EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 29, 2013

Catching up with Queen Latifah

By Dave Osborn
Scripps Howard News Service

---- — Queen Latifah had a plan all along.

The 43-year-old artist said she wanted to sing hip-hop early in her career, and she did. But she also knew she loved other music, from the classics to gospel, and everything in between.

And she loved acting.

“Honestly, I felt like, I wouldn’t say, before my time, but I will say I was different,” she said in a recent phone interview from her mother’s home in New Jersey, her home state.

Latifah has carved out a career many performers would envy. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 2002’s “Chicago.” She has won a Golden Globe and a Grammy, among other honors. She’s also a Cover Girl spokeswoman.

And she will have her own morning talk show on CBS starting Sept. 16.

Latifah said she has never shied from challenges, even if that meant shifting gears in her career.

“I would loved to have made jazz music from the beginning,” she said.

Her performance in “Chicago” was her chance to show fans she was ready to give them more than hip-hop.

“I felt like the audience was ready because they knew I was capable of singing these kinds of songs,” Latifah said.

She called it a dream come true to co-star with country legend Dolly Parton in the 2012 movie “Joyful Noise,” about a gospel choir that undergoes a transformation while competing with other singing groups.

“She’s so cool -- such a professional,” Latifah said of Parton. “So talented, sweet, down-to-earth and funny as hell.

Latifah said that, while growing up, she admired Parton because she was a statuesque woman who, like herself, was “carrying a lot on top, for that matter.”

She said she realized early on that she wanted to control her career and pilot her musical and acting path.

“I was always the person that felt I had a voice, that I had an opinion, that I had a brain and that I had talent,” she said. “And I wanted to hear my voice heard in all aspects of my career, not just behind the microphone, but behind the desk.”

Latifah acknowledged that she’s picky when deciding what project she’ll take on next, but she tries to “spread my love among the different audiences,” whether it’s starring opposite Parton in a family film or playing to a younger audience in the 2003 film “Scary Movie 3.”

She said artists today have many more avenues for a chance to become successful, from satellite radio to the Internet. But that doesn’t mean it’s easier for them than when she began her career in the 1980s.

“To me, it’s more like the wild, wild West. You have to be creative in how you do it,” she said.

Latifah said she’s looking forward to her next big project, a morning TV variety show on CBS. She said she hopes to model it after the show of her longtime friend, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” in which the comedian-actor often features an up-and-coming band to close out his hourlong show in NBC.

“Hopefully, we’ll be the cool place to be in daytime,” she said.

Dave Osborn writes for the Naples Daily News in Florida.