Dana Elaine Owens, better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American singer, rapper, and actress. Her 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 primarily in East Orange, New Jersey. The daughter of Rita (née Bray), a schoolteacher who worked at Irvington High School, and Lancelot Owens, Sr., a police officer, her parents divorced when Latifah was ten. Latifah was raised in the Baptist church and attended Catholic school in Newark, New Jersey. Always a tall girl, the 5'10" Latifah was a power forward on her high school basketball team. She performed the number "Home" from the musical The Wiz in a high school play.
She started beatboxing for the hip hop group Ladies Fresh and was one of the members of the original version of the Flavor Unit, which, at that time, was a crew of MCs grouped around producer DJ Mark the 45 King, 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."
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
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 '60s 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.
In 2009, Latifah, along with the Jubilation Choir, recorded the title track on the album Oh, Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration, covering the song that the Edwin Hawkins Singers made popular in 1969.
In 2008, Latifah was asked if she would make another hip-hop album. She was quoted saying the album was done already and it would be called "All Hail the Queen II". It was rumored that the album would be named "The 'L' Word". When asked about the rumor, she stated it was her attempt to "mess with people's heads" referring to rumors that she is lesbian". The song "Cue the Rain" was released as the album's lead single. She also has a song with Missy Elliott. 2011 saw Queen Latifah sing "Who Can I Turn To" in a duet with Tony Bennett for his album "Duets II".
From 1993–1998, Latifah had a starring role on Living Single, a 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. 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 subsequently 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 she had already received some critical acclaim, she gained mainstream success after being cast as Matron "Mama" Morton in the Oscar-winning film adaptation of the 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 three hip-hop artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category (Best Supporting Actress, Chicago, 2002). The others are Will Smith (Best Actor, Ali, 2001, and Best Actor, The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006), and Mark Wahlberg (Best Supporting Actor, "The Departed", 2006).
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 also 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 (Grease), Michelle Pfeiffer (Stardust), Allison Janney (Juno), James Marsden (Enchanted), Christopher Walken (Catch Me If You Can) and Zac Efron (High School Musical). 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 impersonator in a comedic sketch depicting the recent vice-presidential debate. 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 is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Joyful Noise with Dolly Parton.
Latifah is a celebrity spokesperson for CoverGirl cosmetics, Curvation ladies underwear, Pizza Hut and Jenny Craig. She represents her own line of cosmetics for women of color called the CoverGirl Queen Collection. Latifah has also launched a perfume line called "Queen."
Raised in East Orange, New Jersey, she has been a resident of Colts Neck, New Jersey.
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.
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 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 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 early 2003, Latifah had breast reduction surgery which downsized her F size breasts to a double D cup size, as a way to reduce back and shoulder pain. She also works out with a trainer and kickboxes.