Queen Latifah’s Road to Stardom and Life Story: The Meaning of Pseudonym, Early Years, Success

Queen Latifah has had a very successful career that comprises both music and movies, but her journey to stardom was no easy one.

Queen Latifah is one of the few stars that have remained relevant over time, flawlessly transitioning from music to television and staying on top of her game. However, unknown to many, her journey to fame and success was filled with bumps of tragedies that only made her stronger. 

Queen Latifah at the Black Girls Rock! 2018 Red Carpet on August 26, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. | Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for BET

EARLY LIFE AND MUSIC CAREER

Queen Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey as the second child of Lance and Rita Owens, a police officer and a schoolteacher

At the age of 8, a Muslim cousin gave her the nickname Latifah, meaning “delicate and sensitive” in Arabic. Speaking about it during an interview, she said:

“I loved the way it sounded. Even though I played basketball, climbed trees, fought boys, whipped their asses, and was big for my age, ‘delicate, sensitive, kind’ accurately described who I was inside.”

Queen Latifah during the 2018 Essence Festival at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 6, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. | Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence

Like most musicians, Latifah started by singing in the choir, and in her junior year of high school she formed a rap group named Ladies Fresh, with her friends Tangy B and Landy D. In 1988, Latifah released her first single “Wrath of My Madness” under the record label of Tommy Boy Music.

The following year, Latifah released her first album, “All Hail to the Queen,” after meeting Mark James, a local disc jockey. The album went on to sell more than 1 million copies. Next came her album, “Nature of a Sista,” which also performed well.  

After seeing an opening in production, Latifah organized and became the chief executive officer of the Flavor Unit Records and Management Company, headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Latifah earned her 1st Grammy award in 1995 for the single “U.N.I.T.Y” which sold more than 500,000 copies. 

Queen Latifah performs during 2020 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night at United Center on February 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. | Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

HER TRANSITION TO TELEVISION AND MOVIES

After conquering the world of music, Queen Latifah transitioned into acting to make a name for herself.

She made her debut in acting in the 1991 romance drama “Jungle Fever” by Spike Lee. Afterward, she starred in “Juice” alongside Tupac Shakur and then bagged a role in the sitcom, “Living Single.”

She went on to star alongside lead actors Angelina Jolie, Omar Epps, Denzel Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox in a host of movies that gained critical acclaim. In 2002, she earned an academy award nomination for her portrayal of prison matron Mama Morton alongside Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger in the hit musical “Chicago.” 

Queen Latifah at the 2018 amfAR Gala New York at Cipriani Wall Street on February 7, 2018 in New York City. | Photo by Theo Wargo/amfAR/Getty Images

After the nomination, the rapper went on to star in an array of movies including, “Bringing Down the House,” “Beauty Shop,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “Hairspray,” amongst others. Having done well for herself as an actress, Queen Latifah created a daytime talk show after her name, but it only lasted for two years.

Throughout her career, Latifah earned a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe Award.

Queen Latifah during the 18th Annual Hollywood Film Awards at The Palladium on November 14, 2014 in Hollywood, California. | Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

HER SEXUAL ABUSE AND BROTHER’S DEATH

Queen Latifah has always managed to keep mum about her private life and sexual abuse history, but after the death of her brother, she developed the courage to talk about it. She said of her alleged abuser:

“He violated me. I never told anybody; I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arm’s distance. I never really let a person get too close to me. I could have been married years ago, but I had a commitment issue.”

Queen Latifah, her father Lance Owens and mother Rita Owens at her surprise birthday and pre-Oscar dinner at the Mondrian hotel on March 22, 2003| Photo: Getty Images

When she was 22, Latifah lost her older brother Lance Owens, a police officer, in a motorbike accident. She bought the motorcycle for him and, to date, still wears the motorcycle key around her neck. After his demise, she said

“I knew that I couldn’t carry his death and that secret. I had to get it off my chest. My mother felt terrible.”

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 11: Queen Latifah attends the VH1 Hip Hop Honors: All Hail The Queens at David Geffen Hall on July 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for VH1)

ROAD TO HEALING

With the help of a therapist, Latifah was able to come to terms with her traumatic past. She admitted that when she lost her brother’s death, she “was angry at God.” 

However, Latifah threw herself into work as a refuge and had even greater success, which proved bittersweet. In her words:

“I was continuously praying. I realized that wasn’t helping me or my brother. I learned that God was going to provide comfort.”

Queen Latifah and her mother Rita Owens at the VH1’s “Dear Mama” taping at St. Bartholomew’s Church on May 2, 2016 in New York City. | Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty Images

QUEEN LATIFAH ALSO LOST MOTHER

After struggling with a heart condition for more than a decade, Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, said goodbye. She was 69 when she died, and the “Girls Trip” star expressed her hurt in a statement, saying she was heartbroken.

Days after her demise, Latifah took to Instagram to share a clip of her mother’s photo with the caption, “143”, which translated to “I love you.”

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