The complete entertainment package, Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah
Wed, 1970-03-18

*Queen Latifah was born on this date in 1970. From East Orange, New Jersey, the African American rapper, singer, actor and talk show host. Her birth name is Dana Owens.

She came from a working class family and broke through into show business in the late 80s with a singing style that picked selectively from jazz and soul traditions. The former Burger King employee was an early committed answer to the misogynist technique of her male rapper counterparts. Latifah was 18 years old when she released her debut single, Wrath of My Madness, in 1988. A year later, her debut album enjoyed hot reviews. Production know-how from Daddy-O, KRS-One, DJ Mark, The 45 King and members of De La Soul helped her too.

Latifah’s third album on Motown Records exposed a shift from the soul and ragga of A Sista to lively hip-hop. Latifah then turned to a career as an actor, markedly in the hit Black comedy, Living Single. Her early movie credits include Juice, Jungle Fever and House Party 2. In 1993, she set up her own Flavor Unit record label and Management Company. The first release on it, Roll Wit Tha Flava, featured an all-star cast including Naughty By Nature’s Treach, Fu-Schnickens’ Chip-Fu, Black Sheep’s Dres, and D-Nice. She also worked on the Shabba Ranks single, Watcha Gonna Do.

Latifah represents an intelligent cross-section of hip-hop influences. Though she is a forthright advocate of her race’s struggle, she is also the daughter of and sister to policemen. She adapted the name of Queen Latifah (meaning delicate and sensitive in Arabic) early in her career. Losing her brother in a motorcycle accident in 1995 (she still wears the motorbike’s key around her neck) in addition to grieving a friend who was shot when the two were carjacked the same year, Latifah has persisted in overcoming tragedy to remain positive and creative. She remains as a positive role model for young Black women (and men) in hip-hop culture: “Aspire to be a doctor or a lawyer, but not a gangster.” As one of the singles lifted from Black Reign advocated: “UNITY (Who You Calling A Bitch?).”

After more and more prominent acting roles in Set It Off (1996), Living Out Loud (1998), and The Bone Collector (1999), she was given her own personal televised outlet in the form of The Queen Latifah Show in 1999. Latifah has also appeared as both the Wicked Witch of the West (1998’s The Wizard of Oz) and Glenda the Good (The O.Z. in 2002). Following a lengthy hiatus, owing to acting commitments, Latifah returned to recording with 1998’s Order In The Court.

In 2003, she was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Mama Morton in Chicago. In 2003, she acted in the odd couple comedy Bringing Down the House, and Barber Shop 2 (Back in Business).

In 2007, she announced her engagement to long time girlfriend Jeanette Jenkins and in 2013 she began hosting her own TV show.

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Latifah, Queen