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Multi-hyphenate is an understatement when it comes to Queen Latifah and her wide-ranging entertainment career.
New Jersey-born Dana Owens made her own way into the rap world in the late 1980s, taking over televisions everywhere as Khadijah James in the 1990s sitcom, Living alone†
From her melodic raps to her iconic roles, Queen Latifah has spent most of her career in her own class, an accolade she says she has been able to brazenly show herself in a notoriously image-driven industry.
“As far as I know, I haven’t been pressured by anyone in Hollywood for quite some time because of my weight because I created a job for myself and it’s been created for a while and through a lot of work,” she tells Yahoo Life.
A recipient of awards including a GRAMMY, a Golden Globe and a BET Lifetime Achievement Award, her years of hard work and dedication have allowed Latifah to live comfortably in her body for years, a luxury she knows most entertainers don’t have.
“When you hear this from the people who give you jobs, from the people who create your livelihood, and this is your primary form of income, I can’t even imagine the pressure people have been under in our company,” she says.
Latifah also points out that a lack of size diversity in the media is fueling the existing pressure for entertainers to look a certain way by any means necessary.
“Who does the media actually show? When you grow up and you don’t see many representations of people who look like you, then of course you put that pressure on yourself,” she says.
One thing you won’t see Queen Latifah doing is going to extremes for an event or function, a choice she believes is to everyone’s benefit.
“I can’t imagine dropping 50, 60 pounds, getting ripped, and then sticking with that. Not only will that not be natural to who I am, it’s not going to be fun. You won’t like me because I might be angry,” she says.
But while she herself won’t rethink her lifestyle to fit into an award show dress, she knows that some will still go out of their way to get their version of red carpet ready.
“I know the people who go through crazy things to look a certain way on that carpet. I’m just happy for them and it comes out the way they want it to,” she says. “But lord, I know they’ll be happy if they can just get a burger after that. They can’t wait to go to the after party or whatever comes next and go ‘Ah, it worked,'” she says.
Suffice it to say, you’d be hard-pressed to find Queen Latifah partaking in a fad diets ahead of a movie premiere, but it’s best to believe she’ll be working that red carpet every time.
“No matter what anyone else does on that red carpet, I’m going to shine anyway. When I’m feeling good, I’m going to shine and it doesn’t matter what I wear, what size I am… the energy goes come out,” she says.
In line with her desire to promote healthy conversations about body image, Latifah has partnered with It’s Bigger Than Me, an organization that encourages open, honest and shameless conversations about obesity.
“It’s so important with this It’s Bigger Than Me campaign to really unpack all the complex issues that come with it when it comes to body image, when it comes to obesity. We need to have a dialogue and I think this is a good time is because I think people are brave enough to open up,” she says.
Though she checked off veteran status years ago, Queen Latifah is not immune to the fickle nature of the entertainment industry and speaks strongly about the importance of self-care as a means of survival in such a turbulent profession.
“This company is [up and down] with us you don’t know what the next role will be and unless you specifically go for certain types of roles and you’re not crazy like me the equalizer at 50… stepping down doors and diving into things,” she says of the physically demanding roles she takes pride in.
With so many years in the game, she now knows when it’s time for a little extra self-care.
“I have to take care of myself. I know my body well enough to know when to exercise a little more, rest more, have treatments,” she says.
But just because she knows she needs the extra TLC, she admits she’s not always ready for it right away.
“Whether I can do it at the time or not, at least I know my body well enough to know what it needs,” she says. “What I need to do is what’s good for me, makes me feel healthy, makes me feel physically positive and realistic with what my body is capable of and what it’s not, and accept myself for who I am. “
For Latifah, looking good without feeling the need to push herself is something she hopes will become the new normal.
“I would love the day when those things really meet and they’re the same. That the person you normally are can dress, fly, but don’t have to do all the crazy things to look a certain way you’re not natural,” she says.
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