There’s a moment in the now-classic 1996 crime thriller Set It Off in which Queen Latifah is cornered. Her face — covered in tears, sweat, desperation — offers an array of emotions, some barely perceptible and expressed only by the twitch of an eyebrow, the pinch of a lip. As Cleo, a wonderfully butch lesbian janitor turned bank robber, Latifah’s amazing performance helped propel this assuredly feminist film to the top of the box office.
It wasn’t the first time Latifah would impress. When Tommy Boy Records released her first album, All Hail the Queen, in 1989, Latifah — who was only 19 at the time — shook the hip-hop world in a way few had. Her feminist- and empowerment-focused rap album sold 400,000 copies. Within months she’d translate that into a follow-up album and her own production company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, which later became a Hollywood power player.
In the years since, Flavor Unit managed the careers of numerous performers (including Outkast, Faith Evans, and LL Cool J) and produced a great deal of TV and film content (including Latifah’s newest talk show, which premiered Monday.
“I don’t,” Latifah tells The Advocate, laughing. “I have a great team of people around me, and everything I do I am passionate about, so it’s not hard to find time to do what you love.”
This isn’t Latifah’s first talk show. Her previous syndicated chatfest of the same name ran from 1999 to 2001 and was billed as a "Dear Abby for the Hip-Hop Generation.” The new show has a new format, and Latifah has told reporters she won’t hold back, except when it comes to her private life.
She once told The New York Times, “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.”
But fans, especially LGBT fans and media watchers, have been dying to have Latifah come out publicly, acknowledge rumored past relationships (numerous gossip sites, such as RadarOnline, posted photos of Latifah canoodling with trainer Jeanette Jenkins in 2010 and have implied that the women have had a long-term relationship).