- Dana Elaine Owens
March 18, 1970 (age 50)
- Talk show host, Model, Actor, Record producer, Singer-songwriter, Spokesperson, Television Producer,
- Lancelot Owens, Sr., Rita Owens
Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), known professionally by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, model, television producer, record producer, comedian, and talk show host. Born in Newark, New Jersey, she signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1989 and released her debut album All Hail the Queen the same year, featuring the hit single "Ladies First". Her second album, Nature of a Sista (1991), was her final album with Tommy Boy Records.
Latifah starred as Khadijah James on the FOX sitcom Living Single, from 1993 to 1998. Her third album Black Reign (1993), spawned the single "U.N.I.T.Y.", which won a Grammy Award and was successful on the Billboard Hot 100. She then starred in the lead role of Set It Off (1996) and released her fourth album, Order in the Court, in 1998, with Motown Records. Latifah gained mainstream success and acclaim with her performance in the film Chicago (2002), receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Latifah released her fifth album The Dana Owens Album in 2004, and has since appeared in a number of films, such as Bringing Down the House (2003), Taxi (2004), Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2005), Beauty Shop (2005), Last Holiday (2006), Hairspray (2007) and Joyful Noise (2012). In 2007 and 2009, she released two more studio albums – Trav'lin' Light and Persona. She created the daytime talk show The Queen Latifah Show, which ran from late 2013 to early 2015 on CBS. Latifah received critical acclaim for her portrayal of blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film Bessie (2015), which she co-produced, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie.
She has long been considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists. Queen Latifah received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. Latifah's work in music, film and television has earned her a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, an Academy Award nomination and sales of over two million records.
Latifah was born in Newark, New Jersey, and lived primarily in East Orange, New Jersey. She is the daughter of Rita (née Bray), a teacher at Irvington High School (Latifah's alma mater) and Lancelot Owens, Sr, a police officer. Her parents divorced when Latifah was ten. Latifah was raised in the Baptist faith and attended Catholic school in Newark, New Jersey. Her stage name, Latifah, meaning "delicate" and "very kind" in Arabic, she found in an Arabic book of names when she was eight. Always a tall girl, the 5-foot-10-inch (1.78 m) Latifah was a power forward on her high school girls basketball team. She performed the number "Home" from the musical The Wiz in a high school play.
She started beat boxing for the hip-hop group Ladies Fresh and was an original member of the Flavor Unit, which, at that time, was a crew of MCs grouped around producer DJ King Gemini, who made a demo recording of Queen Latifah's rap Princess of the Posse. He gave the recording to Fab 5 Freddy, the host of Yo! MTV Raps. The song got the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who signed Latifah and in 1988 issued her first single, "Wrath of My Madness".
Rap & Hip-Hop
Latifah made her mark in hip-hop by rapping about issues of black women. Her songs covered topics including domestic violence, harassment on the streets, and relationship problems. 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, which was released by Motown Records. Latifah was also a member of the hip-hop collective Native Tongues.
Change to traditional singing
After Order in the Court, Latifah shifted primarily to singing 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, which was billed as the Queen Latifah Orchestra. Latifah performed new arrangements of standards including "California Dreaming", first made popular by 1960s icons the Mamas & the Papas. Later in 2007, Latifah released an album titled 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.
Film and television
From 1993 to 1998, Latifah had a starring role on Living Single, the FOX sitcom, which gained high ratings among black audiences; she also wrote and performed its theme music. Her mother Rita played her mother on-screen. She began her film career in supporting roles in the 1991 and 1992 films House Party 2, Juice and Jungle Fever. She had her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, from 1999 to 2001 and revamped in 2013. On January 6, 2014, The Queen Latifah Show was renewed for a second season. However, on November 21, 2014, Sony Pictures Television canceled Queen Latifah's show due to declining ratings. Production of the series closed down, taking effect on December 18, 2014, leaving new episodes that were broadcast until March 6, 2015. She also had recurring roles during the second season (1991–1992) of the NBC hit The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She made a guest role as herself on Hangin' with Mr. Cooper in 1993. Latifah appeared in the 1996 box-office hit, Set It Off, and had a supporting role in the Holly Hunter film Living Out Loud (1998). She played the role of Thelma in the 1999 movie The Bone Collector, alongside Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.
Although Latifah had previously received some critical acclaim, she gained mainstream success after being cast as Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago, a musical film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Latifah herself received the nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role, but lost to co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones. Latifah is one of three hip-hop/R&B artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category. The others are Will Smith (Best Actor, Ali, 2001, and The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006), and Jamie Foxx, (Best Actor, Ray, and Best Supporting Actor Collateral, both in 2004, also winning the first).
In 2003, she starred with Steve Martin in the film Bringing Down the House, which was a major success at the box office. She also recorded a song "Do Your Thing" for the soundtrack. Since then, she has had both leading and supporting roles in a multitude of films that received varied critical and box office receptions, including films such as 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 appeared in the drama Stranger Than Fiction.
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, Michelle Pfeiffer, Allison Janney, James Marsden, Christopher Walken, and Zac Efron. 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. For her work, Queen Latifah received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on January 4, 2006, located at 6915 Hollywood Blvd.
Latifah produced the 2007 film The Perfect Holiday. 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 vice-presidential debate between then-Senator Joe Biden and then-Governor Sarah Palin. In 2009, Latifah was a presenter at the 81st Academy Awards, presenting the segment honoring film professionals who had died during 2008 and singing "I'll Be Seeing You" during the montage. Latifah spoke at Michael Jackson's memorial service in Los Angeles. She also hosted the 2010 People's Choice Awards. Latifah sang America the Beautiful at Super Bowl XLIV hosted in Miami, Florida on February 7, 2010, with Carrie Underwood. Latifah hosted the 2010 BET Awards on June 27, 2010. She starred with Dolly Parton in Joyful Noise (2012). In June 2011, Latifah received an honorary doctorate degree in Humane Letters from Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. On September 16, 2013, Latifah premiered her own syndicated daytime television show titled The Queen Latifah Show. On January 26, 2014, Latifah officiated the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples during a performance of "Same Love" by Macklemore at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. In 2015, Latifah received a Best Actress Emmy nomination for her lead role as Bessie Smith in Bessie, an HBO film which received a total of 12 Emmy nominations.
Latifah's music usually contains hip-hop, jazz and gospel and has the elements of R&B, soul, and dance. She possesses a two-octave vocal range. Queen Latifah is a contralto, she has the ability to rap and sing. Her biggest musical influences are EPMD, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Run–D.M.C.. She also cites Bessie Smith as one of her influences.
Raised in East Orange, New Jersey, Latifah has been a resident of Colts Neck, New Jersey; Rumson, New Jersey and Beverly Hills, California.
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, visible throughout her performance in her sitcom Living Single. She also dedicated Black Reign to him. In her 1999 autobiography, Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, Latifah discussed how her brother's death had led to a bout of depression and drug abuse, from which she later recovered.
In 1995, Latifah was the victim of a carjacking, which also resulted in the shooting of her boyfriend, Sean Moon.
In 1996, she was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a loaded handgun. In 2002, she was arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles County. She was placed on three years' probation after being convicted.
She also works out with a trainer and kickboxes.
Latifah was asked by Maya Angelou, who was unable to attend, to recite a poem written by Angelou at the memorial service for Michael Jackson in July 2009.