If you are anxious for down-to-earth Jersey girl Dana Owens (a.k.a. hip-hop’s Queen Latifah) to come out, don’t hold your breath.
If, however, you’ve derived pleasure from Queen Latifah’s unintended “Gotcha!” moments of being outed — and there are many — so, too, have the media.
But the media’s cat and mouse game with the Queen leads us to another “Gotcha!” moment that’s not.
In the upcoming September 2011 issue of Sister 2 Sister (S2S) magazine, which features Latifah on the cover, the Queen, in an in-depth interview with its publisher Jamie Foster Brown, discussed everything from her days touring with fellow rap artists and her brother’s untimely death to the beef between hip-hop and R&B recording artists Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim.
MORE IN THE BLADE: ABC NEWS REPORTER COMES OUT REPORTING ON QUINTO OUTING
In the interview, Queen Latifah also revealed to S2S the type of women she likes:
Queen Latifah: “…I just like ladies who have class. Period. And if it’s “T and A” you’re sellin’, that’s fine, as long as that’s what you’re selling. But you don’t have to show everything, you know? You can hold some back and just be yourself and let your personality shine and let your individuality show. To me, that’s sexier. A confident woman is a sexy woman, in my opinion. And I think guys find that to be the same way.”
Jamie Foster Brown: “Right.”
Queen Latifah: “You don’t have to show everything; you don’t have to put it all out there to attract a guy. Because what kind of guy are you gonna attract? What is he really looking for? If you wanna be a booty call, I guess you can throw it all out there. (laughs) But if you’re looking for a relationship with someone who respects you and respects things other than your body—your mind, your spirit, your personality, your smile—then you have to kind of exude that more so than just yo’ booty and yo’ titties.”
The blogosphere ran with plucked quotes from Latifah’s interview, and news of her “coming out” proliferated blogs and respected news outlets like ABC.com, all heralding that the Queen is out.
“This is significant because (A) Queen Latifah is amazing, and ladies should have some info on what reels her in and (B) because she’s never discussed her sexuality before. After years of dodging questions, especially since the speculation about the split between her and longtime girlfriend Jeanette Jenkins, props to Queen Latifah for opening up about her love for ladies. It’s not that I think a celebrity’s sexuality is any of our business. It’s just that the choice to be open about it—as a human being—is a powerful one. Queen Latifah is a role model for many women. I believe her decision to come out will only continue to inspire them,” wrote Ami Angelowicz at The Frisky blog.
While there is a willingness of both the media and the public to believe that Latifah came out to S2S, these quotes are taken wildly out of context. And these quotes, understandably, can be taken out of context, because there is solid evidence of Latifah’s sexual orientation.
For example, long before this latest hubbub, the black celebrity gossip blog Bossip.com outed Latifah in September 2010 with photos of Latifah and gal pal and “personal trainer” Jeanette Jenkins in a tender embrace that was not intended for public viewing. The reliable “chitlin’ circuit” told us our closeted Queen was “in the life.” But when photos of Queen Latifah and Jenkins intimately embracing aboard a private yacht in France went viral on the Internet, the public’s long-awaited “Gotcha” moment was revealed.
For years it has been rumored that Queen Latifah has held private same-sex parties with all in attendance understanding they had to be on the “down-low” about it. That intimate and tender embrace Queen Latifah shared with her long-time friend/ trainer/lover? aboard the yacht in France was supposed to be on the “down-low,” too.
Part of what fuels the on-going flurry of queries concerning Queen Latifah’s sexual orientation was her spot-on portrayal of a butch lesbian in the 1996 movie “Set it Off.” Earlier this summer, Latifah’s character on the show Single Ladies, which she produces, was accidentally outed, and worked out in a positive way for the character. Viewers and the blogosphere began to speculate that Latifah was channeling her personal life through her small-screen character.
But Latifah would never publicly out herself. In a November 2007 interview with People magazine, denying rumors that she’s a lesbian, Latifah said, “My private life is my private life. Whomever I might be with, I don’t feel the need to share it. I don’t think I ever will.”
Reading Latifah’s quotes about what makes a confident and sexy woman, I couldn’t help but think she’s that sister; she’s talking about herself. In 1989, at age 19, Queen Latifah changed the way many of us viewed hip-hop with her hit single “Ladies First” from her first album “All Hail the Queen,” rebuking misogynistic lyrics, and bringing to young women an uplifting message of self-respect and empowerment.
Latifah’s sexual orientation is constantly queried, like so many black sisters — straight or gay — because she is also gender non-conforming to the white feminine aesthetic. The cultural indicators of how far afield Latifah, and sisters like me, are from the white feminine aesthetic paradigm is measured by our language, size and hair length, to name a few.
Latifah’s size makes her less feminine to the white feminine aesthetic paradigm, but she has, nonetheless, starred in blockbuster romantic comedies like “Last Holiday” and “Just Wright.”
Depending on whom the Queen’s talking to, her vernacular will range from proper English to hip-hop. Sister 2 Sister magazine caters to an urban hip-hop readership and her language in the interview was colorful and fitting.
A failure to contextualize the different social and cultural spheres Latifah occupies will always render a misread like the media have done.
And, as far the media pondering how long it will be before the Queen comes out? This is what she said in the S2S interview: “It doesn’t matter to me what somebody’s is writing. I know what’s true about me and what’s not true.”