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Latifah, Queen

Queen Latifah

1970–

Rap musician, actress, businesswoman

Queen Latifah built an entertainment empire within two decades of starting her career as a female rap artist. Her music, according to Interview, borrowed freely "from hip-hop, house, jazz, and reggae," all saturated by Latifah's sense of self and a pride seemingly untouched by vanity. Her creative talent marked her success as much as her work ethic and standards for civility. Known for her refusal to participate in the well-publicized feuds among various factions of rap performers, Latifah used other methods to get her point across: "I might rebut if somebody challenged me, but I'd make it funny, not nasty," she said in Rolling Stone. Attesting to her feelings of solidarity with other rappers, she has stated that she would rather present a united artistic front than suggest a clique fractured by infighting and clashing ambitions. Applauded for her social politics as well as her gift for rhyme, Latifah presented a well-rounded image, with social commentary in its place, but entertainment firmly in the foreground. By the 2000s Latifah had become one of the most recognized entertainers in music and film, and had taken on her status as a role model for other women and girls with enthusiasm and pride.

Took Nickname as Youth

Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens, was born in 1970 in Newark, New Jersey. She is the second child of Lance and Rita Owens. Rita was 18 when she gave birth to Dana. Her father was a policeman. The marriage of her parents was troubled, and the couple parted for good in 1978. Lance Owens, Sr. did, however, stay in touch with his children. Latifah's brother, Lance, Jr., was older than his sister by a year—a policeman like his father, he died in a motorcycle accident on April 26, 1992, an event which devastated Latifah.

Dana Owens became Latifah when she was about eight. A Muslim cousin gave her the nickname, which means "delicate" and "sensitive" in Arabic. Queen was later added by Latifah. She began singing in the choir of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and had her first public singing triumph when she sang a version of "Home" as one of the two Dorothys in a production of The Wiz at St. Anne's parochial school.

In her first year of high school—as a sophomore—Latifah began informal singing and rapping in the restrooms and locker rooms. In her junior year she formed a rap group, Ladies Fresh, with her friends Tangy B and Landy D in response to the formation of another young women's group. Soon the group was making appearances wherever they could. Latifah's mother, Rita Owens, was a catalyst; she was in touch with the students and the music. She invited Mark James, a local disc jockey known as D.J. Mark the 45 King, to appear at a school dance. The basement of James's parent's house in East Orange, which was equipped with electronic and recording equipment, became the hangout of Latifah and her friends. They began to call themselves Flavor Unit.

Early Recordings Drew Attention

James was beginning a career as a producer and made a demo record of Queen Latifah's rap "Princess of the Posse." He gave the demo to Fred Braithwaite—Fab 5 Freddy, host of Yo! MTV Raps, who played it for Dante Ross, who worked for Tommy Boy Music at the time. Tommy Boy signed Latifah and in 1988 issued her first single, "Wrath of My Madness." Latifah made her first European tour and her first appearance at the Apollo, which was quite successful. Her first video, Dance with Me, was made in June of 1989. In October of that year the album All Hail to the Queen was released. The album led the New Music Seminar of Manhattan to give her the award of Best New Artist of 1990, and it reached sales of over a million.

While some vocal artists are never quizzed about the message of their music, rappers are often asked to philosophize about fellow musicians and ideas in rap; Latifah holds her own, but will not be made into a spokesperson. Her strength is often misinterpreted as a feminist message. Like many young women, Latifah dislikes the label "feminist," believing it carries strident overtones. "I'm not a feminist…. I'm just a proud black woman. I don't need to be labeled," she said in Interview.

Queen Latifah has been critical of the sexist images of women presented by some male rappers. In a rare moment of universal criticism she stated, "Those women are pretty shallow. They look like skeezers, and that's the problem. A lot of those females don't have respect for themselves. Guys are exploiting them." Dimitri Ehrlich of Interview congratulated Latifah on her positive image. "I think it's great that women you choose for your dancers have the kind of image that young people look up to." She sees materialism as one cause of the acceptance of male-dependent women, contending that "females don't respect themselves; they only think materialistically. They want money, but they don't think, I'm gonna get this money on my own. They think, I'm gonna get money from this guy," according to Interview.

Managed Her Career Through Own Business

Even as Latifah was beginning to earn money, she displayed an interest in investment—putting money into a delicatessen and a video store on the ground floor of the apartment in which she was living. She came to realize that there was an opening for her in record production. While she was making her own deals and making money in the process, many of her fellow rap artists were making disadvantageous recording arrangements. In 1991, she organized and became chief executive officer of Flavor Unit Records and Management Company headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey. She ran the company with high school friend Shakim Compere, who would remain her partner as the company expanded over the years. By late 1993 the company had signed 17 rap groups, including the very successful Naughty by Nature. Distribution of Flavor Unit's records was being handled by Motown.

In 1993, Motown released Latifah's third album, Black Reign, which was recorded not long after the death of her brother. She dedicated Black Reign's jazz and reggae influenced "Winki's Theme" to him. She told the New York Times, "I think Black Reign is about growth, not a change in direction. It's about me reigning over tough times in my personal life and about black people reigning over their oppressors. I think it came out purer than anything I've done." Black Reign went gold—selling over 500,000 copies, and its single, "U.N.I.T.Y." earned Latifah her first Grammy Award in 1995, when she was named best rap artist. She was also honored with the Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year at the 1995 Soul Train Music Awards.

At a Glance …

Born Dana Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, NJ; raised in East Orange, NJ; daughter of Rita and Lance Owens. Education: Attended Borough of Manhattan Community College, broadcasting.

Career: Ladies Fresh musical group, human beat box performer, during high school years; solo recording artist, 1989–; Flavor Unit Management Company, founder, 1991–.

Awards: Grammy Award, 1995, for single, "U.N.I.T. Y."; Soul Train Music Awards, Sammy Davis Jr. Award, 1995, for, Entertainer of the Year; Academy Award nomination, 2003, for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2006.

Latifah's own career continued to flourish after Black Reign's success. Her fame and presence translated into film appearances, including roles in Juice, Jungle Fever, and House Party II. She also had television appearance on such shows as "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." In 1993 she accepted the role of Khadijah James in the sitcom, Living Single, which became a huge success with black audiences. The show was cancelled by the Fox-TV network at the end of the fourth season; however, popular viewer demands brought the show back. A major and unprecedented letter-writing, phone-calling, and electronic mailing campaign by fans who demanded that Fox-TV bring back the sitcom resulted in the popular show returning for its fifth season. It finally went off the air in 1998. But Latifah did not lament the end of the show. "That was just one part, one thing, one venture that I undertook for my life and it was successful. But it was not the first thing that I've done and it won't be the last," she told Jet. Before the end of 1998, Latifah had completed another album, Order in the Court, and begun acting in a new film, and written an autobiographical book about self esteem.

