Dana Owens has been using her stage name, Queen Latifah, for the past three decades, but as she revealed in a recent interview, her late mother Rita Owens made fun of the moniker and refused to use it.
The Grammy-Award winning star recently sat down for an interview at the NBC Nightly News segment “Her Take’ with Cynthia McFadden” to discuss the beginnings of her career, her on-going projects and more.
Reflecting on the boldness of her stage name, Owens revealed that she first discovered “Latifah” in a book of Arabic names when she was 8. It means delicate, sensitive and kind.
“I’m a bit of a tomboy, but I’m actually kind of sensitive and delicate and get my feelings hurt,” Latifah explained about her name choice.
She added the “Queen” part when she signed her first recording contract at 17.
“My mother kinda laughed. She was like, ‘Queen? I ain’t calling you Queen.’”
The name perfectly puts on display the two sides of her personality. Queen, bold and powerful, and Latifah, her most vulnerable self.
“That’s the story of my life,” she explained. “I think that’s the wonderful thing about a woman. We can be strong, but then we can be soft and kind and sensitive.”
Although Rita Owens refused to address her daughter as Queen, she was her biggest supporter in life, and Dana made sure to take care of Rita in return until her death in 2018.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news, my mother, Rita Owens passed away today,” Latifah wrote in a statement at the time. “Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth. She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldly but pragmatic, a woman of great faith and certainly the love of my life.”
Latifah is said to be left devastated by her mom’s passing, but as she deals with grief, the 49-year-old has now started to focus her energy on giving back to the community.
Her most recent project, the Queen Collective, aims to promote the importance of gender and racial equality behind-the-scenes in the entertainment industry.
She partnered with Protect & Gamble and Tribeca Studios to provide mentorship and production support to talented female directors of color. They will also create various distribution opportunities for their films.
“White guys have been able to tell their story in every sort of way, and unfortunately it hasn’t been that way for women. And it hasn’t been that way for people of other colors or genders. That’s the part that’s missing. We want to make sure that everyone is allowed to tell their story.”
Latifah is also working on new music and has many other projects going on, like the construction of apartments on an abandoned lot in Newark.