By: Julie Ane
In the evolution of man, you can’t ignore the woman! Dana Owens, better known to the world as Queen Latifah, has breezed graciously through years of rapping, singing, modeling and acting; and fashion has followed her every step of the way.
Latifah definitely showed us that being a bigger girl didn’t mean stepping out shabby in the fashion department! Of course, everyone has a mishap here and there, but the good looks for this multi-faceted diva have definitely outweighed the bad throughout her two decades in the spotlight.
In 1989, Queen Latifah infiltrated the male dominated Hip Hop scene with her single “Ladies First.” With the help of the fresh-faced British sensation, Monie Love, it was an instant smash with the female audience, as there were few to represent at the time.
Donning Afro-centric gear, an Arabic name and empowering lyrics, Latifah was a far cry from the presentation of female rappers of today, but helped pave the way nonetheless.
Latifah followed her musical success with small acting roles in House Party 2 (1991), Jungle Fever (1991) and Juice (1992) and guest appearances on Will Smith‘s popular TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Soon after, the small screen came calling in 1993 with a trend-setting weekly sitcom about single women in the big city called Living Single. That’s a full five years before the 1998 debut of HBO’s Sex and the City!
She was cast as Khadijah James, editor and publisher of fictional magazine Flavor, which slightly mirrored Latifah’s life as head of her own entertainment company Flavor Unit. The young multi-talent was just starting to make a name for herself, and even though they dressed her like a schoolmarm on the show quite often, her personal style stayed funky.
It wasn’t long before Hollywood took notice of Queen Latifah’s acting ability, and F. Gary Gray cast her as Cleo, the gun-toting bank robber in the classic 1996 film Set It Off. The character was empowering to the extreme… in direct contrast to the image Latifah had portrayed thus far in her career.
Cleo seemed to be closest to Latifah’s personal style at the time. As an avid motorcycle rider often sporting a ponytail, running suits and kicks, she always seemed most comfortable in a fashionably chill mode from day one.
When you’re 5’10” and an above average weight, running suits can be a girl’s best friend. But it wasn’t long before the budding actress made a huge style transformation.
Hollywood noticed her range of skills, and welcomed Latifah with open arms. She went on to star in several movies and began producing her own projects. In 2002, she added “Oscar-nominated actress” to her resumé with her role as Mama in the big screen musical Chicago.
In addition to her rap albums, Queen Latifah released two jazz/soul fusion albums, The Dana Owens Album (2004) and Trav’lin Light (2007), adding to her discography and attracting a broader audience. This extension of her music only added to the appeal, and the world began to see her true talent and beauty.
Cover Girl thought so too, and made her the face of their brand, signing her on with an endorsement deal to launch their Queen Collection for women of color. All Hail the Queen!
In January 2008, Latifah signed on as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, and shed 20 pounds in just under a year. This brought on some of Latifah’s best looks, as she posed on numerous red carpets, sporting designer duds with full-figured confidence. She also garnered praise from some of Hollywood’s toughest fashion critics.
In a town where most actresses are a size 2, Ms. Owens represented a new version of mainstream acceptance with elegance. Or maybe she just brought back old Hollywood glamour… After all, Marilyn Monroe was a size 14! No matter, the Queen had arrived and was bigger than life!
With a Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy and countless appearances to host and attend various events, the red carpet seems to be a second home for Queen Latifah. Rapper, actress, singer, spokesperson, business woman, entrepreneur, beautiful, talented and fabulous at 40 – she’s every woman!
Follow Queen Latifah on Twitter @IamQueenLatifah