Exclusive Interview with Queen Latifah: Living Life to the Fullest

by | Mar 24, 2005 | celebrities, Exclusive Interviews | 0 comments

When Queen Latifah’s debut album All Hail the Queen hit record stores in 1989, the mostly male-dominated rap world knew right away she was a force to be reckoned with.

Surrounded by testosterone-only crews like Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy and Run D.M.C., Queen Latifah emerged solo—standing tall, beautiful, bold, and female to serve up a much-needed dose of positive rap from a feminist perspective.

With hits like Ladies First, Evil That Men Do, and Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children, the 16-year-old Latifah had more than a few of her fellow emcees bowing down to her lyrical sovereignty.

Fast forward and Latifah is still doing her queenly thing. Only this time, she’s headed to the top of another male-dominated industry—Hollywood movie producing—where she is determined to prove that being talented, female, black and ambitious is anything but a disadvantage.

In 2002, Latifah produced her first motion picture comedy Bringing Down the House, starring herself and Steve Martin, which sent number-crunching studio execs into a state of shock and awe when it grossed over $150 million worldwide.

In theaters this week is Latifah’s latest offering, Beauty Shop (produced by and starring herself), a hilarious comedy featuring an all-star cast that includes Alicia Silverstone, Kevin Bacon, Mena Suvari, Djimon Hounsou, Alfre Woodard, Keisha Knight Pulliam and Andie MacDowell. A spin-off of Ice Cube’s Barbershop 2: Back in Business, in which Latifah played Gina (the beautician next door), Beauty Shop follows Gina to Atlanta where she opens her own shop and strikes up a romance with a tall, dark and sexy handyman (Joe) played by Djimon Hounsou. In the movie, Latifah gifts Hounsou with the first kissing scene of his career, which he says he was happy to reshoot over a dozen times. “Latifah’s a great kisser, Hounsou reveals. “I wasn’t complaining.”

We recently caught up with Queen Latifah to talk with her about her new movie, her successful career and her plans for the future, and the Queen offered up a generous dose of wisdom and love to share with our readers.

KC: Thank you, Latifah, for taking the time to talk to us.

QL: Rolling Out has always supported everything I’ve done in a big way and I really appreciate that, so, thank you.

KC: Your Beauty Shop cast raved about working for and with you. Alicia, Keisha, Alfre, Mena…all of them said coming to work was like coming to a family reunion every day.

QL: That’s definitely a tone that I try to set. I want people to feel comfortable coming to work. I want them to feel good about what they’re doing every day. It contributes to a great process for everyone.

KC: As a black actress, you have often been the only person of color on set. How important is it to make sure your set is diverse?

QL: When I’m in control you’ll never see an all-white set. You’re not going to see an all-black set. You’re always going to see a mixture of people. I have been to sets when it was all white; where no one there looked like me. I didn’t feel alienated necessarily, but it’s nice to be able to see someone who looks like you—someone you can identify with. It’s important that the people at the top are sensitive to what’s going on with everyone. People are just people. I judge you based upon how you treat me, not what you look like.

KC: It’s been reported that you are the first black woman in history to produce a film that grossed over $100 million. What does that mean to you?

QL: It’s never really been about the money. Money isn’t the payoff; it’s one of the perks that come with accomplishing the goal. It was the same thing with ‘Living Single.’ It was the same thing with my first record deal. It’s the same thing now with producing films.

KC:Where does your drive to excel come from? Who inspires you?

QL: I’m inspired by my partner Shakim. Initially it was my whole crew. The whole Flavah Unit. We always sat around and brainstormed and had these dreams of how we could get out of the ‘hood and accomplish things and open up our own businesses and buy homes. Now Shakim’s my inspiration, and I’m his. And our families—making sure they’re taken care of. Making sure that there are opportunities for the people we hire also.

KC: What do you feel your life’s purpose is?

QL: I’m here to do what God wants me to do. I’m here to share my gifts, to give Him the glory and to live life to the fullest.

KC: What do you love most about yourself?

QL: I love my sense of humor. My compassion. My love for life. My love for people.

KC: What is the biggest misconception people have about you?

QL: That I’m confident and secure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I go through my moments too, like everybody else. But I just make it through those moments.

KC: You seem to have such a sense of joy about you; do you think you’ll always be young at heart?

QL: I do. I’m struggling with that right now because I am 35 and am I supposed to [be] grown up. … I’m definitely a grown woman and lovin’ it, but at 35—you’re right—I do have a whole bunch of kid in me, and I’m always going to be young at heart. I never want to be one of those people who’ve forgotten how to live and forgotten how to laugh and forgotten how not to take things too seriously.

KC: What is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?

QL: We’re soft and we’re wise and we’re strong and we give birth, for crying out loud! We create life. We carry life within our bodies [and] that for one is a miracle and it’s amazing. There’s so much to be proud of. …Being strong and being that role model and being that provider when we sometimes haven’t had a man to be the provider.

KC: What is difficult about being a woman?

QL: Oftentimes a woman is violated at a young age.There are too many women who are insecure about their bodies to the point where they want to hack it all up. Women who don’t love themselves—who don’t really even want to take their clothes off or look in the mirror or won’t let their husbands see them without makeup. There are women who have not had orgasms, and have been married for years. Those to me are the flip sides—the tough sides of being a woman.

KC: You said recently that you plan to take some time off to start a family. Will that be soon?

QL: I’m not really going to take time off; I’m just going to take it down some—maybe go behind the scenes more, or just not work quite as much. When I do start a family, my kids have to understand who I am and know that this is what I was born to do. I don’t want to lose myself so that they don’t know their mama loves doing this. They need to come see how it’s done, too. They need to learn how to be little entrepreneurs. I want them to travel and see the world and realize they can be whoever they want to be. But I think it’s important to take enough time off to raise your children and give them a stable environment. That’s the balance I’m going to be looking for—to make sure they have enough of me.

KC: What did your parents do that you want to make sure you do with your children?

QL: My parents communicated a lot with me. They taught me to take responsibility for myself at a young age. They taught me the value of education. They hugged me and kissed me. They loved me, and that was important. I want to make sure my kids are loved and disciplined enough—loved and shown boundaries at the same time. …I want to make sure my kids have a strong spiritual foundation; that they always know God is there when their mama isn’t.

KC: In the Beauty Shop production notes, your brother Lance, who died in 1992, is mentioned.

QL: Everybody close to me is affected by the loss of my brother. God brings you through it, but you never get over it. Over time, it becomes easier to cope with, but you always remember that person, and you miss them like crazy. I feel like I’m going to see my brother again; it’s just going to take awhile. When death touches you that closely you realize life is too short. That really is not just a cliché. Life is really precious, so you have to live.

In memory of her brother, Queen Latifah established The Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation which awards financial assistance to students in need.




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