NEWARK, New Jersey — She's a media mogul, a respected female MC and a COVERGIRL, so it was no surprise that Queen Latifah's appearance at BET's annual "Black Girls Rock!" event gave it an extra pop of girl power. Fans will get to see the honoree presented with the Rock Star Award on Sunday night (November 3), but MTV News headed to the Garden State last week where the Queen told us why it's still "ladies first."
"It's great to be honored here but really this is more a celebration of [Black Girls Rock! founder] Beverly Bond and the work that she's been putting in with Black Girls Rock!" Latifah told us on the red carpet before the October 26 pre-tape of the show. "And [she's] really trying to tap into the community of young girls who are out there, who need inspiration and motivation."
The pioneering rapper was dubbed the ultimate entertainment icon and an industry trailblazer at the awards show. And over the course of her career, she's proven why. As a female MC, entrepreneur, actress, singer and now, talk-show host, she's transcended multiple entertainment platforms, leaving very few stones of opportunity unturned.
So before "Black Girls Rock!" airs tonight on BET at 7 p.m. ET/PT, we decided to highlight a few reasons why the Queen rocks!
She's All About U.N.I.T.Y.
Donning African garb, Latifah entered the rap game in the late 1980s and became known for her assertive rap style and regal outlook. She dropped the track "U.N.I.T.Y," from her second album, Black Reign, in 1994. The song won her a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance and the socially conscious lyrics about female empowerment would eventually make the song a mantra in Latifah's career. With songs like that, she not only set the tone for herself as an artist, but paved the way for future female MCs like Lil' Kim, Eve and Nicki Manaj.
"She is my inspiration, has always been my inspiration," Eve told MTV News on the "BGR" red carpet. "I feel like her life, her career, is like the blueprint for me honestly."
Although Latifah recognized the influence hip-hop pioneers like her have had on the industry, she told MTV News that the music business has changed significantly since she started, calling the current era, the "wild, wild west in music." Her advice to young artists? "I'd say if you want to be an artist start with your art, start with making great music and it will, hopefully, eventually cut through all of the nonsense that is out there."
She's A '90s Kind Of Girl
Aside from music, Latifah entered into television. One of her most memorable roles is as Khadijah James, editor in chief of the fictional Flavor Magazine, on the Fox series "Living Single." The show aired from 1993 to 1998 and remains one of the few sitcoms to focus on an all-African American female cast.
She's Always Ready To Set It Off
Continuing her hand at acting, Latifah moved on to the film world where she was cast as Cleopatra "Cleo" Sims, a lesbian bank robber in 1996's "Set It Off." She went on to portray Matron Mama Morton in 2002. Playing a corrupt matron of a county jail in the musical film adaptation "Chicago" earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
Unafraid of the criticism raised by such roles, Latifah said "carving your own niche" was necessary when striving for success. "[Individuality has] been paramount to my success," she said. "If you try to follow everyone else's mold, you'll probably fail at some point because God created us uniquely for a reason"
She's The 'Queen' Of Talk
But the star born Dana Owens isn't just onscreen. Her endeavors have extended to executive producer roles on network shows, including VH1's "Single Ladies" and BET's "Lets Stay Together." And most recently, Latifah took yet another leap, revisiting a familiar platform by hosting a self-titled daytime talk show. The only difference is she wears the executive producer crown for this gig now too.
She's EASY, BREEZY, BEAUTIFUL
Latifah debuted as a COVERGIRL in 2001, and went on to develop her own makeup line with the brand, the "Queen Collection." She shares the title with fellow COVERGIRL faces P!nk, Janelle Monae and Katy Perry.
"She transcended hip-hop, she's transcended movies. She's a woman who does talk shows. It's like she's nonstop, you cannot stop her," Eve said.
As her "queen-dom" continues to expand, fellow entrepreneurs and entertainers shared their admiration. Bond, the DJ and founder of Black Girls Rock!, emphasized that the women chosen as BGR honorees "epitomize the champion's spirit" and are "anchored by fierce commitment to their craft."
"In terms of a rock star, [Latifah's] just at the top of her game," Bond told MTV News. "She's setting trends for others to follow but she also understands the importance of her platform is not just about her. What she stands for, her integrity, her work ethic, her drive, her confidence — all those things qualify her as a rock star."
Catch "Black Girls Rock!" and see Queen Latifah receive her Rock Star award Sunday, November 3 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on BET.