For the woman born Dana Elaine Owens, it was no easy road to becoming “Queen Latifah”.
Before she began her career as a rapper, singer, and actress, Queen Latifah faced various struggles in her youth. Her father was a police officer and Vietnam veteran, who struggled with drug addiction, before leaving the family for Latifah’s mother, Rita, to raise alone. Latifah told the New York Times, Any person who can take two kids basically without any support from their father and put them through Catholic school, because she felt they deserved a better education, is doing all right.”
School wasn’t much easier. Latifah faced racism and bullying for her size, which caused her to become self-conscious. She told US Weekly, “I mean, I was always the biggest girl in my class… One thing I was self‑conscious about was my breasts. I thought they were so big.” She elaborated on how she began to rebuild her confidence in an interview with Good Housekeeping, writing, “I was not born a size 2. I’m not skinny, period. When I was around 18, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘You’re either going to love yourself or hate yourself.’ And I decided to love myself. That changed a lot of things.”
Even so, life had more to throw at Latifah. Her brother, Lancelot Owens Jr., was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was 23. After, she and a friend would be the victim of a carjacking, which spurred problematic coping mechanisms. “Drinking a bunch of alcohol, numbing myself. Every day I would be faded, like a painting that’s just not vibrant, whose edges are dull, I wasn’t living my full life.”
She credits the transformation in her life to God. “I know that I’m not a saint, but God’s love is there for me. I know that I need help to make it through every day, so I pray to God to help me do the best I can, to lift me up when I am tired and help me develop into the person He wants me to be…I am always surrounded by His love, and He is always there.”