There’s something to be said about a woman who dubs herself a queen. For Dana Owens, doing so was only fitting, given that her mother instilled in the star the drive to establish the very queendom we see today. Now armed with a Grammy, SAG Award and Golden Globe, Queen Latifah is also an Oscar-nominated mogul who produces, manages and forges partnerships with major entertainment corporations such as Netflix.
Her successful career has not only paved the way for the next generation of multifaceted femcees, but it has also allowed her to mentor and invest in other creatives and in her native Newark, New Jersey. Here are the receipts on her 30-year reign.
1. SHE FOSTERED FEMINISM IN HIP-HOP
Latifah’s 1989 debut album featured empowering songs such as her hit “Ladies First.” In a male-dominated genre, she carved out a space for other women rappers to be political, uplifting and unexploited. She was also one of the first to team up with other women MCs, from Monie Love to Rapsody.
2. SHE SUPPORTED OTHER ARTISTS
Latifah formed a management company with longtime collaborator Shakim Compere to help artists get out of bad contractual agreements. Her company, Flavor Unit, later added a music label and eventually expanded into other mediums, including television and film.
3. SHE NEVER LET ANYONE PUT HER IN A BOX
Inspired by Will Smith’s trajectory from musician to actor, Latifah embraced opportunities outside of hip-hop, turning them into stepping-stones. When she wanted to release a jazz album, for example, Latifah joined the Chicago movie cast to showcase her talents within the genre.
4. SHE REMAINS CONNECTED TO HER COMMUNITY
As a daughter of Newark, Latifah holds her hometown close to her heart. The mogul’s recent investment in affordable housing is a love letter to the city. The $14 million project includes 20 three-family townhomes, a three-story mixed-use building, a fitness center and 1,900 square feet of commercial space.
5. SHE UNDERSTOOD SELF-CARE BEFORE IT BECAME TRENDY
In her twenties Latifah learned that stress undermined her physical well-being, and she took the necessary steps to manage her workload. Whenever burnout becomes an issue, Latifah pauses to check in with herself or plans a getaway to replenish her mind, body and soul.
6. SHE’S A WOMAN OF FAITH
Money doesn’t drive Latifah, her beliefs do. Entering the music industry at a young age, she relied on prayer and her instincts to navigate the ins and outs. Even today Latifah leans on her spirituality to make business decisions. She’s admitted to turning down deals with large payouts because they just didn’t “sit right in [her] spirit.”
7. SHE’S SHAPING THE FUTURE
As the founder of The Queen Collective Shorts, Latifah aims to increase racial and gender diversity in Hollywood. The goal of the collective is to help finance, produce and distribute films by women of color.