Diversified Her Career

From her film debut in the early 1990s, Latifah consistently took on more substantial roles. In 1996, the movie Set It Off hit the theaters; Latifah played the role of Cleo, a lesbian bank robber who along with her three friends rob banks to make ends meet. She told Jet that she considered her part in Set It Off as her "first real acting role…. It was so not me that I really had to work hard on becoming that person and proving that I could do it, that I could act. It was a meaty role." When asked how she felt about playing the role of felon and lesbian, Latifah told Veronica Webb in Interview that "Despite the risks, I felt that this was where I could display my talent." Latifah made the role of Cleo very believable despite the comments made by those in the black community regarding her role of a homosexual. Latifah responded to Interview by saying, "I can't base my life on what people think. Things don't change by everybody just presenting the same thing. Nobody's had more anxiety over the part than me." Yet Latifah's belief that this role would be pivotal in her film career was correct. She played several roles in the late 1990s, including parts in Sphere and Living Out Loud.

Her involvement in films grew so much by the early 2000s she had built her own entertainment empire. Her performance as a prison warden in 2002's Chicago earned her an Oscar nomination, and by 2003 she had refocused her company to in order to concentrate on films. Her first, Bringing Down the House, which she produced and starred in opposite comedian Steve Martin in 2003, brought in over $130 million dollars. Not a bad start, despite mixed critical reviews. Such films as Taxi, Beauty Shop, and Last Holiday followed. Yet as her film career blossomed, Latifah's entertainment empire remained diverse. She continued to create new albums, releasing a medley of torch songs on The Dana Owens Album in 2004. Latifah also ventured into clothing design. Having worked as a spokeswoman for the Curvations brand of VF Intimates since 2002, Latifah signed an agreement in 2005 to design and promote the brand of full-figure lingerie that was sold in such places as Kmart, ShopKo, and Wal-Mart. Latifah's position as a Cover Girl spokesperson added to her diverse marketing ventures.

While her fame brought her great wealth, Latifah continued to identify with her roots and to remain open to sharing her story of success, especially with women. She remarked to Newsweek that "your confidence level and your self-esteem are key in all the things that you want to achieve." In 2006 she promoted National Woman's Confidence Day; launched Project Confidence, a national effort to promote self-esteem in women and young girls; and was also writing a children's book about self-respect. "I was taught to believe in myself at an early age by strong, independent women like my mother and grandmother, and want to pass this message on to others. Building women's confidence gives them the strength to live more fulfilling lives," Latifah commented to PR Newswire. Despite her fame and fortune, it is her efforts to help others that may prove to be Queen Latifah's best legacy.

Selected works

Selected albums

All Hail the Queen, Tommy Boy, 1989.
Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy, 1991.
Black Reign, Motown Records, 1993.
Order in the Court, Motown Records, 1998.
The Dana Owens Album, Interscope, 2004.

Books

(With Karen Hunter) Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, Morrow, 1998. Selected films Jungle Fever, 1991.
Juice, 1992.
House Party II, 1992.
Who's The Man, 1993.
My Life, 1993.
Set It Off, 1996.
Living Out Loud, 1998.
Chicago, 2002.
Bringin Down the House, 2003.
Taxi, 2004.
Beauty Shop, 2005.
Last Holiday, 2006.

Television

Living Single, 1993–1998.
Queen Latifah Show, 1999–2001.

Sources

Books

Notable Black American Women, Book II, Gale Research, 1996.

Queen Latifah, Lerner Publishing, 2000.

Queen Latifah, Mason Crest, 2007.

Who's Who Among African Americans, 10th edition 98/99, Gale Research, 1997.

Periodicals

African American Review, Summer 1994, p. 245.

Daily News (New York, NY), October 13, 2003.

Ebony, April 1, 2003, p. 3.

Entertainment Weekly, December 28, 1990.

Essence, October 1, 2006, p. 180.

Interview, May 1990, September 1996.

Jet, July 20, 1998, p. 34.

Newsweek, September 25, 2006, p. 44.

PR Newswire, October 9, 2006.

Rolling Stone, February 22, 1990; November 13, 1997, p. 122.

Women's Wear Daily, June 16, 2005, p. 16.

Other

"Analysis: Rise of Queen Latifah in Show Business," National Public Radio: Weekend Edition, March 8, 2003.

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Queen Latifah 1970–

Queen Latifah 1970

Actress, rap singer, businesswoman

Selected discography

Sources

Queen Latifah has worked hard for her success, but not by stepping on fellow rappers on her way to the top. Latifah is known for her refusal to participate in the well-publicized feuds among various factions of rap performers. I might rebut if somebody challenged me, but Id make it funny, not nasty, she said in Rolling Stone. Attesting to her feelings of solidarity with other rappers, she has stated that she would rather present a united artistic front than suggest a clique fractured by in-fighting and clashing ambitions.

Applauded for her social politics as well as her gift for rhyme, Latifah seems to pursue a well-rounded image, with social commentary in its place, but entertainment firmly in the foreground. Id rather throw in a line or two about drugs, she has said, just to make you think. I can have fun and still show Im on the ball. Her music, according to Interview, borrows freely from hip-hop, house, jazz, and reggae, all saturated by Latifahs sense of self and a pride seemingly untouched by vanity.

Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens, was born in 1970 in Newark, New Jersey. She is the second child of Lance and Rita Owens. Rita was 18 when she gave birth to Dana. Her father was a policeman. The marriage of her parents was troubled, and the couple parted for good in 1978. Lance Owens, Sr. did, however, stay in touch with his children. Latifahs brother, Lance, Jr. who was older than his sister by a year and a policeman like his fatherdied in a motorcycle accident on April 26, 1992, an event which devastated Latifah.

Dana Owens became Latifah when she was about eight. A Muslim cousin gave her the nickname, which means delicate and sensitive in Arabic. Queen was later added by Latifah. She began singing in the choir of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and had her first public singing triumph when she sang a version of Home as one of the two Dorothys in a production of The Wiz at St. Annes parochial school.

In her first year of high schoolas a sophomore-Latifah began informal singing and rapping in the restrooms and locker rooms. In her junior year she formed a rap group, Ladies Fresh, with her friends Tangy B and Landy D in response to the formation of another young womens group. Soon the group was making appearances wherever they could. Latifahs

At a Glance

Born Dana Owens March 18, 1970, in Newark, NJ; raised in East Orange, NJ; daughter of Rita and Lance Owens; Education: Borough of Manhattan Community College, broadcasting.

