|Dana Owens at 17|
First thing to remember is climbing a mountain. The journey is getting there. It's a struggle. But a monument once you get there! We all have talents and passions that can lead us into a vocation of some kind. "Take what you know and try to find a way to make a living at it." When she started at this business, Queen seen the strong qualities in others. Knowing and using those strong qualities, she took them up on those qualities and placed them in her crew where they would do the most good. For example, she hired someone serious & punctual to be her business manager after watching him for 2 years. It was his ethics and character. At the time, she was 17 and working in the club circuit. She may not have known much, but it was the smartest decision she ever made.
When she was a kid, Dana Elaine Owens, was fascinated by the human body, medicine and anything that has to do w/ nature. One of her favorite reality shows is TLC's Trauma: Life In The ER. Due to NO REAL such thing as GENUINE job security, DON'T let a job define who you are. Like I always tell others: I am more that just my name & titles. Reinvention isn't changing who you are, it's letting the other parts of you shine. Dana's dad, Lancelot Owens, was determined that his daughter would never cower in a corner. He was always fair. If Dana's brother, Winki, who was going to a dojo to learn some moves in a martial arts course, Dana was going to learn too! Their dad was a cop & Vietnam vet. He wanted both of his kids to develop a sense of character. The confidence to stand up for herself in Newark, New Jersey.
Dana's dad was always about equal opportunity. Her parents gave her the foundation, but she was always fortunate to have her brother by her side. They seen her talents and her gifts. They seen her talents before the world did. A student in her mother's art class, Shakim, knew what Dana was capable of. He has seen her hold her own. He had seen what she could do. He would tell her like it is. (If she sucked - he told her!) Never allowing her to have a BIG head or one to over compensate. If at first you don't succeed, try something else. For Queen's career, some things weren't always a hit. Whether it was an album or a movie coming out - Understandable. They can't all be winners. Queen does her work, works well with co-workers, does what she's supposed to do. It's doing the best with what you've got. Make you life the masterpiece you want it to be! As human beings, we have so many facets to us. We are all more than our titles given to us by the world.
|Dana & Lancelot|
WAKE UP and REALIZE: IMPERFECTION IS PERFECT! For the most part, Dana has been fortunate that others haven't altered her image beyond recognition. For example, she's had to fight to keep the scar when she was 3 years old playing tag w/ her brother. She tripped and fell, hitting her forehead on the corner of the bathroom door frame on the way down. Not long after that, she was running into her aunt's house when she tripped and landed face-first on the stairs in the exact same spot as before. She had to have 3 stitches. The point is that it's part of who she is. It's reminiscent of her brother and of her childhood.
Although she was athletic & big-boned, she was still running around getting scraped up. But inside, Dana was all girl and felt that way. When her cousin showed Dana her uncle's book of Muslim names and she came across "Latifah", Dana decided that had to be her new name. It meant "delicate, sensitive & kind". That was exactly how she felt inside. In 4TH grade, Dana changed schools and was drawn to whatever sport boys were playing. Although she played at home w/ her dad & brother, the school kids let her know her place. But she came back and let her place be known.
You are given a fresh start in life. Define yourself before others do it for you. Queen Latifah points out a GREAT example of this: Oscar-winning actress Gabourey Sidibe. But as everyone knows, Not everyone is going to be your best.
These moments came for Queen early on in her adolescence when she began developing faster than most girls her age. An example of someone Queen Latifah identifies w/ that's known today would be President Obama's daughter, Malia. To help her daughter throughout this awkward phase, Dana's mom began teaching her how to walk w/ a book on her head like the models. After doing what the boys do, it could be her mom's way to influence being a lady by holding herself upright. These small moments had a large impact. It was a giant boost that carried her. It gave her the confidence to stand prideful and elegant. It was because of her strut & walk. It was partly because why she was popular in school and hang w/ that crew. On some level, it helped her become a performer. When it came time to release her first album, she had already created her own style. She dubbed herself "Queen" because that's how she felt. She pulled off the African look she created for herself at the age of 17.
