Queen Latifah’s role as lesbian bank robber Cleo Sims in “Set It Off” jumpstarted her film career but accepting the role wasn’t easy.
In an interview with Tracee Ellis Ross for InStyle, Ross asked if there were any career decisions that were hard to make. For Latifah, Cleo was a role that she had to discuss with her family.
“When I got the role of amateur bank robber Cleo Sims in ‘Set It Off,’ I sat down with my younger siblings and told them, ‘Listen, I’m playing a gay character. Your classmates might tease you or say negative things about it,’ ” Latifah says. “But I’m doing it because I believe I can bring positive attention to the gay African-American community, and I believe that I can do a great job as an actor.’ They understood, and when those things inevitably happened in school, they were OK with it.”
Latifah has been famously quiet about her own personal life. In a 2008 interview with The New York Times, Latifah made it clear she wasn’t going to get candid about her sexuality.
“I don’t have a problem discussing the topic of somebody being gay, but I do have a problem discussing my personal life… I don’t care if people think I’m gay or not. Assume whatever you want. You do it anyway,” Latifah said.
Queen Latifah currently plays the mother of a transgender woman on FOX’s “Star.”