Began performing in high school as human beat box in rap group Ladies Fresh; solo recording artist, 1989--; Albums include: All Hail to the Queen, Tommy Boy Music, 1989; Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy Music, 1991; Black Reign, Motown Records, 1993; films include: Jungle Fever, 1991; luice, 1992; House Party II, 1992; Whos The Man, 1993; My Life, 1993; Set It Off, 1996; Hoodlum, 1997; television appearances include: In Living Color, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Hangin with Mr. Cooper, Arsenio, Living Single, role of Khadijah James, 1993-; Flavor Unit Mgmt. Company, founder, 1991-.

Selected awards: Grammy nomination for All Hail to the Queen and Fly Girl; Grammy Award for single, U.N.I.T.Y., 1995; Soul Train Music Awards, Sammy Davis Jr. Award, Entertainer of the Year, 1995.

Addresses: c/o Flavor Unit Entertainment, 155 Morgan Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302.

mother, Rita Owens, was a catalyst; she was in touch with the students and the music. She invited Mark James, a local disc jockey known as D.J. Mark the 45 King, to appear at a school dance. The basement of Jamess parents house in East Orange, which was equipped with electronic and recording equipment, became the hangout of Latifah and her friends. They began to call themselves the Flavor Unit.

James was beginning a career as a producer and made a demo record of Queen Latifahs rap Princess of the Posse. He gave the demo to Fred BraithwaiteFab 5 Freddy, host of Vol MTV Raps, who played it for Dante Ross, who worked for Tommy Boy Music at the time. Tommy Boy signed Latifah and in 1988 issued her first single, Wrath of My Madness. Latifah made her first European tour and her first appearance at the Apollo, which was quite successful. Her first video, Dance with Me, was made in June of 1989. In October of that year the album All Hail to the Queen was released. The album led the New Music Seminar of Manhattan to give her the award of Best New Artist of 1990, and it reached sales of over a million.

While some vocal artists are never quizzed about the message of their music, rappers are often asked to philosophize about fellow musicians and ideas in rap; Latifah holds her own, but will not be made into a spokesperson. Her strength is often misinterpreted as a feminist message. Like many young women, Latifah dislikes the label feminist, believing it carries strident overtones. Im not a feminist....Im just a proud black woman. I dont need to be labeled, she said in Interview.

Queen Latifah, usually clad in what Entertainment Weekly described as African-print pajama suits, skull caps, and big wooden bracelets and earrings, is critical of the sexist images of women presented by some male rappers. In a rare moment of universal criticism she stated, Those women are pretty shallow. They look like skeezers, and thats the problem. A lot of those females dont have respect for themselves. Guys are exploiting them.Dimitri Ehrlich of Interview congratulated Latifah on her positive image. I think its great that women you choose for your dancers have the kind of image that young people look up to. She sees materialism as one cause of the acceptance of male-dependent women, contending that females dont respect themselves; they only think materialistically. They want money, but they dont think, Im gonna get this money on my own. They think, Im gonna get money from this guy, according to Interview.

Even as Latifah was beginning to earn money, she displayed an interest in investmentputting money into a delicatessen and a video store on the ground floor of the apartment in which she was living. She came to realize that there was an opening for her in record production. While she was making her own deals and making money in the process, many of her fellow rap artists were making disadvantageous recording arrangements. In 1991, She organized and became chief executive officer of Flavor Unit Records and Management Company headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey. By late 1993 the company had signed 17 rap groups, including the very successful Naughty by Nature. Distribution of Flavor Units records was being handled by Motown, which was pressing her to move the operation to Los Angeles.

In 1993, Motown released Latifahs third album, Black Reign, which was recorded not long after the death of her brother. She dedicated Black Reigns jazz and reggae influenced Winkis Theme to him. She told the New York Times, I think Black Reign is about growth, not a change in direction. Its about me reigning over tough times in my personal life and about black people reigning over their oppressors. I think it came out purer than anything Ive done. Black Reign went goldselling over 500,000 copies, and its single, U.N.I.T.Y. earned Latifah her first Grammy Award in 1995, when she was named best rap artist. She was also honored with the Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year at the 1995 Soul Train Music Awards.

Latifahs own career was flourishing as her third album, Black Reign, came out in 1993. Her fame and presence translated into film appearances, including roles in Juice, Jungle Fever, and House Party II. She also had television appearance on such shows as Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In 1993 she accepted the role of Khadijah James in the sitcom, Living Single, which became a huge success with black audiences. However, Fox-TV network decided to make the show a mid-season replacement but popular viewer demands brought the show back. A major and unprecedented letter-writing, phone-calling, and electronic mailing campaign by fans who demanded that Fox-TV bring back the sitcom resulted in the popular show returning in the fall for its fifth season.

Despite the necessity of living in Los Angeles because of her television work, Latifah feels her base is still in New Jersey, where her mother lives, and she has a home in Wayne, New Jersey. Rita Owens is still a definite influence in her life. In addition to her teaching job, Rita serves as art director of her daughters company.

In the early morning hours on July 16,1995, Latifah and her bodyguard, Shawn, met up with some friends at Harlems Apollo Theater to go to Latifahs house in Wayne, New Jersey. The earful of friends who were following got stuck in traffic. Latifah pulled over on New Yorks 125th Street to wait. As the car sat parked, two men, one with a gun, walked up to Latifahs car and shouted, Get out or youre dead! Although they surrendered the car, the gunman still shot Shawn, who was later rushed to Harlem Hospital, where he underwent 10 hours of surgery to repair his liver and kidney. He would later recover. Latifah picked the pair out of a police lineup, and the carjacker, Ricardo Rodriguez, was later convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison. According to People, Latifah said I hope this is a lesson that we have to wake up and try to do something about the violence in our community.

In 1996, The movie Set It Off hit the theaters, Latifah played the role of Cleo, a lesbian bank robber who along with her three friends rob banks to make ends meet. When asked about how she felt about playing the role, Latifah tells Veronica Webb in Interview, I wanted to do something that was completely different from who I am, and this was the role that came to me. Despite the risks, I felt that this was where I could display my talent. Latifah made the role of Cleo very believable despite the comments made by those in the black community regarding her role of a homosexual. Latifah responded to Interview by saying, I cant base my life on what people think. Things dont change by everybody just presenting the same thing. Nobodys had more anxiety over the part than me. It is the risks like these that make Latifah a successful rapper, actress, and businesswoman.

Selected discography

All Hail the Queen, Tommy Boy, 1989.

Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy, 1991.

Black Reign, Motown Records, 1993.

Sources

Entertainment Weekly, December 28, 1990.

Interview, May 1990, September 1996.

Notable Black American Women, Book II, Gale Research, 1996.

