Girls I Do Adore: Queen Latifah

Steel Magnolias

As we continue celebrating Women’s History Month, who better to tribute on their birthday than the one and only Queen Latifah.

Turning 43 years old today, the rapper, actress, singer, songwriter, model, comedienne, producer, philanthropist and upcoming talk show host may not have been born into royalty but she’s lived up to her regal title since bursting on to the scene with “Wrath Of My Madness,” her debut single, in 1988. 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.

We love Queen Latifah because she’s as versatile as she is authentic. Who else is as comfortable playing a tough bank robber in Set It Off as she is a dying woman in Last Holiday? A corrupt matron named “Mama Morton” in a classic musical like Chicago and then a revered music maven trying to bridge the racial gap in the 1960s in Hairspray? And that’s just a portion of her on-screen work. How about the fact Latifah started her musical career as a beatboxer who transitioned into one of the most loved female rappers of all time and then shifted to singing soul music and jazz standards, with critically-acclaimed albums and more? Throw in the mix her television career to date (most notably, much-loved sitcom Living Single), hosting duties, endorsement deals with CoverGirl cosmetics, Curvation ladies underwear, Pizza Hut and Jenny Craig plus a signature perfume and there’s no wonder the woman born Dana Elaine Owens in Newark, New Jersey is an inspiration to millions of women worldwide.

I took on the moniker “Boss Lady” back in 2003 when I founded Australia and New Zealand’s most successful hip-hop and R&B publication, Urban Hitz. I wanted a powerful alias, one I’d have to live up to throughout my career and Queen Latifah inspired this concept. I grew up admiring her enviable ability to stay genuine from her early hip-hop days to Hollywood and beyond. She took her adopted name so seriously and I wanted (and still want) to do just the same.

Forever the classy, dedicated and fearless career woman, Latifah is about to try her hand at the talk show game again (The Queen Latifah Show ran from 1999-2001). She’ll be launching her new show with the same name on Monday, September 16 later this year and I’ll definitely be tuned in to support.

“U.N.I.T.Y.” — And Why We’re Still Looking For It

We_Can_Do_It!

“Who you calling a bitch?”

Twenty years ago Queen Latifah dropped her Black Reign album, featuring the breakout single “U.N.I.T.Y”. The song is still her biggest hit single to date, scoring the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The smooth track spoke out against the disrespect of women in society including street harassment, domestic violence, and slurs against women in hip-hop culture.

As we kick off Women’s History Month in 2013, we’re still exploring the same themes and dealing with the same issues in hip-hop and beyond. We’re quick to speak on oppression of women in far away countries like India, Jordan and Somalia but take a look in our own backyard and we’re nowhere near gender equality.

“Too many of us in the United States ignore the oppression on our doorstep,” writes Jessica Valenti, author and founder of the blog Feministing, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. She says America today is “basking in a ‘girl power’ moment that doesn’t exist; it’s a mirage of equality that we’ve been duped into believing is the real thing.” So let’s set aside the illusion of top-rated, female-driven reality shows, Beyoncé performing at the Superbowl and other feel-good moments to look at a handful of the hard facts:

  • Of all the women murdered in the United States, about a third are killed by a husband or boyfriend. The only country with more women known to have been killed by domestic violence than the US is Russia.
  • Just 17 percent of US congressional seats are held by women
  • More than 85 percent of US counties do not have an abortion provider
  • Females comprise a majority of US residents living in poverty
  • Women earn about 76 cents on the dollar compared with men’s earnings
  • In terms of the global sex trade, an estimated 50,000 women are trafficked into the US each year
  • Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the USA each year
  • Sixty eight percent of women believe sex discrimination exists in the workplace

These sobering statistics are a reminder that while we’re blessed to live in a society that grants us basic rights and freedoms, women are still suffering from oppression in the “first world” and in most cases, sadly not even realizing it. Queen Latifah voiced these concerns two decades ago and while numerous female artists are out there doing the same thing, we need our high-profile ones to step forward and drive the point home once again.