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Queen Latifah

Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, singer and actress. Latifah's work in music, film and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination.

Early life

Latifah was born and raised in the projects of Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of Rita, a schoolteacher who worked at Irvington High School, and Lancelot Owens, a policeman. Her parents divorced when Latifah was ten. Latifah performed the number "Home" from the musical The Wiz in a high school play. Her stage name, Latifah (لطيفة), meaning "kind" in Arabic, was given to her when she was eight by her cousin. Latifah was raised in the Baptist church, and, while in high school, was a power forward on her basketball team.

Recording and acting career

Recording artist

Latifah started her career beatboxing for the rap group Ladies Fresh. She also sang in front of town hall in Provincetown, Massachusetts and in the post office cafe. 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. At the same time, Latifah was a pole dancer at a night club in Brooklyn called Bigger and Better. 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. That year, she appeared as Referee on the UK label Music of Life album "1989—The Hustlers Convention (live)". Her debut managed to be both a critical and a commercial success and was followed by the albums Nature of a Sista and Black Reign, which contained the Grammy Award winning hit single, 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. 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 headliner act in a live jazz concert. Before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 12,400, she was backed by a 10-piece live orchestra and three backup vocalists, The Queen Latifah Orchestra. Latifah performed new arrangements of standards including "California Dreaming," first made popular by '60s icons The Mamas & the Papas.

In 2007, Latifah released an album entitled Trav'lin' Light. Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Joe Sample, George Duke, Christian McBride, and Stevie Wonder made guest appearances. It was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album" category.

On September 12, 2008, Rolling Stone reported that Queen Latifah is working on a new album (nearly called "The L Word") that is due in December 2008.

Film and television

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. She also had recurring roles during the second season (1991-1992) of the NBC hit The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Latifah made her big-screen debut 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. 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: 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: 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 (Grease), Michelle Pfeiffer (Stardust), Allison Janney (Juno), James Marsden (Enchanted) and Christopher Walken (Balls of Fury). 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. She appeared on Saturday Night Live on October 4, 2008, as moderator Gwen Ifill in a comedic sketch depicting the recent vice-presidential debate.

Products and endorsements

Latifah is a celebrity spokesperson for CoverGirl 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.

Personal life

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 and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a loaded handgun. 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. The rumors about her sexuality escalated further in late 2007, when Media Take Out reported an allegedly planned wedding ceremony between Latifah and her personal trainer of four years Jeanette Jenkins upon California's legalization of gay marriage. Latifah publicly denied this claim in October of 2008, proclaiming "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. Assume whatever you want. You do it anyway. People will make up all sorts of things that are not true. There ain't gonna' be no wedding.

In early 2003, Latifah had breast reduction surgery to relieve back pain. She also works out with a trainer and kickboxes.

Latifah recently appeared in advertisements for Jenny Craig which chronicle her weight loss while on the diet.

Awards

Discography

Studio albums

Collaborations: LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Ludacris, Missy Elliot and Swizz BeatzCompilation albums

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1991 Jungle Fever Lashawn
House Party 2 Zora
1992 Juice Ruffhouse M.C.
1996 Set It Off Cleopatra 'Cleo' Sims
1997 Hoodlum Sulie
1998 Living Out Loud Liz Bailey
Sphere Alice "Teeny" Fletcher
1999 The Bone Collector Thelma
2002 Chicago Matron "Mama" Morton Academy Award Nomination
Screen Actors Guild Award
Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio Dove (English voice)
Brown Sugar Francine
2003 Scary Movie 3 Aunt Shaneequa
Bringing Down the House Charlene Morton (also producer)
2004 Taxi Belle
The Cookout Security Guard (also producer)
Barbershop 2: Back in Business Gina
2005 Beauty Shop Gina Norris (also producer)
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Aunt Em
2006 Stranger Than Fiction Penny Escher
Ice Age: The Meltdown Ellie the woolly mammoth (voice)
Last Holiday Georgia Byrd
2007 Life Support Ana (also producer)
Golden Globe Award
Screen Actors Guild Award
Emmy Award Nomination
Hairspray Motormouth Maybelle Screen Actors Guild Award
Arctic Tale Narrator
The Perfect Holiday Mrs. Christmas (also producer)
2008 Mad Money Nina Brewster
What Happens in Vegas... Dr. Twitchell
The Secret Life of Bees August Boatwright awaiting release
2009 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Ellie the woolly mammoth (voice) post-production

See also

References

External links

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