Queen Latifah: Ladies First or Only?

Who's checking out who?

Between Elena Kagan and Queen Latifah, I’m wondering which one is more of a closet case?

While it’s none of my business whom Kagan or Latifah go to bed with, it must be hard to either go to extraordinary lengths to deny your sexuality or to pretend you’re something you’re not.

Latifah’s new movie, Just Wright, dropped this weekend to just okay reviews (46% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.com) and just okay box office  ($8.5 million gross).  In many of the negative reviews the same words  “miscast” and “no chemistry” between Queen Latifah and her co-star, Common keep popping up.

When I saw the trailer I knew Just Wright looked like a movie made from a script left on the copier.  Just another predictable and safe romantic comedy where the good, but plain girl falls in love with a dumb jock that ignores her in favor of a sexy bad girl.  You can see where all this going miles away before it gets there and apparently the target audience for this kind of trifling fare, young Black women, found somewhere else to be this weekend.   They sure weren’t at the movie theaters to see Common try to act like he’s head over heels in love with Queen Latifah.    Apparently, they liked it better the last time when it was called Love and Basketball.

You might think with Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood dominating the multiplex screens, there would be an audience for two charismatic and good-looking leads in Queen Latifah and Common, even if they are more accomplished as rappers than actors.  But I don’t know anyone who was even mildly interested in this movie.  Then again, maybe even women who love “rom coms” weren’t interested in such a corny, clichéd story.   Or it could be a love story with two Black leads is a tough ticket to soon if Tyler Perry’s isn’t in the title.

And maybe Orville Lloyd Douglas at GayBlackCandianMan.com had the answer why Just Wright was all wrong on a weekend where it should have killed.

“Nobody wants to see a closeted lesbian Queen Latifah in a straight film role,” Douglas wrote.

Okay, there is that…

The rumor that Queen Latifah is into girls is one that has floated around long before she played a lesbian bank robber in Set It Off.  I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it and Latifah’s heard it and while she’s not flat-out denying it, she isn’t confirming it either as she said in a 2007 interview for Ebony magazine:

Asked about the stories swirling on the Internet and elsewhere that claim she is romantically involved with a female fitness trainer, Latifah immediately says: “No comment on that at all. I’m done commenting on all that … It’s ridiculous, I know me and that’s all I need to know.

“And if the readers don’t know me, then that’s one part they aren’t going to get to know. Those are my people but they don’t sleep with me,” she says in a very even tone that is very consistent with her relaxed mood. “It feels so invasive. It’s the one thing I don’t think people need to know about.”

I seriously doubt those who love or hate Latifah will have any more or less of a reason to do so should she come out. I argued for years with people who were CONVINCED Luther Vandross wasn’t gay. Right up to the point he sang “Killing Me Softly” and didn’t change the gender. At that point even the diehards had to say, “Okay, that’s a little odd…”

Latifah isn’t obligated to be the spokesperson for any cause or advance any agenda except her own.  She might be an inspiration to closeted Black lesbians the same way Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell were when they came out, but it’s her call to make

Blogger and activist Jasmyne Cannick weighed the pros and cons of Latifah owning up to her less-than secret life after the Ebony interview

Unlike previous statements where Latifah claimed that she was still “looking for a good brotha” now says she is done commenting on one particular situation which is a private matter.

All I got to say is that you either are or you’re not.  And most of us know which category Latifah falls into.

And while I am not advocating that Latifah be outed in any way, I am a bit perplexed as to how a woman that’s supposed to be a role model for strength can not show any of her own as it relates to her sexuality. All of these word games. I’m looking for a good brotha and It’s ridiculous, I know me and that’s all I need to know.”

First of all, most people who are heterosexual when asked about being gay will emphatically set the record straight.  And they’ll straight up say, I’m straight.  Some men will even try to beat you down if you insinuate otherwise. And in the case of women who are straight, you know the line…“I’m strictly dickly.”  There’s no jumping around the bush and all of that madness about it being a private matter.  To be even more blunt, it’s usually not in heterosexuals nature to be so evasive about being straight.  No, that’s usually reserved for those of us in the closet or those of us that aren’t completely comfortable with talking about our gay sexuality. So that alone would make Latifah suspect in my eyes if I didn’t know any better already.

I’m sure if I asked my 87 year-old grandmother today if she thought Latifah was gay she’s say yes.  And if I followed that up with, but would you still go and see her in a movie, she’d say yes to that too.  The reason for that is simple.  When it comes to celebrities, I don’t think people care the way they would if the person in question were a Senator, Governor, quarterback, short-stop, or point guard.  The other and perhaps most important reason that I don’t think her sexuality would be that much of an issue is that, what most gay people who think they’re pulling off straight don’t seem to realize is that people know.  They may not say anything to your face about it, but they know.  I don’t care how long the weave is, how packed the MAC is, or how high the heels are, you are who you are and it always comes through loud and clear regardless of how hard you try to hide it.  Even in interviews when the simplest answer you could ever give to the question of your sexuality is either yes I am gay, no I am straight, or I am bisexual.  End of story.  All of the shucking and jiving and elaborate drawn out answers that are strangely reminiscent of the dances done by politicians on subjects they’d rather not be speaking on, end up telling the story for you.

