Queen Latifah Biography (1970-)

queenlatifah, , . Born Dana Owens, on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey. The second child of Lance and Rita Owens, she is best known for her social politics as well as her gift for rhyme. When she was eight years old, a Muslim cousin gave her the nickname Latifah, which means delicate and sensitive in Arabic. Latifah began singing in the choir of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and had her first public singing triumph when she sang a version of “Home” as one of the two Dorothys in a production of The Wizard of Oz at St. Anne’s parochial school.

In her first year of high school, Latifah began informal singing and rapping in the restrooms and locker rooms. In her junior year she formed a rap group, Ladies Fresh, with her friends Tangy B and Landy D in response to the formation of another young women’s group. Soon the group was making appearances wherever they could. Latifah’s mother was a catalyst; she was in touch with the students and the music. She invited Mark James, a local disc jockey known as D.J. Mark the 45 King, to appear at a school dance. The basement of James’s parent’s house in East Orange, which was equipped with electronic and recording equipment, became the hangout of Latifah and her friends. They began to call themselves Flavor Unit.

James was beginning a career as a producer and made a demo record of ’s rap Princess of the Posse. He gave the demo to the host of Yo! MTV Raps Fred Braithwaite (professionally known as Fab 5 Freddy). The recording captured the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who immediately signed Latifah and in 1988 issued her first single, “Wrath of My Madness.” The track met with a positive response and afforded her the opportunity to launch a European tour and to perform at the Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. In 1989, Latifah released the album All Hail to the Queen, which sold over one million copies.

As she began to earn money, Latifah displayed an interest in investment-putting money into a delicatessen and a video store on the ground floor of the apartment in which she was living. She came to realize that there was an opening for her in record production. In 1991, she organized and became chief executive officer of Flavor Unit Records and Management Company headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey. By late 1993, the company had signed 17 rap groups, including the very successful Naughty by Nature. In 1993, Latifah recorded a jazz and reggae influenced album titled Black Reign. While the album sold over 500,000 copies, the single “U.N.I.T.Y.” earned Latifahh her first Grammy Award in 1995.

Shortly after, Latifah’s fame translated into film appearances, including roles in Juice, Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever (both 1991), House Party II (1992), and Set It Off (1996), in which she starred as a lesbian bank robber. She also found success in television work, most notably starring on the Fox sitcom, Living Single.

In 1999, Latifah appeared with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector. Three years later, she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mama Morton in the blockbuster musical Chicago. She also received strong reviews for 2003’s romantic comedy Bringing Down the House opposite Steve Martin and 2006’s Last Holiday.

In 2007, Queen Latifah appeared as Motormouth Maybelle in a remake of the musical movie Hairspray with John Travolta. 2008 found Queen Latifah busy with multiple projects, Mad Money, What Happens In Vegas, and The Secret Life of Bees. Additionally, she lent her voice to the character Ellie in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009).

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