Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an award-winning American rapper, singer and actress. Latifah’s work in music, film and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination. At the 2008 BET Awards Queen Latifah had the honor of presenting Quincy Jones with the humanitarian award.
Latifah started her career beatboxing for the rap group Ladies Fresh. Latifah was one of the members of the original version of the Flavor Unit, which, at that time, was a crew of emcees grouped around producer DJ Mark the 45 King. In 1988, DJ Mark the 45 King heard a demo version of Latifah’s single “Princess of the Posse” and gave the demo to Fab Five Freddy, who was the host of Yo! MTV Raps. Freddy helped Latifah sign with Tommy Boy Records, which released Latifah’s first album All Hail the Queen in 1989, when she was nineteen.
From 1993 to 1998, Latifah had a starring role on Living Single, a FOX sitcom; she also wrote and performed its theme music. She began her film career in supporting roles in the 1991 films House Party 2, Juice, and Jungle Fever. She had her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, from 1999 to 2001.
Latifah first attracted notice for her role portraying a lesbian in the 1996 box-office hit, Set It Off and subsequently had a supporting role in the Holly Hunter film Living Out Loud (1998). She played the role of Thelma in the 1999 movie adaptation of Jeffrey Deavers’ The Bone Collector, alongside Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Although she had already received some critical acclaim, she gained mainstream success after being cast as Matron “Mama” Morton in the Oscar-winning musical Chicago, the recipient of the Best Picture Oscar. Latifah received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role, but lost to co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones. Latifah is one of two hip-hop artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category (Best Supporting Actress, Chicago, 2002). The other is Will Smith (Best Actor, Ali, 2001, and Best Actor, The Pursuit of Happyness, 2007).
In 2003, she starred with Steve Martin in the film Bringing Down the House, which was a major success at the box office.c Since then, she has had both leading and supporting roles in a multitude of films that received varied critical and box office receptions, including 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. Film critic Richard Roeper stated that “this is the Queen Latifah performance I’ve been waiting for ever since she broke into movies”. Also in 2006, Latifah voiced Ellie, a friendly mammoth, in the animated film, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (her first voice appearance in an animated film), and also appeared in the drama Stranger Than Fiction.
She has starred in two movie remakes (Taxi and Last Holiday), four sequels (House Party 2, Scary Movie 3, Barbershop 2: Back in Business and Ice Age 2: The Meltdown), one spinoff (Beauty Shop), one movie based on a book (The Bone Collector), and two screen adaptations of musicals (Chicago and Hairspray). Addressing the apparent disparity between rap music and movie musicals, Queen admits that she grew up watching musicals and singing in that style. “What the hell was I going to do,” she revealed to CraveOnline, “it wasn’t like I was going to perform much of that … but now it’s all paying off because here come the musicals again and I get a chance to have some fun with a lot of these songs.”
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 and Christopher Walken. 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 nomination.
Latifah produced the 2007 film The Perfect Holiday penned by Marc Calixte and Lance Rivera in Westfield, NJ. In addition to producing the film, Latifah starred alongside Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Charles Q. Murphy, Jill Marie Jones, and Faizon Love.
In 2008, Latifah appeared in the crime comedy Mad Money opposite Academy Award-winner Diane Keaton as well as Katie Holmes and Ted Danson.
Products and endorsements
Latifah is a celebrity spokesperson for Cover Girl cosmetics, Curvation ladies underwear, Pizza Hut and Jenny Craig. She has developed her own line of cosmetics for women of color called the Covergirl Queen Collection and has starred in several commercials for the line, as well as a commercial with fellow spokeswoman and singer Faith Hill.
Raised in East Orange, New Jersey, she has been a resident of Rumson, New Jersey. Latifah’s older brother Lancelot Jr. was killed in 1992 in an accident involving a motorcycle that Latifah had recently bought him. Latifah still wears the key to the motorcycle around her neck, which can be seen throughout her performance in her sitcom Living Single. She also dedicated Black Reign to him. In 1993, Latifah was the victim of a carjacking, which also resulted in the shooting of a friend. In 1996, she was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a fully loaded handgun , resulting in a fine and two years’ probation. In her 1999 autobiography, Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, Latifah discussed how her brother’s death led to a bout of depression and drug abuse, from which she later recovered.
Because of her portrayal of a lesbian in Set It Off and her avoidance of discussing her romantic life, tabloid media have at times speculated on her sexual orientation. Latifah responded to these rumors in her autobiography by saying: “It’s insulting when someone asks, ‘Are you gay?’ A woman cannot be strong, outspoken, competent at running her own business, handle herself physically, play a very convincing role in a movie, know what she wants—and go for it—without being gay? Come on.”
In early 2003, Latifah had breast reduction surgery to relieve back pain. She also works out with a trainer and kickboxes.
In June 2008, It is reported that Queen Latifah is planning a private wedding ceremony with her alleged lesbian lover, personal trainer Jeanette Jenkins, now that California has shined light on gay marriages.
Being informed by a family insider, the National Enquirer claims: “Queen is very busy with her career, so she wants to wait to set a date until she has time for a honeymoon.” The family insider went on adding, “The two are being very secretive about the upcoming ceremony and have only told immediate family members. Queen is concerned about her career. She knows people’s attitude toward gay relationships and marriages are changing, but there is still some resistance, so she wants to keep a low profile.”
During early December of last year, the “couple” were hit with marriage reports. Latifah was quick to put the brake on the reports, telling the press:
“There ain’t gonna be no wedding. When you’re famous these days, it’s just part of the deal – unfortunately. People will make up all sorts of things that are not true.”
Queen Latifah will be joining the cast of the antional tour of Legally Blonde as Paulette, the hairdresser. She will start with the rest of the cast in September.