How Queen Latifah Helped Me Build Self-Esteem as a Fat Black Girl

My first time Black media legend Dana Owens, aka Queen Latifah, faced off on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Sometime in elementary school, I was watching reruns on BET, and Will was meeting another female guest star. I was shocked when I saw DD. She was as tall as Will and had what my grandmother called “the perfect figure.” It was the first time any female on the show, aside from Will’s love interest, looked like me.

Plus, she was fearsome. When Will inadvertently referred to the size, he put the bag on her slender frame and large ears. She won him over with her sense of humor, and was never afraid to call him on his shit. It wasn’t the first time I wanted to emulate a TV character (I’d go all out with Susie Carmichael from “Rugrats” and Francine Frensky from “Arthur”). But this was the first time the character looked like me: not only black, but also tall and plus-sized.

Will Smith and Queen Latifah as Dee Dee in “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

I eventually found out who Latifah was when my mother rented her movies. I loved watching her run a business in “Beauty Shop,” take a luxurious vacation in “Last Vacation,” and solve a crime investigation with no training in “Taxi.” She was sassy, ​​beautiful and funny, taking each day one step at a time. He showed a vision of what youth could be, if I molded myself into his image.

My most active season of Queen Latifah obsession was the fall of 2007, when I transferred to a new middle school. Many of the kids at the predominantly affluent, predominantly white school had chosen their friends years in advance, and in addition to being the new kid, I stood out physically. I was stupid, restless and silent. Many teachers didn’t know what to make of me, let alone the students. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

“Hairspray” came out that year, and all I knew about the music was that Queen Latifah sang on it. My parents gave me the DVD for my birthday, and I spent the next several months learning every song, every dance routine, watching the special features non-stop. Motormouth Maybelle’s song “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” was weird, with all the flaws I didn’t understand, but I heard the last verse of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” over and over again at the time. Explained until I could do it during the dance. . The song “I Know Where I’ve Been” in all its rebellious, hopeful glory pushed the sorrows of those first months of school out of my body.

I want to remember my time watching “Hairspray” every night for months on end, training for endurance to face the world, or replenishing my self-esteem. I was thrust into an environment where I had to deal with what other people thought of me. In elementary school, bullies or boys made fun of my weight all the time. But the questions of whether I belong there or not never crossed my mind. In middle school, everyone was commenting on how I acted differently than they thought someone who looked like me should act. Oh, you’re so smart. You use big words. How did you get so tall?

Queen Latifah, Center, In The 2007 Film &Quot;Hair Spray&Quot;
Queen Latifah, center, in the 2007 film “Hairspray.”

If hearing how weird I was wasn’t enough, I also had to take physical education instead of recess for the first time, and participate in weekly mile runs where I was reminded of my size and fitness level. When I always came last. . The kids will joke about how I’ll have everything but PE, thereby casually throwing your deepest insecurities in your face. My blackness and my fatness became a source of shame under their eyes. I learned to suppress them and focus on blending in until I could go home, turn on the TV, and think about Motormouth Maybelle instead of me.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was only involved in one aspect of Queen Latifah’s work. My focus on her romcoms and “hairspray” is what I wanted to see in myself through her, that I could be loved, admired and successful. That’s what I needed from him at that moment.

But childhood does not last. I grew up, left this harmful environment where I was put in a box, and I needed to discover the whole me and work to break out of it. In middle and high school, Mary Lane was the “super-smart black girl who didn’t do black,” as my classmates used to say, and I was okay with that. But then I went to college, the racial justice movement emerged after multiple shootings of unarmed black people, and I realized I wanted to connect with the cultural heritage I had pushed down to fit in. Then I discovered the queen. Latifah, the rapper.

Learning about Queen’s early rap career helped me see how she informed herself throughout her career. His rap was always about showing that women had an uncontested place in culture despite how male rappers viewed “women”. To be a fan, I’ve always had to ignore the way rap promotes violence against women. When I learned about hip-hop on drives with my dad, he mostly played gangsta rap, dominated by men calling women bitches. His favorite female rapper was Lil’ Kim, but he never played it for me, saying she was too vulgar (but he had no problem playing Dr. Dre and Ice Cube’s “Natural Born Killass,” which scares me to this day).

Queen Latifah Performing In 1993.
Queen Latifah performing in 1993.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

I didn’t even know about female rappers who spoke out against female objectification until I first heard Queen ask, “Who you callin’ a bitch?” The same ethos of calling out men’s filth on “unity” and earning a place for herself was evident in every role I loved her for. I didn’t have his name at the time.

Another quality of Queen Latifah that I have always loved is how she has done so many different projects in her career. His credits include film, television, drama, comedy, action, romance, animation, producing, writing, directing on IMDB. Not only has she done everything, but she has also gained acclaim for many different roles and genres. He has won a Grammy, an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award. He has produced biopics that give his favorite singers their dues, as well as competition shows to give up-and-coming rappers a stage. “Hairspray” wasn’t even her first musical. Before that, she was in “Chicago” for which she was nominated for an Oscar. His success reminds me that I never have to keep myself in one lane. I can do whatever I want, within the guidelines.

My Queen fave has faded since its last peak, when “Living Single” was added to Hulu in 2018 and became my go-to for an entire year. I never got around to watching “The Equalizer” or finishing the last season of “Star” and 13-year-old Quincy would be very disappointed.

Maybe it’s because years of therapy have helped me develop a stronger sense of self, or because I want to hold on to the childhood vision of him trapped in amber. Social media reminds fans that celebrities are imperfect human beings who cannot be put on a pedestal forever, and that we may not agree with them on every position or issue.

Even though I no longer need her to be everything to me, Queen Latifah was. gave A role model at a time when I was struggling to figure out who I really was outside of the narrow boxes the world had made for me, and despite what people thought a fat black girl should be. Should.


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