131][132]

She is a recipient of a Grammy Award from six nominations, a Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards from five nominations, two NAACP Image Awards from thirteen nominations, one Primetime Emmy Award from three nominations, and an Academy Award nomination. In 2021, she received the BET Lifetime Achievement Award and was the first rapper female or male to be awarded.[133]

Discography

Main article: Queen Latifah discography

Studio albums

Tours

Latifah, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu joined to create and own the rights to the Sugar Water Festival Tour, LLC. All three singers toured together while inviting music duo Floetry in 2005 and singer Kelis in 2006 as opening acts. Comedian/actress Mo'Nique served as host for the 2006 Sugar Water Tour.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1991 Jungle Fever Lashawn
House Party 2 Zora
1992 Juice Ruffhouse M.C.
1993 Who's the Man? Herself
My Life Theresa
1996 Set It Off Cleopatra 'Cleo' Sims
1997 Hoodlum Sulie
1998 Sphere Alice "Teeny" Fletcher
Living Out Loud Liz Bailey
1999 The Bone Collector Thelma
Bringing Out the Dead Dispatcher Love (voice)
2002 Living with the Dead Midge Harmon TV movie
The Country Bears Cha-Cha
Brown Sugar Francine
Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio Dove (English voice)
Chicago Matron "Mama" Morton
2003 Bringing Down the House Charlene Morton
Scary Movie 3 Aunt Shaneequa
2004 Barbershop 2: Back in Business Gina Norris
The Cookout Mildred Smith
Taxi Isabelle "Belle" Williams
2005 Beauty Shop Gina Norris
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Aunt Em TV movie
2006 Last Holiday Georgia Byrd
Ice Age: The Meltdown Ellie (voice)
Stranger than Fiction Penny Escher
2007 Life Support Ana Wallace TV movie
Hairspray Motormouth Maybelle
The Perfect Holiday Mrs. Christmas
2008 Mad Money Nina Brewster
What Happens in Vegas Dr. Twitchell
The Secret Life of Bees August Boatwright
2009 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Ellie (voice)
2010 Valentine's Day Paula Thomas
Just Wright Leslie Wright
2011 The Dilemma Susan Warner
Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Ellie (voice) TV movie
2012 Joyful Noise Vi Rose Hill
Ice Age: Continental Drift Ellie (voice)
Steel Magnolias M'Lynn TV movie
2013 House of Bodies Nicole
2014 22 Jump Street Mrs. Dickson
2015 Bessie Bessie Smith TV movie
The Wiz Live! The Wiz TV movie
2016 Miracles from Heaven Angela
Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade Ellie (voice) TV movie
Ice Age: Collision Course Ellie (voice)
2017 Girls Trip Sasha Franklin
Flint [134] Iza Banks TV movie
2019 The Trap Dr. Obayuwana
The Little Mermaid Live! [135] Ursula TV movie
2022 The Tiger Rising Willie May
Hustle Teresa Sugarman
End of the Road Brenda Beaumont-Freeman

