Queen Latifah is tired. And still, there's something radiant. "You're going to love her," one from the royal court of assistants standing...
WASHINGTON — Queen Latifah is tired.
And still, there’s something radiant.
“You’re going to love her,” one from the royal court of assistants standing at her door promised.
“She’s incredibly charming,” chirped another.
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She’s been at this all week, again and again answering copycat questions in promotion of her new movie, “The Secret Life of Bees.”
“Charming” seems like a lot to ask at this point.
But doubt, and you’ve done the one thing the world should know never to do to Queen Latifah: underestimate her.
“I feel like I could go even further,” the actress/rapper/jazz crooner is saying now of her creative potential. “It’s crazy, sometimes I feel like I’m just running over. I’m spilling over with ideas and things I’m attracted to.
“One minute I’m playing the drums and the next minute I’m conceiving a script, a film idea, and then I’m on my iTunes, downloading new music and getting into it, then I’m painting, you know, or doing some mixed-media project, some art project.”
And certainly she has done her share of creation this year. There is the movie, a new hip-hop album, voice-over work on the next installment of the animated “Ice Age” films and that surprise appearance as Gwen Ifill on “Saturday Night Live’s” recent parody of the vice presidential debate.
But “Bees,” based on the best-selling book by Sue Monk Kidd, has been a long time coming. The civil rights-era story of a poor white girl who escapes an abusive father to find refuge in the home of three elegant black women was brought to Latifah as a potential movie project five years ago.
“I thought it was great … tumultuous and beautiful at the same time,” she says. “And I just thought it was hilarious that it was written by a white woman. That’s what kind of struck me in an interesting way as well, because I thought she did a great job capturing these characters and capturing their blackness without being stereotypical in any way.”
The project faltered and traded hands between directors for several years until it was brought back to Latifah, 38, with Dakota Fanning’s name attached as the young girl. Then Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo signed on to play the other women. “And I’m like, ‘Okaaaay, we got us a little movie, here, you know?’ ” Latifah recalls.
Latifah first became “Queen” in the late 1980s among beat-boxers and rappers in her native New York suburbs. The daughter of a teacher and a cop, she was 19 when her first album, “All Hail the Queen,” was released in 1989. She nabbed a Grammy for the single “U.N.I.T.Y” in 1994 and pushed beyond hip-hop with the release of an album of jazz standards in 2004. Along the way she began acting, in films such as “Jungle Fever” and “Juice.” Her Fox sitcom, “Living Single,” stretched from 1993 to 1998. The Oscar nomination for her work as a brassy prison warden in “Chicago” arrived in 2003.
In 1992, Latifah’s brother died riding a motorcycle she’d recently bought for him. It had an incalculable effect on her life, and it made her want to live even more fully.
“To me, life is for the living — especially when you see people who are young and lose their lives or have disabilities and they can’t do anything about it. Or they’re sick and they’re fighting to stay healthy. It just makes me want to live more, out of respect for them. Like if they could, they would, you know? So, here I can, so I’m going to.”