Sunday, October 5, 2008

Queen Latifah: "Assume Whatever You Want. You Do It Anyway."

Big Mama Morton keeps an eye on Shell Dockley and Nikki Wade during the Larkhall talent show.

Queen Latifah, recently seen registering a dozen or so perfect confused facial expressions as moderator Gwen Ifill in SNL's epic vice-presidential debate sketch, is profiled in this weekend's New York Times Magazine. She succeeds in dazzling writer Alex Witchel, dazzling her bosses at Cover Girl, and pretty much dazzling the normally dazzle-resistant me -- until the lesbian issue comes up:
One topic of persistent speculation on the Web is Queen Latifah's sexuality, particularly a supposed romance with a female trainer. She has never addressed her relationships publicly and was in no mood to start. "I don't have a problem discussing the topic of somebody being gay, but I do have a problem discussing my personal life," she said. "You don't get that part of me. Sorry. We're not discussing it in our meetings, we're not discussing it at Cover Girl. They don't get it, he doesn't get it" — she gestured upstairs, toward Compere's office — "nobody gets that. I don't feel like I need to share my personal life, and I don't care if people think I'm gay or not. Assume whatever you want. You do it anyway."
It's better than what we got out of her eight years ago on VH1's Behind the Music, when she addressed gay rumors by laughing nervously and launching into an awkward, unconvincing, lady doth protest too much response about not being a "fruit," but obviously there's still room for improvement. I do think she's poised to come out eventually, and if she does it while her career is still monster-sized it's going to be one of the most socially important celebrity coming-outs we've ever seen; the question is, how long is she prepared to wait?

By the way, anyone else catch this bit of hilarity as Witchel followed Latifah around her production company:
We walked upstairs to Compere's office, which was between a screening room and an editing room (they were cutting a reality show about the rapper Ja Rule).
Shakim Compere is Queen Latifah's childhood friend and business partner in Flavor Unit Entertainment; Ja Rule, who four years ago starred in a Flavor Unit production, The Cookout, made headlines last year with a homophobic outburst that suggested homosexuality is "tearing up America." Asked about a Congressional hearing into hip-hop, Ja Rule expressed outrage that rap lyrics were being treated as a national concern when more important things were happening, like the Jena Six protests in Louisiana. He could have left it at that and many people -- most of us, I'd guess -- would have agreed with him.

But after saying "Let's get into shit like that, because that's what's tearing up America, not me calling a woman a bitch or a hoe [sic] on my rap songs," he felt compelled to continue:
"And if it is, then we need to go step to Paramount, and fucking MGM, and all of these other motherfuckers that's making all of these movies and we need to go step to MTV and Viacom, and lets talk about all these fucking shows that they have on MTV that is promoting homosexuality, that my kids can't watch this shit. Dating shows that's showing two guys or two girls in mid afternoon. Let's talk about shit like that! If that's not fucking up America, I don't know what is."
It didn't take long for Ja Rule to backpedal and try to position himself as a social progressive with comments that were about as disingenuous as Latifah's ancient declarations of non-fruitiness. He should have kept it brief and honest: "Gays aren't okay when they're on my TV, but I don't judge 'em when they sign my paychecks." I'm sure he's seen Queen Latifah's big number in Chicago and can relate to its message: "The folks atop the ladder/Are the ones the world adores/So boost me up my ladder, kid/And I'll boost you up yours."

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Holland Taylor was also interviewed in the Times. No mention of her personal life, which is par for the course, but it's a good read.

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