Of course, it came the pressure to be what in today's society as a "skinny bitch", other than a regular girl while working on Living Single. The decision for herself to lose weight came in 2002. She was at her heaviest playing Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago. The weight fit for the character, inspired by her grandmother, Nana Owens. Nana was 94 when she died. Dana was in Toronto filming the movie when it happened. Dana was devastated. When she did the number "When You're Good To Mama", it was Nana that Dana could relate to w/ the part. She/Nana gave that character it's soul.
Although she wanted to exercise and lose weight, she didn't deem it as grueling. She found a way to make it work and be fun. She initially lost 25 LBS. She felt better as well as reconnecting w/ her athletic self. Exercise has since become consistent. When she was filming Just Wright in New York, she made it a point to have a big pink bicycle on-set and kept it moving. Exercising and taking pride in it every chance she gets. She has made it become a priority. Other than watching her foods,the Jenny Craig program helped ALOT. Worshiping your body throughout it's entirety. It's the only one you've got. Seeing herself in the moment at the mirror was the first time Dana truly felt comfortable in her own skin. She felt like a lady.
Dana/Queen talks about the financial hardships she's had to acquire after achieving a certain amount of money. They truly thought they were making the right moves. Dana & Shakim decided a year before to set up their own record company. Yes, they could have had "the works" and everything paid for by the company. But once taken out, it's got to be put back in. You end up in debt and owing others like a slave. Growing up, they never wanted to be like that. They wanted to be free-thinkers and not have a committee's permission to do so. They already had a small distribution deal w/ a record label, but they wanted to take it to the next level. They didn't just want to work. They wanted ownership. You could achieve a high level of respect & success when you own what you create.
After hearing the horror stories of others signing and working without receiving, they wanted to build their own business and create an independent label w/ amazing artists they had found. After expenses are withdrawn, w/ minimal success, you can reap ALOT of benefits. But Queen & Shakim didn't factor in the tremendous overhead and start-up costs. Always putting money in before some can be taken out. They couldn't help themselves. They had too many people on payroll. It was hard to separate emotion from business. They threw 100s of 1000s of dollars into the label. They took over Whitney Houston's old space and called it Millennium Records. It wasn't a bad investment. It was covering costs without seeing revenue.
Yes, Dana and Shakim each had families they were looking out for. They looked for investors but never got paid. After a certain amount of time w/ no revenue or payback from anyone, they were almost to the point of bankruptcy. GENUINE HONEST MISTAKES!! The accountant was dulling out money and Queen wasn't watching to keep tabs on any of it. Then BAM! Came the dreaded call. She called her mom and she called her mom and she calmed her daughter down. Then she called her accountant who helped her with a game plan to payback the I.R.S. in a way that was maintained. They had to create a new system for this to avoid future mistakes.
After watching a TV program that talked about NEVER letting others sign your checks, Queen closed her account and opened a new one with a zero balance. She now signs EVERYTHING. After things are prepared, they are then sent to Queen to sign. (It is worth the time & effort.) She catches errors others wouldn't. A little effort is becoming BIG savings.) That wasn't the only change Queen made. Shakim and Queen had to take a long, hard look to figure out what their priorities were and where they were going. Shakim stated that running the record label and the management company were too much. So they made some adjustments. They had to find their focus and drop the others. It really made her feel bad. But they were making decisions out of emotion - rather than logic. NO ONE was benefiting either way. After reconstructing their business, it has worked out better in the end.
After learning the lesson the first time, Queen literally did her homework. She went to the bookstore, as she often does, did her research. One title caught her eye: Suze Orman's The 9 Steps To Financial Freedom. She began reading it RIGHT THEN & THERE! Several points in the book spoke to her. She eventually bought the book, took it home, made copied notes and took them to her accountant. She was determined to reach a level of financial sophistication.
