Since bursting onto the music scene in 1989 as one of the first successful women in hip hop music, Queen Latifah has made the transition from singing and rapping to acting.
She explained on The Early Show that In her latest film, "Chicago," she gets to show off her skills, minus the rapping, portraying prison warden Mama Morten, keeping accused murderers, played by Rene Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, under control.
"Chicago" is an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. It tells the story of Roxie Hart (Zellweger) who dreams of following in the footsteps of vaudeville performer Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones).
Roxie gets her wish, but in an unexpected way. Both she and Velma are sent to prison for separate murder charges. Roxie is able to obtain the service of legendary lawyer Billy Flynn, and her career soon blooms as her world moves from the prison to the courtroom to the stage. But Velma refuses to step aside for her competitor.
Queen Latifah says that as a child, she loved musicals. Her favorite was "The Wiz." She played a lounge singer in the movie "Living Out Loud," but she had never been in a movie musical. When she heard "Chicago" was being made into a film, Queen Latifah says she worked hard to get a part. She says, initially, they didn't have her in mind for Matron Mama, but she eventually won the producers over.
Queen Latifah may be remembered by long time fans as a dignified female rapper, but she has made acting inroads. She acted in small roles in movies, such as "Jungle Fever" (1991), "Juice" (1992) and "My Life" (1993). In 1996, she made an impression as Cleo, a lesbian bank robbers coping with poverty.
She made her biggest impact on television as part of the ensemble of "Living Single" (Fox, 1993-97). The show was about young black career women and their friends. Queen Latifah also had her own short-lived syndicated talk show (1999-2001).
Queen Latifah's next movie will have her co-starring with Steve Martin, in the comedy "Bringing Down the House."
Some Facts About Queen Latifah
- Born Dana Elaine Owens in Newark, N.J., March 18, 1970
- She was given the nickname 'Latifah', Arabic for delicate and sensitive, by a cousin while she was a teen
- Queen Latifah grew up in East Orange, N.J. and trained in karate and use of firearms by her policeman father
- Queen Latifah was the power forward of two state championship winning high school basketball teams
- She formed a rhyming group, Ladies Fresh, with two high school friends; won high school talent contest
- In 1989, Queen Latifah released her debut album, "All Hail the Queen"
- In 1991, she made her first series guest spot, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"; acted in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever"; and had her first major supporting role in "House Party 2"
- Queen Latifah was put on probation and fined in 1996 for carrying firearms in her car
- The actress is also CEO of Flavor Unit, her own record label/talent management/video production firm