Rolling Stone, February 22, 1990.

Whos Who among African Americans, 10th edition, Gale Research, 1997.

Christine Ferran and Robert L. Johns

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Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah

Rap musician

During the late 1980s, Queen Latifah emerged as one of the most significant artists to enter the scene of rap music, and earned a reputation as one of the most vital female artists of the following decade. In a music genre largely dominated by males, Queen Latifah established herself as a pillar of female strength and developed a reputation as a role model for her generation.

Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey. Her parents, Lance and Rita Owens, separated in 1978. After the breakup, Latifah lived in High Court in East Newark with her mother, a schoolteacher. She also maintained ties with her father, a police officer. At age eight, she was dubbed Latifahfrom the Arabic word for delicate and sensitiveby one of her cousins of Muslim background. She embellished her nickname with the "Queen" appellation on her own.

The intellectually gifted Latifah first began singing in the choir at Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey. She added popular music, especially rap, to her repertoire around the time she entered Irvington High School, where she also played power forward on her school's championship basketball team.

Latifah's love of rap inspired her to form a group called Ladies Fresh along with two of her friends, Tangy B and Landy D. The trio sang in talent shows and made other appearances. They eventually changed their name to Flavor Unit. The three young rappers attracted the interest of a local disc jockey and basement record producer named Mark James, which led to a contract for Latifah with Tommy Boy Music in 1988. Tommy Boy released Latifah's first single, "Wrath of My Madness," and the record proved highly successful. By the time Latifah graduated Irvington High School and entered Borough of Manhattan Community College, her first two single releases already had sold 40,000 copies.

In 1989, Latifah undertook a European tour and released her first album, All Hail the Queen, a diverse collection combining hip-hop, reggae, and jazz. The album espoused a number of socio-cultural themes including apartheid, women's rights, and poverty. All Hail the Queen sold over one million copies. During the early days of her career Latifah always sported her trademark queen's crown, wearing it at all public appearances.

In 1993, she released her first album on Motown, Black Reign, dedicated to the memory of her late brother, Lancelot H. Owens. A police officer like his father, he was killed tragically in a motorcycle accident in 1992. Every year Queen Latifah serves as co-chairperson for the Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship, a fund in memory of her brother. Established by her mother Rita, the fund gives scholarships to scholastically advanced but financially challenged youth. The incident, however, by Latifah's own admission, left her devastated.

In 1993, Latifah was harshly criticized for producing Apache's "Gangsta Bitch" release. She defended herself in classic rap rhetoric and argued that the music reflects reality and creates neither the situations nor the problems. Yet by the mid-1990s Latifah developed an association with an informal consciousness-raising rap network, the Native Tongues, involving such groups as the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and Tribe Called Quest. The Native Tongues maintained an outspoken stance against violenceespecially in rap.

In 1998, Latifah released her second album with Motown, Order in the Court. The album included the hit single "Bananas," with Apache. Despite her youth, Latifah showed prudence and invested her earnings from early record sales. Soon she established herself as an entertainer, and as an entrepreneur as chief executive officer of Flavor Unit Management. Latifah owns the recording management firm in Jersey City, along with a partner, Shakim Compere. With Motown Records as a distribution channel, Flavor Unit Management has managed a number of rap artists and groups. Flavor Unit also acts as a film production company.

Acting Career

After achieving major success as a rapper, Latifah gained similar notoriety as an actress, mainly through her own hit television show, Living Single. Living Single aired for five years on the Fox Network, beginning in 1993. Although she found it necessary to live much of the year in Los Angeles, during the taping of the show, Latifah maintained a home in Wayne, New Jersey, and never ceased to consider New Jersey her home. Latifah also appeared on Fox's "Smart Kids" in December of 1994, a program to encourage and empower contemporary youth. She also spent two years hosting her own syndicated talk show.

Among Latifah's early movies, House Party 2 was released in 1991 and featured Martin Lawrence. While House Party 2 was widely panned, she received wide acclaim for her role as Cleo Sims, a tough lesbian bank robber, in the film Set It Off with Vivica A. Fox. Latifah also recorded with Organized Noize for the title sound track of the picture. It was the controversial nature of the role of Cleo Sims, however, that left the public-at-large to speculate impertinently about Latifah's real-life sexuality. Latifah rebuked the invaders of her privacy with a sound determination to keep such personal matters private, asserting that details of her sexuality would never be of anyone's concern but her own.

Latifah's work as an actress runs the gamut of critical approval from an artistic standpoint. Her acting talents inevitably are praised, even when a movie or an album is panned. In September of 1994 she appeared on NBC's Met Life Presents the Apollo Theatre Hall of Fame, and as a presenter at the 1994 Essence Awards. In 1997, she had a small role in the film Hoodlum, the story of Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, a Harlem gangster from the depression era. In February of 1998, she starred in Warner Brothers' Sphere with Dustin Hoffman and Sharon Stone.

For the Record

Born Dana Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, NJ; daughter of Lance (a police officer) and Rita Owens (a teacher). Education: Attended Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Released first rap single, "Wrath of My Madness"/ "Princess of the Posse," 1988, Tommy Boy Music; European tour and appearance at theApollo Theater, 1989; released first album, All Hail the Queen, 1989; other releases include, Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy Music, 1991; Black Reign, Motown, 1993; Order in the Court, Motown, 1998; CEO of Flavor Unit Enter tainment Company (a recording management and pro duction company); starred in film version of Chicago, 2002; starred in Bringing Down the House, 2003.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Solo Rap Performance for "U.N.I.T.Y.," 1994; Soul Train Lady of Soul Award, Entertainer of the Year, 1997; NAACP Image Award, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for Bringing Down the House, 2004.

Addresses: Publicist PMK HBH, 650 Fifth Ave., 33rd Fl., New York, NY 10019.

Honors and Awards

In 1990, Latifah won an award as Best New Artist from the New Music Seminar of Manhattan. In April of 1994, she was nominated as solo artist of the year in the First Annual Source Hip-Hop Awards. Although she lost the award to Snoop Doggy Dogg, she came back in March of 1995 to win a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance. She later won the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for Entertainer of the Year. Latifah performed at the American Music Awards in January of 1995, and in January of 1997 she was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards, including Best Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in Set It Off.

Queen Latifah's film career took an impressive jump on the fast track in 2002 when she starred as "Mama" Morton in the film version of Chicago. Latifah went through three auditions to beat out such stars as Rosie O'Donnell, Kathy Bates, and Bette Midler for the role. However, she was determined to get the part. As the rap star explained to US Weekly, "You don't want to feel you are twisting someone's arm but I would have done it five times." Latifah's hard work paid off. She was nominated for an Oscar, an Golden Globe, and a Screen Actor's Guild Award the following year. The role in Chicago also cemented Latifah's reputation as a mainstream actress. According to Miramax studio head Harvey Weinstein, "The Queen has it all, talent, intelligence and a voice that soars. She made Chicago red-hot."