Other than affluence, Queen care more about financial stability wealth can bring. She wants to travel, support causes & more. (For example, education for inner-city kids.) Accumulating personal wealth and taking control of your financial future. Not stuff. She had a steep learning curve. Queen has both book smarts w/ a semester in college and street smarts.Their mom taught Dana and her brother something adults in their communities NEVER learned - how to write a check. Every week, they would set aside some of their allowance and put it in the bank. She continued the saver mentality through her teens. Their dad had his own way of teaching them financial independence at a young age.
Dana remembers her first paycheck. She was 15 and found a job at Burger King while still in school. She really wanted that job. Free food and earning your pay. (She did everything from cleaning toilets to working the register.) She made $88.46 that first week. Two years later, the circumstances couldn't be more different. She wasn't even signed to a label yet and her first record, 'Princess Of The Posse' was on the radio. She got her first big check and spent it frivolously. Money went down the drain. When Queen was 19, she became more responsible. After just releasing her first album on Tommy Boy Records, All Hail The Queen, they were having quite the ride.
Afterwards, EVERYTHING got to be too much. They seen an accountant at a big, reputable firm to manage their expenses. They thought everything was on the up. One day they went to his office to find NO MONEY left in the account. They were FURIOUS!! Another BIG lesson they had to learn. They are and still remain on top of it ALL. This isn't about greed. It's about having your things in line. If a bill isn't paid - then you don't go out spending what you don't have! (Of course, it's different if you have kids.) FIND A WAY TO BE FRUGAL. DOWNSIZE! and make due. (An example for me was the "reality" show on WE TV 'Downsized') Own your values outright without much unneeded debt. Dana's mother drummed into her daughter the importance of financial freedom.
Both of Dana's parents worked. Her dad is a cop. Her mom is a secretary for as far back as she can remember. Thursday must have been payday due to a Chinese dinner and sometimes a movie. Sometimes a nice drive to enjoy houses w/ peace & quiet or a picnic, fishing or camping. It was free w/ happy childhood memories to boot.
Queen talks about an experience she shared that finalized moving from the Projects and a life they were leaving behind FOR GOOD! An opportunity to start fresh. Their mother shielded them from ALOT where they were living. Dana was only 8. Although temporary, their mom stressed the point that where you live doesn't define who you are. Their mother was DETERMINED for her children NOT to have that "stuck" mentality. When summer came, it was an opportunity to see life outside of their surroundings. she took them to museums, encouraged her children to read & worked 3 jobs to send them to private Catholic school, where it was safe w/ high academic standards. Even though their mom was scrubbing toilets to make ends meet, people assumed she had a silver spoon in her mouth.
Dana & her brother were promised to be moved out of their situation within the year. (It didn't take a year.) Dana & her brother were fascinated by the complex they lived in, Hyatt Court. They wanted to know what was going on - all around. With difficult surroundings, Rita Bray Owens wasn't dropping her surroundings to fit in. She was ALWAYS a lady. She always encouraged her kids to persevere. "Become part of the solution. Not part of the problem." As a single mom, Rita worked around the clock to put herself through college to become an art teacher and give her children a better life. She did & made the best with what she had. Being an art teacher, Rita kept her children educated within the Arts. Keeping her children artfully inclined to see a bigger world than their surroundings. Encouraging her children to be creative.
|Queen and her mom, Rita|
|Dana w/ her parents|
Dana was visiting w/ some friends on a trip to Jamaica along w/ Shakim. Their friends were REAL adventurous. When they took turns jumping off of a cliff like it was nothing, Dana just had to follow. At first, Shakim was going to join her but at the cliff, he backed out. He begged Dana not to do it. A long time ago, Shakim promised Mrs.Owens that he would never let anything happen to her daughter. Something about the sight & surroundings urged Dana to do it! She wanted to soak up the FULL Jamaican experience. She tried to get herself psyched to do it, but it was the terrified REALITY of the situation that hit her. One ting led to another and then there was no backing out now. She jumped feet first, toes pointed down towards the water, her body stiff and braced for the impact. She hit the water hard and every captivity was flushed out. It was invigorating. She felt like she could do anything. She swam to the other side where others were waiting while accomplishing more. After landing in one piece the second time, the thrill had worn off. At the thought of what she'd been through, Dana climbed out of the sea and back to the bar. Never to do that again. But she was proud of what she had done.
