Media mogul Queen Latifah says her most challenging movie role was playing an aggressive butch lesbian in the 1996 film Set It Off.
The 46-year-old New Jersey native recently sat down with actress Tracee Ellis Ross for an in-depth interview in the March 2017 issue of IN-STYLE magazine.
On playing the role of militant bank robber Cleo in Set It Off, Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens, said she warned her younger siblings that there might be public backlash to their big sister playing a gay character on the big screen. The hip-hop community frowned upon homosexuality (and still does).
“When I got the role of amateur bank robber Cleo Sims in Set It Off, I sat down with my younger siblings and told them, ‘Listen, I’m playing a gay character. Your classmates might tease you or say negative things about it. But I’m doing it because I believe I can bring positive attention to the gay African-American community, and I believe that I can do a great job as an actor.’ They understood, and when those things inevitably happened in school, they were OK with it.”
Although Latifah has lived an openly lesbian lifestyle with a plethora of women over the decades, her closet door remains firmly bolted from the inside.
Queen Latifah on overcoming her insecurity about her weight:
"I used to get caught up in comparing myself, especially in terms of body type, but I realized that often the people I envied were missing important things that I had in abundance — I’ve had romance and danger, family to come home to, and open-mindedness. It’s great to have plans and a vision for your life, but it’s more important to be open to the unexpected. That’s the secret to living a juicy, magical life."
On her admiration for untapped talent Solange Knowles:
“I respect people who started from the bottom and then grinded up—the ones who work as hard as I did when I started rapping. I’ve been a fan of Solange Knowles from the beginning. The biggest artist in the world is her older sister, yet she never relied on that. It doesn’t matter to me if the masses know who you are. I care about how you behaved when you were broke and whether you’ve stayed loyal to the people who rolled along with you back then—that's the good sh-t.”