Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), professionally known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, model, television producer, record producer, comedienne, and talk show host. Born in Newark, New Jersey, she signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1989. In November 1989, she had released her debut album All Hail the Queen (1989), featuring the hit single “Ladies First” with Monie Love. Latifah released her second album Nature of a Sista (1991), which was her final album with Tommy Boy Records.
In 1993, Latifah starred as Khadijah James on the FOX sitcom Living Single, from 1993 to 1998. Her third album Black Reign (1993), which went gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and peaked at number 60 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album also includes the hit single “U.N.I.T.Y.” which won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1994 and hit the Billboard Hot 100. Latifah starred in the lead role of Set It Off (1996) as Cleopatra “Cleo” Sims, alongside Jada Pinkett-Smith. Between 1996 and 2000, controversy between Latifah and Foxy Brown received widespread media attention. She released her fourth album in 1998 Order in the Court (1998) with Motown Records. Queen Latifah gained mainstream success after appearing in Chicago (2002) as Matron “Mama” Morton and she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, losing to Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Latifah released her fifth album The Dana Owens Album (2004), which peaked number 16 on the Billboard 200 chart. She had appeared in a number of films after Chicago such as, Bringing Down the House (2003), Taxi (2004), Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2005), Beauty Shop (2005), Last Holiday (2006), and Hairspray (2007). In 2007 to 2009, she released two more studio albums, Trav’lin’ Light (2007), which received a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, and Persona (2009). In 2012, Latifah co-starred in Joyful Noise (2012) as Vi Rose Hill, with Dolly Parton and Keke Palmer. Queen Latifah created The Queen Latifah Show which ran from late 2013 to early 2015. Latifah played blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film Bessie (2015).
She has long been considered one of hip-hop’s pioneer feminists. Queen Latifah has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. Her work in music, film, and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nominations, three Emmy Award nominations (with one win as producer) and an Academy Award nomination.
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 (لطيفة laţīfa), 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.
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.
In early 2003, Latifah had breast reduction surgery which downsized her F size breasts to a DD cup size, as a way to reduce back and shoulder pain. 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.