HBO Films

Bessie

Available on HBO NOW

Queen Latifah

as Bessie Smith

Bio

Queen Latifah: Musician; television and film actress; a label president; an author and entrepreneur. Blessed with style and substance, Queen Latifah has blossomed into a one-woman entertainment conglomerate. Heralded by the press and the industry as a force to be reckoned with, Latifah has quite simply done it all and shows no sign of slowing down.

Latifah has had amazing success in Hollywood in recent years, and on January 4, 2006, became the first hip hop artist to be crowned with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She received rave reviews, an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe nomination and a SAG Award nomination for her portrayal of Mama Morton in Miramax's Chicago. Following Chicago, Latifah starred in Disney's box-office hit Bringing Down the House, on which she also acted as executive producer.

Latifah both starred in and executive produced HBO Film’s Life Support, a true-life drama in which she plays a mother who overcomes an addiction to crack and becomes a positive role model and an AIDS activist in the black community. Latifah received rave reviews as well as an Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe win and a SAG Award win. She starred in Neil Meron and Craig Zadan's Hairspray playing Motormouth Maybelle and was also seen in the film Mad Money playing opposite Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes.

In Fox Searchlight's The Secret Life of Bees, Latifah starred alongside Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Dakota Fanning. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Secret Life of Bees won the Hollywood Film Award at the Hollywood Film Festival and a People's Choice Award for Favorite Independent Movie in 2009. Queen Latifah starred in the romantic comedy Just Wright, on which she produced as well. She also starred alongside Vince Vaughn and Kevin James in The Dilemma directed by Ron Howard. Recently, she starred in Warner Brothers Joyful Noise alongside Dolly Parton which she produced as well. Most recently, Latifah starred in Lifetime's adaptation of Steel Magnolias, on which she was also an executive producer. She played M'Lynn, starring alongside Alfre Woodward, Phylicia Rashad and Jill Scott.

Latifah was seen in Wayne Wang's The Last Holiday, and starred in MGM's Beauty Shop (a spin-off of the hit Barbershop), which she also produced. She appeared in Marc Forster's Stranger Than Fiction, playing opposite Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, and was the voice of the Wooly Mammoth, Ellie, in Ice Age 2. In July 2012, she reprised her role as the voice of Ellie in Ice Age: Continental Drift.

To most people, releasing multiple movies would be enough, but Queen Latifah wasn't satisfied. On September 25th, 2007, Latifah released her album titled Trav'lin Light, for which she was nominated for a Grammy. Co-produced by three-time Grammy winner Tommy LiPuma, this album was the long-awaited follow-up to Latifah's highly regarded and Grammy-nominated The Dana Owens Album. The platinum-selling album was a collection of timeless classics chosen and covered by the Queen herself. As Latifah demonstrated both in Living Out Loud (1998) and her Oscar-nominated performance in Chicago (2002), her vocal talent is as impressive as her acting. In August 2009 her latest album, Persona, was released. Executive produced by Cool and Dre, Persona brings together the two worlds of hip hop and pop, creating a new sound for the Queen.

Queen Latifah is also one of music's most well-respected rappers. From her groundbreaking 1989 debut All Hail the Queen, which set the visual and contextual standard for female rappers, to her bold foray into R&B, Latifah continues to define what a woman in the music industry should be. She has earned six Grammy nominations as well as a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rap Performance in 1994. In 2004, she was nominated for Best Female Rap Solo Performance for Go Head. In 2005, she was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album for The Dana Owens Album and in 2008 she was nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Trav'lin Light.

And then there's Flavor Unit Entertainment, a production company owned and operated by Queen Latifah and her partner, Shakim Compere. Flavor Unit Entertainment, which started in New Jersey and is now based in Miami, is quickly establishing itself as one of the most important production companies in the film industry. They began by executive producing Bringing Down the House and then continued with Beauty Shop and The Perfect Holiday. They have also produced The Cookout with Lion's Gate, as well as the film Just Wright with Fox Searchlight. On the small screen, they executive produced HBO's critically acclaimed film Life Support, which garnered a number of awards including an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe win for Queen Latifah. Flavor Unit Entertainment made a multi-year deal with BET to create new original programming, including the original movie The Cookout 2 and its first-ever scripted romantic comedy, titled Let's Stay Together, which premiered with 4.4 million viewers. In 2011, Flavor Unit Entertainment's original film Single Ladies was expanded into VH1's first hour-long scripted series, attracting approximately 3 million viewers throughout its two season run. Flavor Unit produced Latifah's film Joyful Noise. Most recently, Flavor Unit produced Lifetime's Original Movie, Steel Magnolias. The movie premiered in October 2012 as the third most-watched telecast ever on the network, averaging 6.5 million total viewers. Flavor Unit most recently struck a multi-year licensing deal with Netflix. Their first release includes the thriller House of Bodies, which stars Terrence Howard and Peter Fonda.
Her first television series, Living Single, was a huge success and is currently in syndication. From the small screen, Latifah made a leap to film and her acting skills have earned her the status of leading lady.

Since her screen debut in Spike Lee's 1991 film Jungle Fever, her film career has taken off. She starred in Set it Off, which earned her a nomination for a Spirit Award in the Best Actress category and co-starred with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito in the critically acclaimed Living Out Loud. In 1999, she was seen in Universal's The Bone Collector directed by Philip Noyce and starring Denzel Washington.

In addition to music, film and television, Queen Latifah has also written a book on self-esteem entitled Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman. Queen Latifah's new book, Put on Your Crown: Life Lessons from the Queen, was released in May 2010.

In September 2013, Queen Latifah became the host of her very own talk show, which she produced with partner Shakim Compere, and Overbrook Entertainment's Will Smith, Jada Smith and James Lassiter. In September 2014, The Queen Latifah Show premiered for its second season.

Queen Latifah is diligent in her pursuit of excellence, as is evident by the awards she has received for her work in film and music. Her sincere concern for others is revealed by the generous amount of time and money that she donates to worthwhile charitable organizations. Every year, Queen Latifah serves as co-chairman for the Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation, Inc. Established by her mother, Rita Owens, to perpetuate the memory of a loving son and brother, the foundations provides scholarships to students who excel scholastically, but are limited in financial resources.

Bio

Queen Latifah is the CEO, Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Flavor Unit.

This entertainment mogul has been in the business for over 25 years. Her work in music, film and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2 Image Awards, a Grammy Award, 6 additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination, a People’s Choice Award, and an Academy Award nomination.

Queen Latifah is a trailblazer and an international icon. She has starred in over 40 feature films, has executive produced over 20 titles and was the first hip hop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has performed at the White House, hosted the Nobel Peace Prize concert, and been a CoverGirl for nearly 15 years.

Along with Shakim Compere, Queen oversees all creative direction for the Flavor Unit and Queen Latifah brands.