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Queen Latifah opens up about taking on lesbian acting roles

Nick Duffy February 16, 2017

Queen Latifah has spoken about the process she went through before deciding to play an openly gay character for the first time.

The musician and actress has played a string of queer characters over the years, including Chicago’s Matron Mama Morton and bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith in ‘Bessie’.

But the singer, who closely guards her own personal life, was not always so comfortable playing out characters on screen.

She opened up to InStyle about the pivotal moment she accepted a role as lesbian bank robber Cleo in 1996 film Set It Off, her first time ‘playing gay’.

She picked the moment as one of her hardest career decisions, adding: “When I got the role of [Cleo], I sat down with my younger siblings and told them, ‘Listen, I’m playing a gay character. Your classmates might tease you or say negative things about it. But I’m doing it because I believe I can bring positive attention to the gay African-American community, and I believe that I can do a great job as an actor’.

“They understood, and when those things inevitably happened in school, they were OK with it.”

Elsewhere in the interview she spoke about overcoming the obsession with the perfect body in showbiz.

She explained: “I used to get caught up in comparing myself, especially in terms of body type, but I realized that often the people I envied were missing important things that I had in abundance—I’ve had romance and danger, family to come home to, and open-mindedness. It’s great to have plans and a vision for your life, but it’s more important to be open to the unexpected. That’s the secret to living a juicy, magical life.”

While playing bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith last year, Queen Latifah hinted that she had “been through some of the things that Bessie has been through”.

She said: “I’ve kind of been through some of the things that Bessie has been through.

“I’ve lived a little bit of her and I can speak from a more authentic place.”

Latifah famously performed a mass gay wedding at the Grammys in 2014, helping dozens of same-sex couples to tie the knot.

More: acting, lesbian, Queen Latifah, role, US

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