A Look Back at Queen Latifah's Extraordinary Career

The award-winning rapper, singer and actress has been taking her career to new heights for more than three decades

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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Born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, Queen Latifah began her career as a rapper who made her impact rapping about the Black American experience, specifically bringing awareness to issues affecting Black women. She created a lane for herself in hip-hop during a time when men dominated the genre and used her music to empower all women.

Her debut album All Hail the Queen came out in 1989 and five years later, she won a Grammy for best rap solo performance for "U.N.I.T.Y." in 1994. The Queen went on to become the first rapper to perform at the Super Bowl, and put out six more albums before taking over Hollywood through television, movies and musicals.

Here, she is seen performing at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago in February 1990.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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Latifah rocks the house in front of a big crowd at the famous Apollo Theater in N.Y.C. in June 1994.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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The star, joined on stage by Naughty by Nature, receives the Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year at the 9th Annual Soul Train Music Awards in 1995.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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Sandwiched between Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge, Latifah poses during a 1995 MTV Rock the Vote event in L.A.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics

Following the success of her music career, she transitioned into TV and film in the early '90s. She appeared in films like Juice and Jungle Fever and guest-starred on two episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, alongside Will Smith and the late James Avery.

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living single

She had a starring role as Khadijah James in the beloved series Living Single from 1993 to 1998.

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Queen Latifah, Kimberly Elise, Vivica A. Fox, Jada Pinkett Smith Set It Off
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Latifah played Cleo in 1996's Set It Off alongside actresses Kimberly Elise, Vivica A. Fox and Jada Pinkett Smith.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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The actress portrayed Thelma, alongside Angelina Jolie, in The Bone Collector in 1999.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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The star also hosted her own Queen Latifah Show, first from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2013 to 2015. Here, Latifah sits down with then-presidential candidate Al Gore at Smith Community College in Riverdale, Iowa, in October 2000.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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Latifah was cast as Mama Morton in the critically acclaimed 2002 musical film Chicago. She acted alongside Christine Baranski, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, Denise Faye, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs and John C. Reilly in the film, which took home the Oscar for Best Picture. The role also earned the star her own Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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She's also appeared on Saturday Night Live several times — once as host in 2003 and once as host and musical guest in 2004.

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In January 2006, the mega-star was honored with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Queen Latifah's career in pics
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The late great James Lipton interviewed the multi-hyphenate on Inside the Actors Studio in 2006.

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She went green to play The Wiz in NBC's The Wiz Live! in December 2015.

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Barbara Nitke/CBS

Her latest series, The Equalizer, made its big premiere following the Super Bowl on CBS in 2021.

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Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah. Bennett Raglin/Getty

In June 2021, the rapper and actress was honored with the lifetime achievement award at the 2021 BET Awards, an embodiment of the show's theme, "Year of the Black Woman."

She said in her moving acceptance speech, "I want to thank BET for creating an outlet for beautiful blackness to thrive, to shine. When we couldn't get played on the radio and other places; we couldn't get our videos played. There was BET, that allowed us to be in our fullness and to shine. To this night, right now, right here — bless everybody and everyone in the audience for all your support. Black is beautiful. I was raised by strong Black women. We can't live without each other. Celebrate. Celebrate us so together we stand stronger."

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