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Queen Latifah

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As far as making a successful transition from rap music to Hollywood, nobody has done it better than Queen Latifah. Before she was a queen, she was Dana Elaine Owens, born on March 18, 1970 Newark, New Jersey. Her stage name, Latifah, which means 'kind' in Arabic, was bestowed on her by her cousin when she was eight. A born performer, her first stage appearance was singing 'Home' from the musical The Wiz in a high school play. While in high school, she was also an athlete, playing power forward on her basketball team. After a short stint working at Burger King, she started her music career beatboxing for the rap group Ladies Fresh. In 1988, a demo of her song 'Princess of the Posse' made its way into the hands of Fab Five Freddy, who, at the time, was the host of Yo! MTV Raps. He helped Latifah get her first record contract with Tommy Boy Records, which released her first album All Hail the Queen in 1989, when she was just nineteen. The album, regarded as a critical and commercial success, spawned the hits 'Come Into My House' and 'Ladies First.' She quickly followed the success of her debut with Nature of a Sista and Black Reign, which contained the Grammy Award-winning hit single, U.N.I.T.Y. Finding success in music, Latifah wanted to see if lightning could strike twice and tried her hand at acting, landing small parts in the films Jungle Fever and House Party 2. In 1993 she was cast on the sitcom Living Single, where she stayed until 1998. In 1996, she starred in the drama Set It Off, receiving good reviews for her role as a tough-talking, bank robbing lesbian. She also got good reviews for 1998's Living Out Loud, where was able to show off her singing chops, performing a few jazz numbers. She had her own self-titled talk show from 1999 to 2001 and continued to act in films such as The Bone Collector with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. In 2002, her portrayal of prison matron 'Mama Morton' in the musical Chicago earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Since then she has starred in a variety of films including Bringing Down the House with Steve Martin, Taxi with Jimmy Fallon and Last Holiday. She also got rave reviews for her singing, dancing and acting in 2007's Hairspray. In recent years, she has gone from a rapper to a jazz singer, releasing the jazz standards album The Dana Owens Album and Trav'lin' Light in 2007 which featured appearances by Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Stevie Wonder. It was nominated for a Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Grammy. Whether she's singing, acting or rapping, Queen Latifah will always be Hollywood royalty.

Queen Latifah

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