Queen Latifah on creating her own lane: 'I have not been pressured about my weight by anyone in Hollywood for quite some time'

·5-min read

Unapologetically is a Yahoo Life series in which women and men from all walks of life get the chance to share how they live their best life — out loud and in living color, without fear or regret — looking back at the past with a smile and embracing the future with excited anticipation.

Multi-hyphenate is an understatement when it comes to Queen Latifah and her wide-ranging entertainment career.

The New Jersey native, born Dana Owens, paved her own lane in the world of rap in the late '80s and took over televisions everywhere as Khadijah James on the '90s sitcom, Living Single.

From her melodic raps to her iconic roles, Queen Latifah has spent the greater part of her career in a league of her own, a distinction she says has allowed her to be unapologetically herself in a notoriously image-driven industry.

"I have not been pressured about my weight by anyone in Hollywood for quite some time, to my knowledge, because I created a lane for myself and that was created quite some time ago and through lots of work," she tells Yahoo Life.

As the recipient of awards including a GRAMMY, a Golden Globe and a BET Lifetime Achievement Award, Latifah's years of hard work and dedication have allowed her to exist comfortably in her body for years, a luxury she knows most entertainers don't have.

"If you're hearing this from the people who are giving you jobs, from the people who are creating your living, and this is your primary form of income, I can't even imagine the pressure that people in our business have been under," she says.

Latifah also points out that a lack of size diversity in the media fuels existing pressures for entertainers to look a certain way by any means necessary.

"Who is the media actually showing? When you grow up and you don't see a lot of representation of people who look like you, then of course you put that pressure on yourself," she says.

One thing you won't catch Queen Latifah doing is going to extremes for any event or function, a choice she assures is to everyone's benefit.

"I can't imagine myself, dropping 50, 60 pounds, getting ripped and then maintaining that. Not only is that not going to be natural to who I am, It's not going to be fun. You're not going to like me cause I might be angry," she says.

But while she herself won't be overhauling her lifestyle to fit into any award show gowns, she knows that some will still do whatever it takes to look their version of red carpet ready.

"I know the people who go through the crazy things to look a certain way on that carpet, I'm just happy for them and it comes off the way they want it to," she says. "But lord, I know they're glad when they can just get a burger right afterwards. They can't wait to get to the after-party or to get to what comes afterward and go 'Ah, got that done,'" she says.

Queen Latifah opens up about body image and size inclusivity in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)
Queen Latifah opens up about body image and size inclusivity in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

Suffice it to say, you'd be hard-pressed to find Queen Latifah participating in any fad diets ahead of a movie premiere, but best believe she is going to work that red carpet every single time.

"It doesn't matter what anybody else is doing on that red carpet, I'm going to shine regardless. If I feel good, I'm going to glow and it doesn't matter what I'm wearing, what size I am ... the energy is going to come out," she says.

In line with her desires to promote healthy conversations surrounding body image, Latifah has teamed up with It's Bigger Than Me, an organization encouraging open, honest and shame-free conversations about obesity.

"It's so important with this It's Bigger Than Me campaign to really unpack all the complex issues that are involved when it comes to body image, when it comes obesity. We have to create a dialogue and I think now is a great time because I think people are brave enough to open up," she says.

While she checked off veteran status years ago, Queen Latifah is not immune to the fickle nature of the entertainment industry and speaks highly of the importance of self-care as a means of survival in such a turbulent profession.

"This business is [up and down] with us, you don't know what the next role will entail and unless you specifically go for certain types of roles and you're not crazy like I am doing the Equalizer at 50 ... kicking down doors and diving on things," she says of the physically demanding roles she is proudly taking on.

With so many years in the game, she now knows when it's time for a little extra self-care.

"I have to take care of myself, I know my body well enough to know when I need to work out a little more, rest more, get some treatments," she says.

However, just because she knows she needs the extra TLC, she admits she isn't always able to get to it right away.

"Whether I can do it at that time or not, at least I know my body well enough to know what it needs," she says. "What I need to do is what's good for me, what makes me feel healthy, what makes me feel physically positive and be realistic with what my body is capable of and what it's not and accept myself for who I am."

For Latifah, looking good without feeling the need to go to extremes is something she hopes becomes the new normal.

"I would love the day when those things actually kind of meet and they're the same. That the person you are on a normal basis can dress up, get fly but not have to do all the crazy things to look a certain way that you're not naturally," she says.

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