Queen Latifah is mourning the loss of her mother, Rita Owens who died after a long battle with congestive heart failure on Wednesday.
Queen Latifah, who was born Dana Owens, announced her mother's passing in a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday.
"It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my mother, Rita Owens passed away today,” Latifah said. “Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth. She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldly but pragmatic, a woman of great faith and certainly the love of my life."
"She had struggled with a heart condition for many years and her battle is now over. I am heartbroken but know she is at peace. Thank you for your kindness, support and respect for our privacy at this time. Much Love, Dana Owens (aka Queen Latif?ah), forever Rita Owens’ daughter.”
Latifah, 48, first opened up about her mother's heart condition in a 2015 interview with Parade magazine. She said Owens first began experiencing symptoms of heart failure in 2004.
"My mom started feeling fatigued easily -- even after a full night’s sleep, she’d wake up exhausted."
Latifah said Owens was diagnosed with CHF after she collapsed at work one day.
"She never smoked, never drank, wasn’t overweight. She had sleep apnea [a disorder which causes you to briefly stop breathing while you sleep, and can lead to heart failure] but didn’t realize it."
Latifah said Owens' doctor prescribed a CPAP breathing machine to treat her sleep apnea, but by then Owens' heart condition was irreversible.
Owens made regular guest appearances playing Latifah's mom on the '90s hit TV comedy series 'Living Single'. She also had bit parts in Latifah's comedy movies The Cookout (2004) and Cookout 2 (2011).
Owens, a Wayne, New Jersey resident, previously co-owned Mangos soul food and Caribbean restaurant on Main Street in Hackensack. According to Northjersey.com, Owens, who ran Mangos with business partner Annette Coleman, served several pro basketball players when the restaurant opened for business in 2006.
In 2016, Owens taped a video with Queen Latifah for the American Heart Association as part of the "Rise Above Heart Failure" initiative to increase awareness and decrease hospitalizations due to heart failure.
In the video, Latifah spoke about how Owens was always there for her and inspired her after Owens' diagnosis. "My mom is the strongest person I know," Latifah said.
Latifah's celebrity friends paid tribute to Owens on Twitter.com.
Rapper Missy Elliott tweeted:
"My condolences to my sis @IAMQUEENLATIFAH I know how close you & Mama Owens were we always talked about our moms & my 1st time meeting her she treated me like family I know this hit so hard.. i lift you up in Prayer for strength... you are loved... #RitaOwens rest peacefully."
And Latifah's 'Living Single' co-star Erika Alexander wrote:
"Godspeed to our beloved mother Rita Owens. She was one-of-a-kind and I’m better off having met her. Luckily she left her beautiful palimpsest, on her daughter, my friend and sister Dana. Godspeed gorgeous Rita. Xo you Dana. @IAMQUEENLATIFAH".
Godspeed to our beloved mother Rita Owens. She was one-of-a-kind and I’m better off having met her. Luckily she left her beautiful palimpsest, on her daughter, my friend and sister Dana. Godspeed gorgeous Rita. Xo you Dana. @IAMQUEENLATIFAH https://t.co/W1AIzfmHaq
— Erika Alexander (@EAlexTheGreat) March 22, 2018
My condolences to my sis @IAMQUEENLATIFAH I know how close you & Mama Owens were we always talked about our moms & my 1st time meeting her she treated me like family I know this hit so hard?i lift you up in Prayer for strength?? you are loved?? #RitaOwens rest peacefully?? pic.twitter.com/RTKjbihePO
— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) March 22, 2018
Photo by Dan Steinberg/Getty Images