Queen Latifah Biography
Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, singer, model 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.
Latifah was born and raised in the public housing 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.
She 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 MC’s 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. That year, she appeared as Referee on the UK label Music of Life album “1989—The Hustlers Convention (live)”. In 1998, Co Produced by Ro Smith now CEO of Def Ro Inc. she released her fourth hip-hop album Order in the Court.
After Order in the Court, Latifah shifted primarily to sung lyrics in soul music and jazz standards, which she had used sparingly in her previous hip-hop-oriented records. 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 headlining act in a live jazz concert. Before a 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 that is due in sometime in 2009; this album will be, at least partially, produced by Dr. Dre. She will also work with Missy Elliott.
In her 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 also recently appeared in advertisements for Jenny Craig which chronicle her weight loss while on the diet. She was hired as the new spokesperson due to her 35 pound loss on the Jenny Craig program.