 

Ladies first?

 

Elisa Kagan is getting sweated by friends and foes alike wanting to know which team she’s playing on, but then she’s looking for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.  The stakes are a bit higher than the private life of a rapper-turned-actress.  Personally, my life will go on unchanged if Latifah fesses up or not.  Coming out is a personal choice and continuing to keep up a front nobody is buying is her choice too.

In a few weeks after Just Wright quietly slips out of its theatrical run for an equally unremarkable stint on DVD, Latifah will assess why the film tanked and conclude it was Common’s shortcomings as a romantic leading man or audiences preferring her in a supporting instead of leading role.  One stinker isn’t going to squash her career.

What she should be worried about is if supporting roles are all she can do.  Romantic comedies work only when the audience accepts the premise the actors could reasonably have the hots for each other.  That is complicated when there are serious doubts Queen Latifah even likes men.

When a “secret”  becomes a “secret” everybody knows what’s the point?   Queen Latifah likes girls and SO WHAT? Don’t make no difference to me.  I don’t like her any more or less than I did when I thought she was straight.

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3 thoughts on “Queen Latifah: Ladies First or Only?

  1. Leave Latifah alone. Don’t push her over the brink. I think she’s strong but fragile where the L thing is concerned. Look what happened to Whitney. After so many years of being hammered as a closet case, she took refuge in drugs and Bobby Brown. Latifah’s had enough personal tragedy (her brother), and needs time to feel OK about her gender identity issues — like Oprah. “Lookin’ for a good Brotha’ ” could simply mean to have children with in a discrete arrangement. Since her days as a Newark-born high school baller, Latifah has done quite well for herself as an actress, glamourous ex-rap rebel, legitimate singer, and spokesmodel for a white cosmetics line. I haven’t seen the movie, but the trailers suggest exactly what you said about lack of chemistry between Common and Latifah. But I wouldn’t hang it on the L word. For one thing, the casting is questionable — they both seem too old for this plot. Secondly, shorter sit-coms and feature appearances may be her forte, rather than expecting her to carry the whole big-screen movie role. Third, see Secondly and apply it to Common. A writer making a point similar to yours — about the correlation between an actor’s gender identitiy issues and his/her believability as a romantic lead — raised a big stink in another forum last week. It’s a stretch. I don’t think you should jump to that conclusion. Read this: http://www.newsweek.com/id/236999

    • I don’t think I’m pushing Queen Latifah further into the closet. I’m just amazed she could have such a poor grasp of what roles her audience will and will not accept her playing. She would make a most improable action hero, damsel in distress and apparently, a romantic lead. It’s just not in her wheelhouse to come off as soft and vulnerable. I think she’s a physicallly attractive woman, but as the girl that gets the guy—doubtful. Playing against type is something every actor should attempt to do, but will Latifah go down this particular road again soon? Not unless she has Eugene Levy making goo-goo eyes at her again in a sequel to Bringing Down the House.

  2. I have to agree with the second response. This film may have miscast Queen Latifah and Common. The chemistry was not there COMPLETELY with Queen and Common. I say completely because there were true moments. I got a little emotional at the end especially when he kissed her the first time around. The time was right, the music was right and the kiss was believable. It was very romantic. Actually the music really put you in that romantic, I’m in love space. I commend the musical director, nice pacing throughout the film. Getting back to the miscasting issue – Is it really a miscast or did they have enough chemistry? In reality, there are older men playing b-ball in the NBA so why not tell a love story from an age range of 35 and 40? Many of us are still unmarried (regardless of gay or straight) and with the recession happening in transition of another job/career. So why isn’t this story line believable? Yes, it’s been done before but not catering to this age bracket.

    Chemisty- did they really have lack of chemistry between the both of them or is it really us? Are we still looking at Queen Latifah as this old school hip-hop head rapper or Cleo, the “lesbian” in “Set it off”? Yes, Queen Latifah does have a little swag but isn’t that why she was cast in the first place? Apparently, she is the everyday around the way kind of girl. Look at the car she drove? There are many straight woman who look and act more hard than their man but that does not mean they are gay. “Love and basket ball” is a great example. Salan character was a tomboy and it worked so why couldn’t it work in this case. To insinuate, the chemistry didn’t work because of one’s sexuality is absurd. If you are an experience actor and gay, then you know how to tap into your character regardless of their sexuality. Trust, there are many gay actors out there you would really be surprise they are gay because of the lack of one sided image you see of lesbians and gays on screen. Can we really make a solid judgment here? I think we should screen the film in front of audience who does not know Queen Latifah or Common. If it’s believable to them then, I say a job well done for both Queen Laftiah and Common. Anyways, that’s my two cents.

    This discussion is very interesting to me. I hope you all check out CineMatiq Magazine, a new quarterly magazine that review unique and distinct perspective on Black LGBT images in cinema and beyond. In each issue you will find interviews, commentary, movie & film equipment reviews and how-to pieces focusing on topics from development to distribution and more. Look out for the launch of our preview issue available to the public on June 3, 2010 at http://www.cinematiqmag.com.

    This is a great topic to bring up in the magazine. I welcome any contributing writers.

    Much love and enlightenment,
    Angel L. Brown

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