Still a few years shy of 50, Queen Latifah has already racked up a lifetime of achievements that include a Grammy, Emmy, and a Golden Globe Award. Throughout her illustrious career, the hip-hop pioneer has stood as a powerful voice for women and used her platform to help others advance in male-dominated industries. Now Latifah is turning it up another notch by helping women crack the glass ceiling in Hollywood by funding and producing two independent projects created by women.
“We’ll choose two people who will have their scripts made [and] financed from A to Z. When it’s time to be distributed, we will get distribution whether it’s theatrical or whether it’s through Netflix, Hulu, or whatever outlet is appropriate for the film. We will market and promote [it] as well,” said the 48-year-old actress and musician on Friday at a private dinner sponsored by Proctor & Gamble’s “My Black is Beautiful” campaign and held during the 2018 Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The projects will be produced by The Queen Collection, a new initiative created by Proctor & Gamble and Latifah’s production company Flavor Unit. In addition to handling the funding, production, distribution, and marketing of the projects, Latifah herself, will offer the women guidance and mentorship.
Latifah credited her late mother, Rita Owens, as the inspiration behind the upcoming project, describing her as a loving and generous school teacher and mentor who instilled in her the importance of giving back. The “Ladies First” rapper was also inspired by the personal challenges she faced in the entertainment industry as a woman of color. According to a research study, only 11% of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women in 2017, while 83% of the films had no female writers. Although Latifah acknowledged that The Queen Collective is just a drop in the bucket, she added that it’s a step towards progress that will amplify the voices of women storytellers and fuel the pipeline of female directors across TV, film, and commercials. "When one of these women have an opportunity to make a movie, they can employee 150 to 250 people...and they'll have the power to hire [other] women."
Latifah ended the announcement by inviting attendees to her performance at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday, which will mark her first time hitting the main stage at the Essence Festival. It also comes on the heels of her starring role in the 2017 box office smash Girls Trip, which is based on four friends who reconnect and bond during a wild weekend at the Essence Festival. According to Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, the popularity of the movie has been a driving force in tourism and revenue in the Crescent City. “That movie had an incredible influence on [the Essence Festival], on New Orleans, and the state of Louisiana,” he said at festival’s opening press conference on Thursday. “Ninety percent of the people that visit Louisiana come here [because they were] heavily influenced by something they saw on television on in a movie. That equals a little over 5 million people a year and $1.3 billion in economic value.”
Latifah's Girls Trip co-star Regina Hall also made an appearance at the 2018 Essence Fest to promote her role in The Hate U Give, an upcoming film that touches on racism and police brutality through the lens of a black teenage girl. Hall said it’s important for her to portray a variety of characters and experiences that real black women face. “I think that’s what black women do so well -- we balance everything in terms of code-switching. You balance going to work and being professional and then on weekends hanging out with your girls. We balance being classy and ratchet.” She added, “I think every experience is valid…You see black women as mothers, wives, caretakers, and activists…They’re all stories and they’re all great.”