In 2003, Latifah produced and starred in Bringing Down the House with famed comedian Steve Martin. Although the film did not win over the critics, Latifah was again highly praised for her role. It was also the first film produced by Flavor Unit Entertainment, her production company. In 2004, Queen Latifah continued on her path of success. Over the course of the year, Latifah prepared to star in and produce several high-profile pictures, including Miramax's My Wife is a Gangster, MGM's Beauty Shop, and Paramount's Bad Girls. Towards the end of 2004, Queen Latifah planned to release two new albums. One is a rap record which will feature performances by Missy Elliot and several up-and-coming Flavor Unit artists, and the other is a jazz-influenced collection of original songs and classics covered by Queen Latifah. Latifah's roles in 1998's Living Out Loud and 2002's Chicago both flashed her vocal prowess, which she will now have an opportunity to showcase on this anticipated recording. Queen Latifah may be a Queen solely in title, but her many talents continue to make her a royal figure in the world of entertainment.

Selected discography

Singles

"Wrath of My Madness," Tommy Boy Music, 1988.

"Dance for Me,"/"Inside Out," Tommy Boy Music.

"U.N.I.T.Y.," Motown, 1994

Albums

All Hail the Queen, Tommy Boy Music, 1989.

Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy Music, 1991.

Black Reign, Motown, 1993.

Order in the Court, Motown, 1998.

She's A Queen: A Collection of Hits, Motown, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Ebony, November 2003.

Entertainment Weekly, September 4, 1992; March 7, 2003.

Essence, May 1, 1995.

New York Beacon, March 26 1997.

New York Daily News, March 2, 2003; March 7, 2003; March 10, 2003; October 16, 2003; February 22, 2004.

New York Post, February 15, 2004.

New York Sun, March 1, 2003.

New York Times, December 16, 2003.

US Weekly, March 17, 2003.

USA Today, March 6, 2003; April 4, 2003.

Variety, November 3, 2003.

Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2003.

Women's Wear Daily, January 26, 2004.

Online

"Queen Latifah," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 1, 2004).

Additional information was obtained from press materials provided by PMK HBH Public Relations.

Gloria Cooksey and

Nicole Elyse

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Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah

Rapper, actress, producer

For the Record

Acting Career

Honors and Awards

Selected discography

Sources

During the late 1980s, Queen Latifah emerged as one of the most significant artists to enter the scene of rap recording and earned a reputation as one of the most vital female artists of the following decade. In a recording media characterized by the belligerence of the gangster culture, Queen Latifah established herself as a pillar of female strength and developed a reputation as a role model for her generation.

Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens on March 18, 1970 in Newark, New Jersey. Her parents, Lance and Rita Owens, separated in 1978. After the breakup, Latifah lived in High Court in East Newark with her mother, a schoolteacher. She also maintained ties with her father, a police officer. At age eight, she was dubbed Latifah from the Arabic for delicate and sensitiveby one of her cousins of Muslim background. Owens embellished her nickname with the Queen appellation on her own.

The intellectually gifted Latifah first began singing in the choir at Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey. She added popular music, especially rap, to her

For the Record

Born Dana Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, NJ; daughter of Lance, a police officer, and Rita Owens, a teacher. Education: Attended Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Released first rap single, Wrath of My Madness / Princess of the Posse, 1988, Tommy Boy Music; European tour and appearance at the Apollo Theater, 1989; released first album, All Hail the Queen, 1989; other releases include, Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy Music, 1991; Black Reign, Motown, 1993; Order in the Court (includes Bananas), Motown, 1998; CEO of Flavor Unit Entertainment Company (recording management).

Awards: Best New Artist, New Music Seminar of Manhattan; 1990, Soul Train Music Awards, Sammy Davis, Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year, 1995. Grammy Award, Best Rap Solo Performance, 1995.

Addresses: Record company Motown Records, Publicity & Media Relations, 825 8th Ave. 28th floor, New York, NY 10019.

repertoire around the time she entered Irvington High School, where she also played power forward on her schools championship basketball team.

Latifahs love of rap inspired her to form a group called Ladies Fresh along with two of her friends, Tangy B and Landy D. The trio sang in talent shows and made other appearances. They eventually changed their name to Flavor Unit. The three young rappers attracted the interest of a local disc jockey and basement record producer named Mark James, which led to a contract for Latifahs with Tommy Boy Music in 1988. Tommy Boy released Latifahs first single, Wrath of My Madness, and the record proved highly successful. By the time Latifah graduated Irvington High School and entered Borough of Manhattan Community College, her first two single releases already had sold 40,000 copies.

In 1989, Latifah undertook a European tour and released her first album, All Hail the Queen, a diverse collection combining hip-hop, reggae, and jazz. The album espoused a number of socio-cultural themes including apartheid, womens rights, and poverty. All Hail the Queen sold over one million copies. During the early days of her career Latifah always sported her trademark queens crown, wearing it at all public appearances.

In 1993, she released her first album on Motown, Black Reign, dedicated to the memory of her late brother, Lance Latifah, Jr. A police officer like his father, he was killed tragically in a motorcycle accident in 1992. The incident, by Latifahs own admission, left her devastated and, in 1993, she was harshly criticized for producing Apaches Gangsta Bitch release. She defended herself in classic rap rhetoric and argued that the music reflects reality and creates neither the situations nor the problems. Yet by the mid-1990s Latifah developed an association with an informal consciousness raising rap network, the Native Tongues, involving such groups as the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and Tribe Called Quest. The Native Tongues maintained an outspoken stance against violenceespecially in rap.

In 1997, Latifah released her second album with Motown, Order in the Court The album included the hit single Bananas, with Apache. Bananas was listed on Billboards Best in August of 1998. Despite her youth, Latifah showed prudence and invested her earnings from early record sales. Soon she established herself as an entertainer, and as an entrepreneur as chief executive officer of Flavor Unit Management. Latifah owns the recording management firm in Jersey City, along with a partner, Shakim Compere. With Motown Records as a distribution channel, Flavor Unit Management has managed a number of rap artists and groups.

Acting Career

After achieving major success as a rapper, Latifah gained similar notoriety as an actress, mainly through her own hit television show, Living Single. Living Single aired for five years on the Fox Network, beginning in 1993. Although she found it necessary to live much of the year in Los Angeles, during the taping of the show, Latifah maintained a home in Wayne, New Jersey, and never ceased to consider New Jersey her home. Latifah also appeared on Foxs Smart Kids in December of 1994, a program to encourage and empower contemporary youth.

