Date of Birth: March 18, 1970
Birth Name: Dana Elaine Owens
After a short stint as a Burger King employee, Queen Latifah made her breakthrough as a rapper when she was just 18 years old. She soon made the transition to acting on screenboth on television, where she made her debut on the popular sitcom The Prince of Bel Air starring fellow rapper Will Smith, and in the Spike Lee feature film Jungle Fever (1991). In 1993 she landed a regular role on the new sitcom Living Single, which ran for five years before going into syndication. She hadn't given up her rapping career however, and in 1994 she won a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rap Performance. Meanwhile, Latifah was also racking up more feature credits for her resumé, including My Life (1993) starring Nicole Kidman, Hoodlum (1997) starring Laurence Fishburne, and Sphere (1998) starring Dustin Hoffman. In 1999, The Queen Latifah Show debuted on television. The hour-long syndicated talk show ran for two years and gave Latifah the opportunity to interview celebrities, talk to the public, and present relatable issues.
Latifah continues to work steadily on the big screen. In 2002, she appeared in The Country Bears, Brown Sugar and the musical Chicago, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for her standout performance as Matron "Mama" Morton. In 2003, she landed the co-starring role opposite Steve Martin in the comedy Bringing Down the House, playing an inmate who breaks out of prison to be with a friend she makes via the Internet. In 2007, she returned to movie musicals, playing Motormouth Mabel in Hairspray. Her recent titles also include The Secret Life of Bees (2008), Valentine's Day (2010), Joyful Noise (2012) and the voice of Ellie in Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012).
Born Dana Elaine Owens in East Orange, New Jersey, Latifah has experience with both sides of the law. Although she was arrested in 1996 for assaulting a photographer and in a separate incident for carrying a loaded pistol and possessing marijuana, she comes from a police family (both her father and brother Lance were policemen). Tragically, Lance died in an accident while riding a motorcycle Latifah had given him. Each year Latifah serves as co-chairman for the Lancelot H. Owens Foundation Inc., established by her mother, Rita Owens, in memory of Lance. The foundation provides scholarships to students who excel scholastically, but are lacking the funds to continue their schooling.