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1989 House of Style Herself Episode: "Fall '89"
1990 The Media Show Herself Episode: "Black Primetime"
1990-04 Showtime at the Apollo Herself Recurring Guest
1991 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Marissa Redman/Dee Dee Episode: "Working It Out" & "She Ain't Heavy"
1993-98 Living Single Khadijah James Main Cast
1994 Soul Train Herself Episode: "DRS/Queen Latifah/Souls of Mischief"
ABC Afterschool Special Herself Episode: "I Hate the Way I Look"
Bill Nye the Science Guy Herself Episode: "Insects"
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper Herself Episode: "Wedding Bell Blues"
Roc Herself Episode: "The Concert"
1995 American Music Awards Herself/Co-Host Main Co-Host
The Critic Herself (voice) Episode: "Lady Hawke"
The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat Various Roles (voice) Episode: "Guardian Idiot/Space Time Twister/Don't String Me Along"
1996 Saturday Night Special Herself Episode: "Episode #1.6"
Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards Herself/Co-Host Main Co-Host
Intimate Portrait Herself Episode: "Queen Latifah"
1997 Mad TV Herself/Host Episode: "Episode #2.13"
Ellen Herself Episode: "Ellen Unplugged"
1998 Mama Flora's Family Diana Episode: "Episode #1.1 & #1.2"
1999 Independent Spirit Awards Herself/Host Main Host
1999-01 The Queen Latifah Show Herself/Host Main Host
2000 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Herself/Contestant Episode: "Celebrity Millionaire 1, Show 1-2 & 4"
The Greatest Herself Episode: "100 Greatest Rock & Roll Moments on TV"
2000-02 Hollywood Squares Herself/Panelist Recurring Panelist
2001 Intimate Portrait Herself Episode: "Kim Fields"
Spin City Robin Jones Episode: "Yeah Baby!" & "Sleeping with the Enemy"
2002 VH-1 Behind the Movie Herself Episode: "Chicago"
2003 Vibe Awards Herself/Host Main Host
2003-08 Saturday Night Live Herself Recurring Guest
2004 Biography Herself Episode: "Richard Gere"
Eve Simone Episode: "Sister, Sister"
The Fairly OddParents Pam Dromeda (voice) Episode: "Crash Nebula"
2005 Grammy Awards Herself/Host Main Host
2006 Independent Lens Herself Episode: "Girl Trouble"
Biography Herself Episode: "Steve Martin"
Mad TV Herself Episode: "Episode #11.17"
Getaway Herself Episode: "Golden Getaway: Hidden Treasures"
America's Next Top Model Herself Episode: "The Girl Who Hates Her Hair"
What It Takes Herself Episode: "Queen Latifah"
2007-11 People's Choice Awards Herself/Host Main Host
2008 E! True Hollywood Story Herself Episode: "Renée Zellweger"
Sweet Blackberry Presents Herself/Narrator (voice) Episode: "Garrett's Gift"
2009 Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices Herself/Narrator Main Narrator
Dancing with the Stars Herself/Performer Episode: "Round Three: Results Show"
American Idol Herself/Performer Episode: "Finale"
2010 When I Was 17 Herself Episode: "Episode #1.3"
BET Awards Herself/Host Main Host
Entourage Dana Elaine Owens Episode: "Porn Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"
30 Rock Regina Bookman Episode: "Let's Stay Together"
2011-12 Single Ladies Sharon Love Recurring Cast: Seasons 1-2
2012 The Real Housewives of Miami Herself Episode: "Conflicting Conflict"
Let's Stay Together Bobbie Episode: "Beauty and the Birthday"
2013-15 The Queen Latifah Show Herself/Host Main Host
2014 Hollywood Film Awards Herself/Host Main Host
Jimmy Kimmel Live! Sweet Brown Episode: "Sweet Brown: Ain't Nobody Got Time for That"
Hot in Cleveland Aunt Esther Jean Johnson Episode: "Strange Bedfellows"
2015 Lip Sync Battle Herself/Competitor Episode: "Queen Latifah vs. Marlon Wayans"
2016 In Performance at the White House Herself Episode: "A Celebration of American Creativity"
2016-19 Star Carlotta Brown Main Cast
2017 The Best Place to Be Herself Episode: "Queen Latifah - Brazil"
Carpool Karaoke: The Series Herself Episode: "Queen Latifah & Jada Pinkett Smith"
Empire Carlotta Brown Episode: "Noble Memory"
2018 Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party Herself Episode: "Return of the Mac N Cheese"
2019 America's Got Talent Herself/Guest Judge Episode: "Semi Finals 2"
Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America Herself Episode: "Ladies First: 1989"
2020 Finding Your Roots Herself Episode: "This Land is My Land"
When the Streetlights Go On Detective Grasso Main Cast
Hollywood Hattie McDaniel Episodes: "A Hollywood Ending" & "Jump"
2021 Maya and the Three Gran Bruja (voice) Recurring Cast
2021- The Equalizer Robyn McCall Main Cast
2023 NAACP Image Awards Herself/Host Main Host
Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop Herself Main Guest

Music Videos

Year Song Artist
1991 "O.P.P." Naughty by Nature
"2 Legit 2 Quit" MC Hammer
1992 "Hip Hop Hooray" Naughty by Nature
1995 "One More Chance" The Notorious B.I.G.
1997 "Not Tonight" Lil' Kim featuring Da Brat, Left Eye, Missy Elliott and Angie Martinez
2002 "Miss You" Aaliyah

Producer

Year Title Role Notes
2019 Scream: Resurrection N/A Executive producer

Video Games

Year Title Role Notes
2019 Sayonara Wild Hearts Narrator [136]

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