Queen Latifah: Sexuality a “Private” Matter or Protecting a Corporate Brand?

There has been lots of speculation about Queen Latifah’s sexuality for many years. Most recently rumors were almost totally confirmed by photos of Queen and Jeanette Jenkins (thought to be her longtime partner) in clearly romantic embraces while at a boat party for the marriage of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz.

Latifah is the latest of a string of celebrities that have been known (allegedly) to be queer, and were all but outed by tabloids, gossip mags and radio, etc. But is Queen Latifah’s sexuality up for debate? Is it any of our business, or is it a “private” matter?

This week, writer Jamilah King opined at Colorlines.com about whether or not people, in this case Queen Latifah, have to come out in the political way that we think about it, or if outing people is an effective strategy. She writes:

She may not be leading next year’s Gay Pride parade down San Francisco’s Market Street, but she’s telling the world that she’s living her life and not particularly concerned with hiding it. The photos, which she clearly didn’t hide from, may say the rest.Queen Latifah may not have a particularly political queer identity, and if she wants to remain silent about her personal life, then so be it. But forcing someone into becoming a role model of any sort has never been a good strategy. If anything, it creates an atmosphere of shame and guilt. And love is always about much more than that.

While I recognize that many straight people (including homophobes, including black ones) and queers (including a lot of self-interested white LGBT organizations and activists) want people to come out for many reasons that are about their own shit. But I think  we need to ask some serious questions when we say that someone’s sexuality is simply a private, personal issue that is off the table for discussion, especially a multi-millioniare like Queen Latifah.

Latifah has partly made a career off of promoted heteronormativity in some pretty conservative films–not just as an actress but as an executive producer. The extremely racist and sexist Bringin Down The House was a film where her character , a black “ghetto” ex-con at first causes havoc to the life and family of Steve Martin, but in the end assists him in correcting his white middle-class, heteronormative family.  Latifah was executive producer. Beauty Shop is a film that has one mammy character after another, and even Last Holiday, while critiquing the ways in which Black women are forced into roles of servitude to their own detriment, still follows a traditional path that ends in her union with LL Cool J.

Since Queen is one of the very few black women in Hollywood who can really finance their own projects, don’t we have an obligation to ask how these very images not only contradict her personal life, but more importantly, promote hetero-normativity to the detriment of black queers, and even straight black people who choose non-normative lifestyles? At this point, I believe we are absolutely allowed to raise these questions, insofar as they speak to political choices that implicitly or explicitly promote homo/queer phobia.

But celebrities somehow have access to privacy, as a way to not only silence any gossip about who they’re fucking, but actually to silence others critiques to protect their privacy insomuch as it threatens their capitalist enterprises.

Not only does Queen have a rap and acting career, but has:

  1. a movie production company that has a DVD distribution  deal with Paramount
  2. a record label
  3. a perfume line
  4. is a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, Pizza Hut, and Cover Girl
  5. a Cover Girl make-up line for women of color, and
  6. owns at least one FatBurger restaurant.

I found one internet site saying her net worth was $50Million.

I understand that she may pay a higher price (as a Black woman) for coming out that Ellen DeGeneres did not pay, but protecting her fortune or corporate brand is not a reason for us to shut up about it.

4 thoughts on “Queen Latifah: Sexuality a “Private” Matter or Protecting a Corporate Brand?

  1. OMG! Do you constantly talk about your sexuality? Do you defend your sexuality to EVERYONE on the street that asks you? I bet you don’t. Leave Queen alone! Do you, Queen! I’m sick of people “demanding” that someone must “brand themselves” for others’ self worth. If what you purchase/spend your money on is dictated by the owner’s/representative’s sexuality, then you live a very shallow life and need to make or create your own shit. DAMN! Stop hating and blog about your own business. Oh, I guess no one would really care if you talked about yourself though, right?! Damn journalists/bloggers!

  2. Shouldn’t we blame her for producing heteronormative films whatever her actual sexual orientation?

    Let’s criticize her productions, and her choices to participate in the creation of heteronormative propaganda, OKAY.

    But we can do that without being nosey. The mass media prying in the lives of celebrities has had terrible consequences for those people, who remain human beings no matter how much they earn.

    All this intrusion is so CRUEL. It diverts us from important issues (such as the propagandistic content of the productions and their effects in our lives).

    Prying into the celebs lives has rarely produced a better understanding, a better world. It is obvious to me that these pryings are carrying misogyny.

    It’s her decision.

  3. Kenyon, I actually appreciate this piece and definitely hear you on how much progress would be made if the Queen did embrace her homosexuality publicly. I think my issue with her doesn’t come with her silence, it comes with her denying it. I just penned a piece over at Carnal Nation called “Hip ‘Pop” is Drag: Butches, Femmes, & Homothugs” that discussed Queen Latifah and her embracement of heteronormativity. While I do think that members of the LGBT community should be the leaders of breaking down stereotypes of homosexuality in tv, film, music, and media overall, I still put responsibility on heterosexual executives to make themselves conscious in this area.

    When you get a chance, I’d appreciate if you dropped some thoughts on my piece. I’d be curious to see if you agreed.


    If you’re on Twitter, also feel free to hit me on @arielleloren

    Much love,

    Arielle Loren

  4. Hi Brother Kenyon! You gave it when you said:

    “While I recognize that many straight people (including homophobes, including black ones) and queers (including a lot of self-interested white LGBT organizations and activists) want people to come out for many reasons that are about their own shit….”

    Yes this is true, and selfish and self seeking dirty politics. It’ wrong because the one who is “closeted” should have the right to determine if they stay that way, without these self interested politicos putting these nosey two cents in.

    But then you took it back when you said:

    “But I think we need to ask some serious questions when we say that someone’s sexuality is simply a private, personal issue that is off the table for discussion, especially a multi-millioniare like Queen Latifah.”

    Now as a straight black woman, I know damn well that my sexuality is off the table for anyone’s discussion, including you! IMHO. So why should a gay person’s sexuality automatically be on the table for anyone’s discussion, if they themselves didn’t put it there, especially if they are a multimillionaire?
    It looks like the Queen’s sexuality being on the table
    is some of your own shit! The Queen owes none of us anything, whether we are straight or gay or bi or trans, unless she decides on her own to become political and wants to use herself to make a political statement, which it looks like she’s not doing. So we are obligated to leave her alone and do the work that we have chosen. If it is to be a gay activist, then you have to do that without badgering people just because they are millionaires! That spirit of outing is so tired!!
    And why is it wrong for the Queen to play straight characters? It’s not rocket science, a gay person can play a straight role, if she’s an actress!

    As a fan of the Queen for twenty years, it matters not to me one way or the other what her sexuality is. It’s none of my business, and it’s none of the business of any gay activist–black, white or multicolored!

    BTW, Totally love your blog!!!

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