Fashion Wire Daily August 24,2004-Los Angeles-Success breeds success. That’s the philosophy fueling Queen Latifah as she continues her inexorable rise to the top of the entertainment heap. Take her latest movie, The Cookout, opening September 3. Not only is Latifah one of the stars, it is also the first film to come from her own production company, Flavor Entertainment Unit. The Queen both produced and co-wrote the comedy, which meant she was one of the big bossesand could give back to the place where it all started for her—New Jersey.
“We are about giving opportunities,” says Latifah (whose real name is Dana Owens), who was born in Newark and grew up in East Orange. “That’s where we’re from. That’s what we know. Our company is based out of New Jersey. We’ve been all around the world, but home is home. And so for our first film project, we had choices. We could’ve shot it in L. A., here or there, but we felt that this was one of our stories. We needed to tell this story in New Jersey because that’s where this story occurred.”
Plus, Queen Latifah liked the idea of showcasing her home state to the world.
“It was just important for us to start off in New Jersey, as everything has that we’ve ever done,” she says, remembering her start back in the late 1980s as a rapper working in local Jersey clubs. “We have good luck at home and we wanted to be able to employ people at home, give opportunities at home. The state cooperated with us. Everyone was very, very cooperative from the police to local government to the film commission. They want to continue to boost business, and we want to boost business for our home state. Why not? You never know how that favor will get repaid someday if you do enough business there.”
Being in a position to control her own destiny is the place that Queen Latifah has been shooting for since she started her entertainment career, and she’s justifiably proud of getting to this point at just 34 years old. She’s made it big in music, with four CDs to her credit and another one called The Dana Owens Project on the way this fall, as well as producing a slew of other musicians’ CDs; as an actress (including an Academy Award® nomination for her work in Chicago); and as a model, as the African-American face of Cover Girl cosmetics.
So how has she made it all happen? Simple, really.
“You have to hustle and you have to know who you are and where you are at all times and never lose track of who and where you are,” she says. And above all, be willing to lead the way and give back, too.
“I’m cool being a leader because I follow as well. I know that no one does this all on their own. Sometimes you need examples and you need inspiration and you take it where you can get it, but if you get that opportunity, represent. Go and own it. Make it work. Don’t be mean, but do it your way and make it even bigger and open up more doors for whoever is coming after you.”