Side Hustle: Queen Latifah


Queen Latifah, born Dana Owens, has been a star in the first right for more than two decades. Latifah has been blazing trails and breaking down barriers for rappers and women alike in the entertainment industry longer than any of her peers. Not only has she set the bar, but one’s done it longer, or with more grace since. Not Lauryn Hill. Not Missy Elliott. Nikki Minaj can’t even hold a candle. Rapper. Actress. Singer.  Spokeswoman/Pitchwoman. Producer. Manager. Talk Show Host. Whatever the medium, Latifah reigns supreme. Let’s break it down:

Rapper-Turned-Singer Hustle:  From her first full album, 1989’s All Hail The Queen, she’d be a force in the rap game for the next decade: Nature of a Sista (‘91), Black Reign (‘93) and Order In The Court (‘98). In that time, she wrote two of the biggest womanist anthems ever, “Ladies First” and the Grammy-winning “Unity” (1995), paving the road for generations of female rappers. Latifah’s tepid 2009 rap album hasn’t stopped her from recording album #7 in 2013. But in 2004, she showed her softer side, using her gubment name to flex her singing chops on The Dana Owens Album, a collection of jazz and pop standards, followed by 2007’s Grammy nominated Trav’lin’ Light, which featured star-studded (Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Stevie Wonder). That same year, she performed at the Hollywood Bowl backed by a 10-piece band. In 2011, she sang “Who Can I Turn To” with Tony Bennett on his Duets II project. OK, Dana…

Actress Hustle: Plenty of rappers have caught the acting bug, but none have shown such range and fortitude as Latifah–from sitcoms, action, comedy action to musicals. Starting with bit parts The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, Spin City and Eve, she morphed into sitcom queen, as Flava magazine owner Khadijah James in Living Single (1993-98). On film, after small parts in House Party 2, Jungle Fever, Juice, her role as the rowdy Cleo Sims in the femme heist flick, Set It Off (1996) positioned her as a leading lady–which led to formidable star turns in films ranging from Hairspray to Barbershop 2, to Living Out Loud and Just Wright. She’s starred opposite some of Hollywood’s biggest stars (Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, etc). But as “Mama” Morton” in the film adaptation of Broadway, musical Chicago, Latifah literally brought the house down–and garnered multiple awards (Golden Globe, Screen Actor Guild, Film Critics, NAACP Image) in addition to an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, the first hip-hop artist to do so.

Endorsement Hustle: When you’re a big girl, with a 1990s Black militant persona, the last thing you’d expect is to be mainstream tour de force. But fast forward to a new millennium, and Latifah’s not just a pretty brown face for CoverGirl, but has her own line of cosmetics just for Black women called CoverGirl Queen Collection. (Not even Beyonce has her own damn line!). Losing weight for her health, as a breast reduction, she’s far from a skinny minnie, and can still pitch Jenny Craig without becoming another unrecognizable stick figure, yell-singing diet spokeswomen (cough, JHud, cough). She’s also reppin’ for Curvations ladies undergarments, and got her own perfume coming called — What else? — Queen.

Talking Head Hustle: Latifah already had a successful talker The Queen Latifah Show (1999-2001). She’s  set to re-enter the arena with a new, as yet unnamed talk show co-executive produced by Queen,Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, her Set If Off co-star, slated for 2013.

Host Hustle: Latifah has handled hosting duties for the BET Awards and The People’s Choice Awards in. In May 2012, La curiously hosted the Long Beach (CA) Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival. Don’t read too much into that, however: She denies it was a “coming out” party, declining to discuss her private life publicly and put an end to all the fuss. Uh, Dana? As long as TMZ and gossip mags exist, the  people will never stop fussing…

Entertainment Exec Hustle: As head honcho of Flava Unit Entertainment, Latifah has been running things behind the scenes for almost as long as she’s been a star. Along with her partner, Shakim Comprere she started Flava Unit as a label introducing the world to Naughty By Nature, Zhane`, Apache, among others. AS a management firm, Flava Unit shaped the careers of LL Cool J, OutKast, SWV, Faith Evans, Total, and Monica, among others. On TV end she’s executive produced both her talk shows, past and upcoming, the VH1 sitcom, Single Ladies and BET’s Let’s Stay Together. And pretty much every film she’s starred in she’s also produced: Just Wright, Perfect Holiday, Beauty Shop, The Cookout 1 & 2 and Bringing Down The House and the upcoming Percentage. TV projects on deck: The Star Next Door, a music competition series for The CW network, an all-black cast remake of Steel Magnolias for Lifetime, and a female-lead police drama pilot for CBS.

Charities Hustle: The Queen is not just about making that dough. She gives back on a regular basis to a number of charitable causes, like Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign to help raise Global awareness of AID/HIV, Generosity Water, dedicated to ending the clean water crisis in developing countries around the world, The Foundation For the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) which helps all women gain the confidence and skills they need to reach their full individual potential, The Starlight Children’s Foundation, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America and City Meals on Wheels, among others. Her Majesty’s high profile helps to raise awareness for these and other concerns–to which we humbly bow down.