Among Latifahs early movies, House Party 2 was released in 1991 and featured Martin Lawrence. While House Party 2 was widely panned, she received wide acclaim for her role as Cleo Sims, a tough lesbian bank robber, in the film Sei It Off, with Vivica A. Fox. Latifah also recorded with Organized Noize for the title sound trackof the picture. Itwas the controversial nature of the role of Cleo Sims, however, that left the public-at-large to speculate impertinently about Latifahs real-life sexuality. Latifah rebuked the invaders of her privacy with a sound determination to keep such personal matters private, asserting that details of her sexuality would never be of anyones concern but her own.

Latifahs work as an actress runs the gamut of critical approval from an artistic standpoint. Her acting talents inevitably are praised, even when a movie or an album is panned. In September of 1994 she appeared on NBCs Met Life Presents the Apollo Theatre Hall of Fame, and as a presenter at the 1994 Essence Awards. In 1997, she had a small role in the film Hoodlum, the story of Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson, an Harlem gangster from the depression era. In February of 1998, she starred in Warner Brothers Sphere with Dustin Hoffman and Sharon Stone.

Honors and Awards

In 1990, Latifah won an award as Best New Artist from the New Music Seminar of Manhattan. In April of 1994, she was nominated as solo artist of the year in the First Annual Source Hip-Hop Awards. Although she lost the award to Snoop Doggy Dogg, she came back in March of 1995 to win a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance. Also in 1995, at the Soul Train Music Awards she won the Sammy Davis, Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year. Latifah performed at the American Music Awards in January of 1995, and in January of 1997 she was nominated for two Image Awards, including Best Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in Set It Off.

Although she is a hero of feminists in particular, she prefers to not be labeled. She believes in making some compromises, but not in the sacrifice of self worth for money. Latifah cultivates varied interests. Her associates include many prominent personalities. In 1997, she undertook to write a book about self-esteem, for publication by William Morrow and Company.

Selected discography

Singles

Wrath of My Madness, Tommy Boy Music, 1988.

Dance for Me, / Tommy Boy Muic.

Albums

All Hail the Queen, Tommy Boy Music, 1989.

Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy Music, 1991.

Black Reign, Motown, 1993.

Order in the Court (includes Bananas), Motown, 1998.

Sources

Entertainment, September 4 1992.

Essence, May 1, 1995.

New York Beacon, March 26 1997.

Source, August 1998.

Gloria Cooksey

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Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah

Rap singer

Rejects Feminist Label

Maintains Control in Male-Dominated Business

Outspoken Views on Sexism

Selected discography

Sources

Queen Latifah, whom Lisa Kennedy of Mother Jones called one of the hottest artists on the burgeoning Tommy Boy label, has worked hard for her success, but not by stepping on fellow rappers on her way to the top. Latifah is known for her refusal to participate in the well-publicized feuds among various factions of rap performers. I might rebut if somebody challenged me, but Id make it funny, not nasty, she said in Rolling Stone. Attesting to her feelings of solidarity with other rappers, she has stated that she would rather present a united artistic front than suggest a clique fractured by infighting and clashing ambitions.

Applauded for her social politics as well as her gift for rhyme, Latifahfrom an Arabic word meaning delicate or sensitiveseems to pursue a well-rounded image, with social commentary in its place, but entertainment firmly in the foreground. Id rather throw in a line or two about drugs, she has said, just to make you think. I can have fun and still show Im on the ball. Her music, according to Interview, borrows freely from hip-hop, House, jazz, and reggae, all saturated by Latifahs sense of self and a pride seemingly untouched by vanity.

While some vocal artists are never quizzed about the message of their music, rappers are often asked to philosophize about fellow musicians and ideas in rap; Latifah holds her own, but will not be made into a spokesperson. Her strength is often misinterpreted as a feminist message. Rolling Stone contributor Alan Light testified that Latifah bristles at the suggestion that she is part of a womens movement sweeping rap. Me, M.C. Lyte, Roxanne Shante, we got record deals because were good, she said. We deserve them, not because we happen to be women.

Rejects Feminist Label

Like many young women, Latifah dislikes the label feminist, believing it carries strident overtones. Im not a feminist. Im just a proud black woman. I dont need to be labeled, she said in Interview. According to Dominique DiPrima in Mother Jones, Ladies First, [Latifahs] duet with British rapper Monie Love, touches female pride without preaching. Her whole style is a feminist statementshe is the Queen, never the victim. Not surprisingly, several of the cuts on Queen Latifahs LP All Hail the Queen begin with tongue-in-cheek references to her royal status, such as All hail the queen, and Dance for me.

Related to the debate over feminism in womens rap is the dominance of men in rapand all musicproduction. In her Mother Jones article about women in rap,

For the Record

Born Dana Owens c. 1970, raised in East Orange, NJ.

Began performing in high school as human beat box in rap group Ladies Fresh. Solo recording artist, 1989; recorded re-mix of the single Fame with David Bowie, 1990. Appeared in film Jungle Fever, Universal, 1991.

Addresses: Record company Tommy Boy Records, 1747 First Ave., New York, NY 10128

DiPrima described the business and its relationship to gender: The rap music business, like most other businesses, is controlled by men, making it risky to really speak out. In addition to the business end, many female groups rely on the artistic support of men to write, produce, and advise them. By way of example, Latifah co-mixed only two of the 15 tracks on her album.

Maintains Control in Male-Dominated Business

DiPrima also pointed out that popular male rappers make guest appearances on womens records, feature women on theirs, and plug them on stage and on vinyl. This is true of All Hail the Queen, which features Daddy-O of Stetsasonic, KRS-One, and members of De La Soul. Latifah, however, seems to find her current level of artistic control sufficient; she firmly calls All Hail the Queen hers and discusses the albums concept as her own. Suggesting that in a live setting one can transcend gender roles, the Queen told Kennedy: This is a business where you sell off your talent, and to me the proof is usually at the show. Theres no double standard with your fans.

Queen Latifah, usually clad in what Entertainment Weekly described as African-print pajama suits, skull caps, and big wooden bracelets and earrings, is critical of the sexist images of women presented by some male rappers. In a rare moment of universal criticism she stated: Those women are pretty shallow. They look like skeezers, and thats the problem. A lot of those females dont have respect for themselves. Guys are exploiting them. Dimitri Ehrlich of Interview congratulated Latifah on her positive image: I think its great that the women you chose for your dancers have the kind of image that young people can look up to. Latifah sees materialism as one cause of the acceptance of male-dependent women, contending that females dont respect themselves; they only think materialistically. They want money, but they dont think, Im gonna get this money on my own. They think, Im gonna get money from this guy.