Fear in life can be crippling. It can literally stop you from enjoying the greatest joys in life. It can literally kill the REAL you. Having/feeling that RUSH from outside of your comfort zone. That is why you should feel the fear and go for it. It can make you feel ALIVE! Queen's movie 'Last Holiday' described EXACTLY what she was talking about. After making the film, she learned how to ski. Around the time of filming, she learned how to snowboard. As a kid, she used to be fascinated by the ski jumping on ABC's Wide World Of Sports. Making her dream of doing the same thing. Over-thinking a fear is just another mental block. Testing the limits of your fear is a great & powerful tool. She was lucky to have her dad and brother, who never doubted her ability, to join in their adventures. Their dad taught Dana & Winki how to shoot whether it was a firing range or in the woods w/ tin cans. Dana got to be pretty good at it. When you throw your heart & soul into something without over-analyzing it, you can excel.
Another exhilarating & exciting adventure for Dana is riding a motorcycle. The feel, freedom & excitement it provides. Riding a bike on a tight schedule with her mom and brother living in separate apartments. Riding a bike was a way of keeping the family close. These were some of the happiest times in her life. Although scary, there is also the moral courage to walk away when something's NOT right. Making bad choices due to fear of what others think. Dana was very young when she'd sneak off to New York City w/ her brother or a group of friends. She was barely in her teens and experimenting w/ drugs and sex. But standing alone was what took one level onto full blown addiction. Dana would try it, NOT like it and STOP IT RIGHT THERE.She didn't want to lose herself due to the pressure of popularity. Walking away and KNOWING when to quit. A sign of TRULY being your own person.
Dana's fear of failure was another thing to overcome. While Dana was over-competitive, you can't ace everything. Rejection didn't break Dana. It made her more determined to succeed. Learning it young, it will prevent a Hell of ALOT of heartache and trouble later. No matter how bad a situation, you live and you learn. She truly did better the next time. It allowed her to host the American Music Awards and 2 talk shows. Thinking on your feet and controlling the flow of the conversation. In her sophomore year, when she switched to Irvington High School where her mother taught, Dana set the bar higher for herself. Entering a BIG talent show although not knowing anyone. Dana didn't know a soul, but she wanted to be a part of it. The more she continued to persevere on-stage, the more she sang and the more comfortable she became. She seen a spark in everyone. Her fears melted away and got an amazing response from the crowd.
That moment brought Queen Latifah closer to her music career. She began performing w/ others in school, with friends who shared her passion. Once discovering hip-hop, there was no turning back. Making the HBO film 'Life Support' was life affirming for her. Revisiting the past and what she seen. She really attached herself to the character of the REAL person she portrayed. Although she was lucky, it made Dana realize a life the could've been different. She could've been what she seen growing up. But, everyday her mom teaches her what it means to have the heart of a lioness.
After hearing the words that her brother had an accident on his motorcycle, Dana heard the words but didn't comprehend what was said. Upon hearing that, it had been an ordinary day. After a grueling touring schedule throughout Europe for her 2ND album, Dana had some relax time w/ family & friends. She was thrilled to be at home catching up. Just being a regular home girl. After just finishing helping a friend move into a new place, they had just collapsed on the floor and cracked open a beer when she got the 9-1-1 page from her brother's friend, Ramsey. Dana wondered how bad it was? Her heart sank and she could feel blood rushing from her head. She was dizzy & confused. She couldn't think nor could she move. She dropped the phone letting REALITY sink in. The more she did. The more unreal it became. The rest of the story unfolded like a nightmare. The next thing Dana remembers is Shakim bundling her into his car. They flew down the highway towards the hospital where her brother was being taken. When they hit a RED light, Dana screamed for them to gun it. She had to get to the hospital. She had to see her brother.
