Ever since she entered the male-dominated rap world and emerged triumphant on the silver screen, Queen Latifah has flaunted her fuller figure next to Hollywood’s skinnier-than-thou stars. As a musician, actress, writer, philanthropist, activist, Cover Girl spokeswoman, she does it all.
Author of a book on self-esteem titled Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, Latifah noted to People magazine, “You leave LA and people look normal. You come here and all the chicks are groomed, and the dudes have manicures and pedicures. People work out and run up hills. Most people in America aren’t like that! They still like somebody with some meat on their bones and appreciate a good fattening meal.”
Having lost her great-grandmother to type II diabetes, Queen Latifah understands the impact of illnesses related to weight and dropped 20 pounds along with 20 cholesterol points through the Jenny Craig program, making small lifestyle changes, along with diet and exercise.
Born Dana Owens, and raised in the projects and working-class districts around Newark, New Jersey, she adopted the name Latifah, Arabic for “delicate” or “sensitive,” because it was how she felt inside, adding “Queen” as her show-business name.
When she was in high school, Queen Latifah grew to 5 feet 10 inches in height. Physically strong and quick, she became a star forward, taking Irvington Public High School’s girls basketball team to two state championships. Voted the Best All-Around, Best Dancer and Most Popular student in her senior year, she went from feeling insecure about her body to becoming comfortable with herself, telling Time magazine, “I’m thankful to be a role model for women with real bodies. I had a guy tell me that his twelve-year-old daughter has a beautiful voice, but she’s afraid to sing because her classmates would tease her. But by seeing me—and she looked more like me—she started singing again, saying, ‘If Queen Latifah can do it, I can do it.’”