The day I was slated to speak to Queen Latifah about her upcoming project, The Equalizer, Monique Coleman shared her disappointing experience on High School Musical, relaying how her character always wore headbands because no one on set could style her hair. It was, unfortunately, a familiar narrative among Black actresses, but not one that has seemed to befall the Queen.
As I talked to Queen Latifah about being Executive Producer and the leading star of her new CBS show, I also asked her about being a Black woman in the entertainment industry and how much control she’s had over making sure her physical representation is as on point as the narratives of the Black women she’s portrayed over the years.
“I think I got very fortunate,” the 50-year-old says pointing out she, too, had to learn how to do her hair very early on in her career because she couldn’t afford stylists. It was when she played Khadijah James on Living Single, however, that hairstylist Julie Baker taught her a lesson not only about hairstyling but hair health.
“When I went on television, I started doing my hair so often because I had an album out at the same time I was doing the show so my hair was getting done four or five times a week –getting pressed and pressed. My edges started breaking and I was like ‘Yo!,’ Queen says with her no-nonsense Jersey-bred energy. “Now you’re talking to Hip-Hop’s Queen Latifah, not Khadijah, I wasn’t quite there yet. So I was like, ‘I ain’t about to lose my edges over no show.’
Baker told Queen she was going to have to grow out her perm if she was going to constantly manipulate her hair and the actress followed suit. That’s why, to this day, with Iasia Merriweather now styling her hair, Queen’s strands continue to stay on point, even as she’s kicking butt on her new drama as the first Black woman to step into the reimagined role.
“Black women been equalizing for a long time,” she says of taking on the part. “We have been equalizing for hundred and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years so I think it’s only right that you get to see it live on television.”
Check out our full conversation with Queen Latifah in the video above as she talks about stepping into the role of Robyn McCall and tune in to episode one of The Equalizer when it airs after the Superbowl on CBS Sunday night at 10 pm.