When the world first heard her unique, two-octave vocal range on 1989’s All Hail The Queen, Queen Latifah was all about inclusion. “Ladies First” – the classic collaboration with Monie Love – spoke to the importance of women in civilization, and remains a symbol of female empowerment. Almost four decades later, the New Jersey native still practices what she has been preaching, by providing opportunities for the next generation of Black creatives with her Queen Collective program developed in partnership with Procter & Gamble, Flavor Unit Entertainment, and Tribeca Studios.
Ahead of the premiere of two films produced under her initiative, Queen Latifah spoke to ESSENCE about her groundbreaking collaboration with P&G, the directors involved, and how critical it is to uplift Black women in film.
“Women of color, women period, and people of color, women and non-binary, are underrepresented, hugely underrepresented when it comes to film and when it comes to advertisement in front of and behind the camera,” Queen Latifah says of the inspiration for this initiative, now in its fourth year. “After sitting on a panel with Mark Pritchard at this women’s event in New York a few years back, we walked off that stage together and we were like, ‘Man, we got to do something about this,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, we sure do.’”
Out of the conversation between her and Pritchard, one of the concepts that came to fruition was the Queen Collective, which allows women and non-binary people to direct their own films. “We finance them; we support them through the filmmaking process, and we provide distribution so that they can tell their stories,” the Oscar-nominated actress states. With the continued lack of representation for people of color in the media, the timing of this project was perfect, and has allowed many up-and-coming filmmakers with the opportunities, knowledge, and resources needed to move their careers to the next level.
This year, Queen Collective tapped six Black directors – Idil Ibrahim, Jenn Shaw, Luchina Fisher, Vashni Korin, Imani Dennison, and Contessa Gayles – to deliver on its unwavering commitment to widen the perspective of audiences on a global scale by producing five original documentaries and, for the first time, a scripted short. The six films will be released throughout the year, beginning with “In Her Element,” directed by Ibrahim, and “Gaps,” which was directed by Shaw. The two films premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in January and are now available to view on demand across all BET platforms, including BET, BET HER, BET SOUL, BET JAMS, and PLUTO TV.
In addition to increasing the representation discrepancy for Black filmmakers, what the Queen Collective is doing also has a domino effect as it pertains to all facets of what it takes to properly produce, film, and release a project. “Our directors go on to hire at least 50% diverse crews and that’s one of the benefits of it, that we’re trying to build a pipeline as well, of not just great directors, but people who are qualified in every aspect of making films,” Queen Latifah says.
“So, whether it’s visual effects, whether it’s hair, makeup, wardrobe, costuming, cinematography, grips, gaffers, there’s so many jobs you can have,” she adds. “So many people are required to make one film that all that experience that could be gained is unbelievable. And that’s what we would like to build. The Queen Collective is one of the ways in which we’re doing that, and we look forward to presenting our directors and our films to you.”