|Dana & her brother, Lancelot|
At first, there was stunned silence. Dana was in COMPLETE DISBELIEF. She was out of her mind. She couldn't see due to crying. She was screaming & yelling, but the doctors kept their cool. Although you can try to be preventive, death is non-negotiable. It was Dana's worst moment that was life-stopping in every sense. She literally stopped living. A part of her shut down. 18 years later and it NEVER goes away. A part of you puts you RIGHT IN THAT MOMENT. After a loss, life is NEVER the same afterward.
Dana was numb, angry & guilty. She had every kind of negative emotion and blame. She had lost her rock & protector. She was emotionally shut-off. There was NO point. After she won a Grammy, it made her smile, but only for a second. she had lost it within herself. Dana didn't see what her condition was doing to her mother. She had lost one child and wasn't going to lose another. Somehow Dana had to get back on the bike and try again - literally. Riding a bike itself gives Dana a lasting connection to her brother. Seeing Dana on the bike gives her family relief to see that spark. Dana began to work again. It wasn't so much about work, but more of an outlet of expression. She started writing songs for her album Black Reign, including a tribute to Winki. Although still hurt, the Queen inside of Dana was alive again.
Dana/Queen Latifah's character in Last Holiday matched exactly how she felt in that moment. Her character inspired her to live better. Therapy truly helped. If you daze at the ground, your crown will fall. She literally vanished & disappeared. Not to be found until she was ready. Dana was done .It was the beginning of her career and she was pushing herself and took on too much that she HAD to run away. She ran and had a beer at her brother's grave-site, with Winki. Just to be gone and get away. Of course, it put out panic from outsiders. After the release, Dana had to regroup and put back the pieces. There comes a point when others ask & ask and you just HAVE to say NO! Then comes the fear of disappointment. There comes a day when you say it like you mean it. The more you don't speak up, the more you lose yourself. For example: a mom giving in to her child rather than saying NO! Giving in soon becomes expected! When you don't help, it soon becomes a guilt trip. You have to have your guard up. You can't completely trust everyone that crosses your path. It's ALOT harder when your young & school age. The key to it in teenage society is to TRULY stand out and BE YOUR OWN PERSON! Be with GENUINE & REAL friends without the give & take.
There soon comes that mentality when their around you: What do you want? Just take what you want and go. Dana wrote a song on her album, Persona, describing all of this. Dana describes being one of those girls. When she was 5 yrs old, she was molested by the 15-yr-old who was babysitting her at the time. He was NOT a regular sitter. A shy kid her dad took under his wing. It was only a week, but it lasts forever. A few years later came another incident. Dana was out playing and was touched. It honestly did some damage. Keeping it locked inside of her for 20 years. After her brother's death, Dana couldn't carry it anymore. A few years ago, Dana took a handle on it and spoke to a therapist who truly helped her. The older she got the more she protected herself. She continued to fight back. From the sexual abuse carries early curiosity. It ruined her trust in men.
TAKING A BREAK FROM THE WORLD!! One of the purest joys Dana will NEVER forget: receiving a star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2006. One of her best moments in her life. She delighted in the gratitude w/ family, friends and fans. SAVOR THE MEANINGFUL moments. Queen Latifah was the FIRST hip-hop artist to receive such a HIGH honor. A part of history cemented that NEVER leaves.
People do a double take when they seen Queen Latifah in places like Walmart and Waffle House. They are also respectful and friendly. Dana/Queen Latifah is just a down home girl who has made something of herself with GRATITUDE.
Have pride, gratitude and just do your thing and put on your crown.
As of the 1999-2001 year, Dana/Queen Latifah was the host of her own fun & enjoyable daytime talk show host, The Queen Latifah Show. It was recently renewed and picked up again within 2014.