Latifahs larger commitment to unity in rap is apparent in her defense of male rappers; she told Entertainment Weekly that the most memorable entertainment-world moment in 1990 was when the [censorship] controversy over 2 Live Crew pushed their album to double platinum status and when they were cleared of charges. Although her own lyrics are not considered sexually provocativeas were 2 Live CrewsLatifah believes fervently in an artists unfettered freedom to express him or herself. In this way she is among the mainstream of her colleagues; where her opinion varies is in her defense of male rappers against charges of hating women.

Outspoken Views on Sexism

She told Interview: I wouldnt even say its sexist. Its sexist in the sense that theyre talking about a female, but thats usually exaggerated for the humor. Others speak the truth. They are not talking about women like me and you; theyre rapping about women who wear dresses halfway up the behindwomen who use their bodies, not their minds. Id say the guys are wrong, because instead of educating women, theyre exploiting them. But I cant say theyre wrong for what theyre saying. Ive been on the road and seen girls who dont know a guy sleep with him in twenty minutes cause hes in a group. Thats the kind of girl theyre talking about.

DiPrima summed up the importance of Queen Latifahs success: Women like Latifah provide role modelsmodels of women in control, speaking their minds and getting their own, without being an accessory to some guy. These role models arent just important to young girls but to young men as well who are getting accustomed to the independent women as a peer. Everywhere I go I hear guys listening to Latifah or Lyte, not as FEMALE RAPPERS but simply as def lyricists.

Selected discography

All Hail the Queen, Tommy Boy, 1989.

Nature of a Sista, Tommy Boy, 1991.

Sources

Entertainment Weekly, December 28, 1990.

Interview, May 1990.

Mother Jones September/October 1990.

Nation, April 16, 1990.

Rolling Stone, February 22, 1990.

Time, May 27, 1991.

Christine Ferran

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Queen Latifah 1970(?)—

Queen Latifah 1970(?)

Rap singer

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Queen Latifah, whom Lisa Kennedy of Mother Jones called one of the hottest artists on the burgeoning Tommy Boy label, has worked hard for her success, but not by stepping on fellow rappers on her way to the top. Latifah is known for her refusal to participate in the well-publicized feuds among various factions of rap performers. I might rebut if somebody challenged me, but Id make it funny, not nasty, she said in Rolling Stone. Attesting to her feelings of solidarity with other rappers, she has stated that she would rather present a united artistic front than suggest a clique fractured by in-fighting and clashing ambitions.

Applauded for her social politics as well as her gift for rhyme, Latifahfrom an Arabic word meaning delicate or sensitiveseems to pursue a well-rounded image, with social commentary in its place, but entertainment firmly in the foreground. Id rather throw in a line or two about drugs, she has said, just to make you think. I can have fun and still show Im on the ball. Her music, according to Interview, borrows freely from hip-hop, House, jazz, and reggae, all saturated by Latifahs sense of self and a pride seemingly untouched by vanity.

While some vocal artists are never quizzed about the message of their music, rappers are often asked to philosophize about fellow musicians and ideas in rap; Latifah holds her own, but will not be made into a spokes-person. Her strength is often misinterpreted as a feminist message. Rolling Stone contributor Alan Light testified that Latifah bristles at the suggestion that she is part of a womens movement sweeping rap. Me, M.C. Lyte, Roxanne Shante, we got record deals because were good, she said. We deserve them, not because we happen to be women.

Like many young women, Latifah dislikes the label feminist, believing it carries strident overtones. Im not a feminist. Im just a proud black woman. I dont need to be labeled, she said in Interview. According to Dominique DiPrima in Mother Jones, Ladies First, [Latifahs] duet with British rapper Monie Love, touches female pride without preaching. Her whole style is a feminist statementshe is the Queen, never the victim. Not surprisingly, several of the cuts on Queen Latifahs LP All Hail the Queen begin with tongue-in-cheek references to her royal status, such as All hail the queen, and Dance for me.

At a Glance

Born Dana Owens c. 1970; raised in East Orange, NJ.

Began performing in high school as human beat box in rap group Ladies Fresh; solo recording artist, 1989; recorded re-mix of the single Fame with David Bowie, 1990.

Addresses: Record company Tommy Boy Records, 1747 First Ave., New York, NY 10128

Related to the debate over feminism in womens rap is the dominance of men in rapand all musicproduction. In her Mother Jones article about women in rap, DiPrima described the business and its relationship to gender: The rap music business, like most other businesses, is controlled by men, making it risky to really speak out. In addition to the business end, many female groups rely on the artistic support of men to write, produce, and advise them. By way of example, Latifah co-mixed only two of the 15 tracks on her album.

DiPrima also pointed out that popular male rappers make guest appearances on womens records, feature women on theirs, and plug them on stage and on vinyl. This is true of All Hail the Queen, which features Daddy-O of Stetsasonic, KRS-One, and members of De La Soul. Latifah, however, seems to find her current level of artistic control sufficient; she firmly calls All Hail the Queen hers and discusses the albums concept as her own. Suggesting that a live setting transcends gender roles, the Queen told Kennedy: This is a business where you sell off your talent, and to me the proof is usually at the show. Theres no double standard with your fans.

Queen Latifah, usually clad in what Entertainment Weekly described as African-print pajama suits, skull caps, and big wooden bracelets and earrings, is critical of the sexist images of women presented by some male rappers. In a rare moment of universal criticism she stated: Those women are pretty shallow. They look like skeezers, and thats the problem. A lot of those females dont have respect for themselves. Guys are exploiting them. Dimitri Ehrlich of Interview congratulated Latifah on her positive image: I think its great that the women you chose for your dancers have the kind of image that young people can look up to. She sees materialism as one cause of the acceptance of male-dependent women, contending that females dont respect themselves; they only think materialistically. They want money, but they dont think, Im gonna get this money on my own. They think, Im gonna get money from this guy.

Latifahs larger commitment to unity in rap is apparent in her defense of male rappers; she told Entertainment Weekly that the most memorable entertainment-world moment in 1990 was when the [censorship] controversy over 2 Live Crew pushed their album to double platinum status and when they were cleared of charges. Although her own lyrics are not considered sexually provocativeas were 2 Live CrewLatifah believes fervently in an artists unfettered freedom to express him or herself. In this way she is among the mainstream of her colleagues; where her opinion varies is in her defense of male rappers against charges of hating women.

