Rev Irene Monroe

Reigning hip-hop's Queen Latifah is outed

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | August 25, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Alicia Keyes, coming out of the closet, Dana Owens, Latifah wedding, Queen Latifah

Long before the African American celebrity gossip, news, popular culture, and entertainment blog outed Dana Owens, a.k.a. Queen Latifah, with photos of her and latifah-gay-kiss.jpggal pal "personal trainer" Jeanette Jenkins in a tender embrace not meant for public viewing, the century-long reliable "chitlin' circuit" told us our closeted Queen was "in the life."

Queen Latifah, however, emphatically refuted the rumors as scurrilous attacks.

"It's insulting when someone asks, 'Are you gay?' A woman cannot be strong, outspoken, competent at running her own business, handle herself physically, play a very convincing role in a movie, know what she wants -- and go for it -- without being gay? Come on," Queen Latifah wrote in her 1999 autobiography, Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman.

But when photos from R&B soul diva Alicia Keyes's recent nuptials of Queen Latifah and Jenkins intimately embraced aboard a private French yacht in Corsica, France went viral on the Internet, the public's long awaited "Gotcha" moment was sad.

"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," Queen Latifah said in a November 2007 interview with People magazine, refuting rumors that she's a lesbian.

Hip-hop culture displays a hyper masculinity, and this male-dominated genre is aesthetically built on the most misogynistic and homophobic strains of Black Nationalism and afrocentricism. 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.

As one of the most prominent and influential female hip-hoppers of her generation, however, Queen Latifah hides her sexuality as a way to not only survive her own internalized homophobia, but also that of the musical genre.

"I feel more comfortable with myself -- my sexuality, my mentality, and my viewpoint," Queen Latifah told People.

And Queen Latifah's viewpoint, even with these recent damaging photos of her with Jenkins, is hell-bent on not disclosing.

What set off the on-going flurry of queries concerning Queen Laitifah's sexual orientation was her portrayal as a butch lesbian in the 1996 movie Set it Off. And the response from the African American community ranged from applause to outrage.

For her portrayal as "Cleopatra 'Cleo' Sims" Queen Latifah received the American Black Film Festival Award for Best Actress and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.

But within the hip-hop community Queen Latifah's butch lesbian "Cleo" wasn't well received; it cast her within this community as a liability, bringing attention to not only her sexual orientation but also bringing attention to the questionable sexual orientations of others. Queen Latifah's emphatic denunciation of her lesbianism only fed more curiosity and intrigue about the "down-low" gay and lesbian subculture of hip-hop.

For example, former MTV producer Terrance Dean wrote a page-turning memoir titled Hiding in Hip-Hop: Confessions of a Down Low Brother in the Entertainment Industry depicting his "down low" dalliances with married Hollywood and hip-hop's leading black men "living a double life."

"The very men who they think aren't doing anything is the very man that is hiding in hip-hop," Dean told Danica Dow in a 2008 interview with the hip-hop news website

Dean's book created enormous fear and anger among many prominent hip-hoppers. In a 2008 interviewed hip-hoppers Yung Berg, who's first single "Sexy Lady" peaked at #18 on the Billboard 100, and Nelly, who's ranked as the 3rd Top Overall Artist of the 2000-2009 decade by Billboard Magazine, about Dean's book and "down-low" gay subculture of hip-hop.

"You could fuck up a man's happy home," Yung Berg told "It might be the dude who wear his boxers on backwards every damn day dats getting hit in the ass...homo damn dude you talk about in the book but he probably still got a wife and kids and you might fuck up his life."

Nelly shared his view on the matter, stating, "Like I played sports a lot, you know, so I'm like, 'what goes on in the locker room stays in the locker room. It's like a guy's sanctuary. You may say some shit in here you don't never want to get out there.'"

Some argue that hip-hop forced Queen Latifah to be closeted. Others argue she had enough clout and crossover appeal to not worry about it. But Queen Latifah, no doubt, did worry about it.

For years Queen Latifah has held private same-sex parties with all in attendance understanding to be on the "down-low" about it. That intimate and tender embraced Queen Latifah had with her long-time lover aboard a private French yacht in Corsica at Keyes' wedding was to be on the "down-low," too. But in those perceived stolen moments when you think no one's watching, especially far out in the waters, are really when you're most vulnerable. And it's not because someone snapped a photo of you, but rather because you thought you could hide.

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Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | August 25, 2010 8:52 PM

has she reacted at all to these latest pics? great post Irene

>> "It's insulting when someone asks, 'Are you gay?'"

Well, I think that pretty well sums it all up.

I don't know, Sean ... I might find this question insulting, especially if:

(a) the question is actually a comment on my housekeeping or my sense of fashion, or

(b) I have to pull his dick out of my mouth just to answer.

spigliatezza | August 26, 2010 12:41 AM

A.J.'s part a gets at what I think Queen Latifah was talking about - that it's insulting to be presumed gay based on characteristics that really have nothing to do with it (i.e., this guy likes musicals, that girl plays sports...).
Part b just made me giggle. :)

I've said before that I think coming out would actually be good for her and the movement. Does she even make music any more? I thought she was an actress now.

She hasn't responded to these pics. I'm still going on the assumption that these pics were a deliberate attempt to come out. She must have known there would be paparazzi at Alicia Keyes's wedding.

I think what she finds insulting is the idea that if she is strong and a success she must be a lesbian.
People assume things. I have a joke in my stand up act about someone once saying that my sexuality was really just my ADD and the right meds would cure it. That was actually said and it was insulting and now it gets laughs.
These assumptions are insulting and how we choose to deal with them is important. I wish that she could have made different choices in dealing with them but they are her choices.

Okay. I get what TBP commenter's Rob and AJ are saying. BRAVA. I like it!!
I even get QL's position.

But if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck??? It's probably Paul Lynde.

QL doesn't want to be "stereotyped". Okay. Who does? But she is a TOTAL "stud" or "aggressive" outside of the HOLLYWOOD cam.

So she GLAMS it up for the camera?? So did MANY of the "Sewing Circle" of Hollywood movie stars of the pass.

Girl needs a paycheck.
She ain't f***ing a man to pay the rent is the difference.

Sorry folks, as much as I was happy to see the photo, I still think people need to come out when they say, not when I, or anybody else, says. Coming out is not a choice to be made merely to make other people comfortable. I've been out for over 30 yrs, yet I still believe this.

About the only exceptions I have are for certain politicians, clergy, and other folks who get publicity for anti-LGBT talk or actions.

Entertainers still can have private lives, in my book.

Regan DuCasse | August 28, 2010 5:09 PM

She is a formidable talent. She's a major star and we can wonder had she been out earlier, would her stardom have happened the way it did?
I'm a fan of the woman, and respect her a great deal.

Speculation is all well and good, and most people who can read these things have been correct.
But is it really THAT important she be out? Wanda Sykes is just as talented, visible and proud as far as this business goes.

The entertainment business is a different sphere. I think it's the religious/political/educational realms that need a LOT more work and the influence of the LGBT.
This is the trifecta that most influences the formative years of all people.
Queen Latifah doesn't even comment on politics at all.
Just a thought.

Bertha Williams | September 27, 2010 11:44 AM

It is her personal business. I like the sista. I would not care if she was gay or straight. She gives her audiences/fans a 150% or more in her performances. That is all she owes us. Her personal business is just that her personal business.