The Media’s Outing of Queen Latifah

If you are “chomping at the bit” for down-to-earth Jersey girl Dana Owens a.k.a reigning Hip-hop’s Queen Latifah to come out of her open closet, 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, has the media.

But the media’s cat and mouse game of chase 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.

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 personal 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 celebrities’ 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,” Ami Angelowicz at “The Frisky” wrote.

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 secretly being out or outed.

For example, long before this latest hubbub the African- American celebrity gossip, news, popular culture and entertainment 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 century-long reliable “chitlin’ circuit” told us our closeted Queen was “in the life.” But when photos from R&B soul diva Alicia Keys’ nuptials of Queen Latifah and Jenkins intimately embraced 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 at Keys’ wedding 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 executive 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, refuting 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 just like ladies who have class… 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 — 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 African American 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 and her, 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 who the Queen’s talking to her vernacular will range from Standard 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.

“And if it’s “T and A” you’re sellin’, that’s fine…. 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.”

A failure to contextualize the different social and cultural spheres Latifah orbits in will always render a misread like the media has done.

And, as far the media pondering how long will it 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.”

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