She told Interview: I wouldnt even say its sexist. Its sexist in the sense that theyre talking about a female, but thats usually exaggerated for the humor. Others speak the truth. They are not talking about women like me and you; theyre rapping about women who wear dresses halfway up the behindwomen who use their bodies, not their minds. Id say the guys are wrong, because instead of educating women, theyre exploiting them. But I cant say theyre wrong for what theyre saying. Ive been on the road and seen girls who dont know a guy sleep with him in twenty minutes cause hes in a group. Thats the kind of girl theyre talking about.

DiPrima summed up the importance of Queen Latifahs success: Women like Latifah provide role modelsmodels of women in control, speaking their minds and getting their own, without being an accessory to some guy. These role models arent just important to young girls but to young men as well who are getting accustomed to the independent women as a peer. Everywhere I go I hear guys listening to Latifah or Lyte, not as FEMALE RAPPERS but simply as def lyricists.

Selected discography

All Hail the Queen, Tommy Boy, 1989.

Sources

Entertainment Weekly, December 28, 1990.

Interview, May 1990.

Mother Jones September/October 1990.

Nation, April 16, 1990.

Rolling Stone, February 22, 1990.

Christine Ferran

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Queen Latifah 1970–

Queen Latifah 1970–

(Dana Elaine Owens)

Personal

Born Dana Elaine Owens, March 18, 1970, in East Orange, NJ; daughter of Lancelot (a police officer) and Rita (a teacher) Owens.

Addresses

Home—NJ. Agent—William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

Career

Musician, actor, film producer, and author. Performer with Ladies Fresh, c. 1988; recording artist; recordings include All Hail the Queen, 1989; Nature of a Sista', 1991; Latifah's Had It up 2 Here, 1991; How Do I Love Thee, 1991; She's a Queen: A Collection of Hits, 2002; and Order in the Court2; Black Reign; New Jersey Drive; Trav'lin' Light, 2007. Actor in films, including: (as Lashawn) Jungle Fever, 1991; (as Zora) House Party 2, 1991; (as Ruffhouse M.C.) Juice, 1992; (as Theresa) My Life, 1993; (as Cleo Sims) Set It Off, 1996; (as Sulie) Hoodlum, 1997; (as Teeny Fletcher) Sphere, 1998; (as Liz Bailey) Living Out Loud, 1998; (as Thelma) The Bone Collector, 1999; (as voice of Dispatcher Love) Bringing out the Dead, 1999; (as Cha-Cha) The Country Bears, 2002; (as Francine) Brown Sugar, 2002; (as voice of Dove) Pinocchio, 2002; (as Matron Mama Morton) Chicago, 2002; (as Charlene Morton) Bringing down the House, 2003; (as Aunt Shaneequa) Scary Movie 3, 2003; (as Gina) Barbershop 2: Back in Business, 2004; (as security guard) The Cookout, 2004; (as Belle Williams) Taxi, 2004; (as Gina Norris) Beauty Shop, 2005; (as Georgia Byrd) Last Holiday, 2006; (as voice of Ellie) Ice Age: The Meltdown, 2006; (as Penny Escher) Stranger than Fiction, 2006; (as Ana) Life Support, 2007; (as Motormouth Maybelle) Hairspray, 2007; (as Mrs. Christmas) The Perfect Holiday, 2007; and (as Nina Brewster) Mad Money, 2008. Actor in television movies and television series, including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1991; Living Single, 1997-98; and Spin City, 2001.

Awards, Honors

Grammy Award for Best Solo Rap Performance, 1994, for "U.N.I.T.Y."; Acapulco Black Film Festival Award for Best Actress, 1997, for Set It Off; Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Supporting Actress, Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics Choice Award for Best Acting Ensemble (with others), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture (with others), Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and Black Reel Award for Best Actress, all 2003, all for Chicago; BET Award for Favorite Actress, 2003; Teen Choice Award for Best Movie Actress—Comedy, 2003, and Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, 2004, both for Bringing Down the House; BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress, 2004, for Barbershop 2; Black Movie Awards nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actress, 2005, for Beauty Shop, 2006, for Last Holiday; honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2006; Hollywood Film Festival Film Award for Ensemble of the Year (with others), 2007, for Hairspray; Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, 2007, and Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, 2008, both for Life Support; named among VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock 'n' Roll.

Writings

(With Karen Hunter) Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, foreword by Rita Owens, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

(Author of story, with Shakim Compere) The Cookout (screenplay), Lions Gate Films, 2004.

Queen of the Scene (for children), illustrated by Frank Morrison, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Sidelights

Queen Latifah—her stage name is Arabic for "fragile and sensitive"—is an American rap and hip-hop artist who has also gained acclaim as the first woman rapper to be nominated for an Academy award. Harnessing her talent, her natural charisma, and her commanding, energetic presence, Queen Latifah has expanded her audience through her work in films such as Bringing Down the House, Chicago, Last Holiday, and Hairspray. In her many public appearances, as well as in books such as her inspiring memoir Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman and the picture book Queen of the Scene, she also works to inspires others to learn from her success.

Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens, in 1970 and grew up in New Jersey, where her father worked as a police officer. In high school, she was a key member of her school's basketball team, and her first job was at Burger King. Fortunately for Queen Latifah, her musical talent allowed her to find a more lucrative career, however, and by age eighteen she was rapping as part of Ladies Fresh. In 1988 she made her solo recording debut with the single "Wrath of My Madness," followed by her album All Hail the Queen. Combining jazz, rap, and rock, Queen Latifah brings a strong woman-centered viewpoint to her music. This view also runs through Ladies First, which reveals Queen Latifah's unique take on her sometimes difficult, sometimes controversial, and ultimately inspiring life.

With Queen of the Scene Queen Latifah turns to a younger audience, gearing her story to early elementary-grade readers. Illustrated by award-winning artist Frank Morrison and accompanied by a CD, Queen of the Scene introduces readers to a confident young girl whose belief in her own abilities allows her to work toward success in everything she tries, and have fun at the same time. Basketball, stickball, and hula-hooping are sports she excels at, and the girl has no qualms about stating the obvious: She's good! Queen of the Scene is "delivered with lots of sass," according to School Library Journal contributor Mary Hazelton, and "is sure to appeal to those who can celebrate their own special gifts." In praise of Queen Latifah's "rollicking" rhyming text, an Ebony critic cited the author for illustrating "the elements of self-respect," while in Publishers Weekly a critic dubbed the picture book a "sassy debut."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Ebony, November, 2006, review of Queen of the Scene, p. 43.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2006, review of Queen of the Scene, p. 1022.

Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2006, review of Queen of the Scene, p. 61.

School Library Journal, December, 2006, Mary Hazelton, review of Queen of the Scene, p. 101.

ONLINE

Queen Latifah Home Page,http://www.queenlatifah.com (December 15, 2007).

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