Black History Month 20 for 20: Queen Latifah - Ladies First
Monday January 30th I was shooting the shit on Twitter as usual, and turned my attention to the love I have for Master P. My friend Courtney with a K inspired me to start this series (as you can see below). For every weekday in February, I will profile Black persons in celebration of Black History Month. #BHM20for20 Why only 20? Y’all too busy sinning on the weekend to read (I’m joking but not really). Thank you Kourtnee.
“And nothing good gonna come to ya till you do right by me, brother you wait & see…who you calling a bitch?” – Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah is one of, if not thee greatest entertainer of all-time, man or woman. Queen Latifah is a renaissance woman, and has been entertaining us for nearly 3 decades (that’s 30 years for those who can’t count). It makes me laugh to think that people don’t realize Queen Latifah is a pioneer in rap, and is truly the queen in every facet of Hip-Hop culture.
On her first album, aptly titled All Hail The Queen, Latifah let her intentions ring out loud & clear with the Black feminism anthem, Ladies First, which featured Monie Love. The fact that Latifah made room for Monie Love shows exactly what & who Black feminism is; all inclusive, and demanding respect where otherwise excluded. In the same Black feminism spirit, Latifah’s record U.N.I.T.Y. spoke directly to Black women coming together & not taking shit off of anyone ever again. Latifah’s Flava Unit imprint introduced us to the likes of Naughty by Nature, and Apache (may he rest in peace). While still making music, Queen Latifah made the leap to television & film; she made 2 guest appearances on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, first as Hilary’s overbearing boss, and later as Will’s classmate/friend/date. Latifah made appearances in classic Black movies, including but not limited to Jungle Fever, Juice, and House Party 2. However, it was the creation of the iconic Black sitcom Living Single that stands out the most on Queen Latifah’s cinematic résumé.
The following is not an overstatement: Living Single is one of the most important shows in TV history. We’ve seen shows with groups of women as the basis, The Facts of Life, Designing Women, and Golden Girls to name a few, but never had we seen a show that revolved around the lives of a group of Black women. I’m a fan of Golden Girls; Blanche Devereux used to do it for me (don’t judge) but she has nothing on Tootie from The Facts of Life when she starred as Règine Hunter in Living Single. 4 Black professional women living in NYC during the 1990’s, while having the men play the sidekicks was something to behold. From the theme music, which was written & performed by Queen Latifah, you just knew you were watching something special. Queen Latifah’s character Khadijah James (how fucking Black & cultural is that name?) ran a Hip-Hop magazine ‘Flavor’ (a nod to her real life Flava Unit imprint), her cousin Synclaire worked as her secretary while pursuing her acting career. Then there was Maxine Shaw, attorney at law; the brash, keep it realer than most friend/neighbor. Sure, we remember the exploits of Kyle Barker & Overton Wakefield Jones but the focus of Living Single was the 4 Black women finding their niche in NYC. Queen Latifah, as all Black women do, made sure to be all-inclusive by having her male counterparts, Naughty by Nature come thru and guest star; also, Khadijah dated Grant Hill when Grant Hill was, “Grant Hill drinks Sprite” Grant Hill.
During the run of Living Single, Queen Latifah really broke out as an actress, again playing the lead in a women’s quartet in the film, Set It Off; a movie with 4 Black women (Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Vivica Fox & Kimberly Elise) starring as bank robbers. Yes, a gangsta flick with 4 Black women in the leading roles in a time where this sort of thing didn’t happen but Queen Latifah was at the forefront showing the world that it is indeed ladies first. Queen Latifah’s acting career blossomed to a point where she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Mama Morton in the critically acclaimed Chicago. Since then, Latifah has dominated the big-screen, and again being all-inclusive to her male counterparts LL Cool J & Common in Last Holiday, and Just Wright respectively. Furthermore, Queen Latifah has voiced a character in the Ice Age franchise, hosted the Grammy Awards, hosted her own daytime talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, and starred in countless other TV & film projects to this very day February of 2017.
Queen Latifah even has her own line of Cover Girl products, and has broken the mold for what society deemed to be the “standard” for beauty. Queen Latifah is the 🐐 women’s entertainer, and we need to respect her as such. Nothing made me prouder to be from this culture than the moment Three Six Mafia was on stage at the Oscars accepting their award in 2005, and Queen Latifah was on stage to announce them as winners representing the culture in a very strong manner. All hail Queen Latifah!
Next up, I highlight a Black family who lived in color.