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Queen Latifah says she faced a ‘hard decision’ to play the gay role of Cleo in ‘Set It Off’ early in her career

Queen Latifah has steadfastly refused to discuss persistent rumors about her sexuality.

But she has played queer characters on stage including bisexual singer Bessie Smith in the HBO movie Bessie last year.

But 21 years ago, the Oscar-nominated actress agonized when offered another queer role in the 1996 film Set It Off.

‘When I got the role of amateur bank robber Cleo Sims in Set It Off, I sat down with my younger siblings and told them, “Listen, I’m playing a gay character. Your classmates might tease you or say negative things about it,”‘ Latifah tells Huffington Post.

She also told the siblings: ‘But I’m doing it because I believe I can bring positive attention to the gay African-American community, and I believe that I can do a great job as an actor.’

Latifah now says: ‘They understood, and when those things inevitably happened in school, they were OK with it.’

FILE UNDER: Actors/Actresses


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3 Remarks

  1. I’ve tried to get past her smugness on this topic; but, I just can’t.

    I know the AA community is one where difficulties in being out and authentic are an issue. But, at this point her career isn’t going to be affected in any appreciable way. Her sexuality “shouldn’t” matter I agree; but, let’s be honest: it does matter. It matters to a lot of young black men and women. If someone as successful as she is won’t come out, why should they feel good enough about themselves to do so? (In their eyes.)

    Really, just over her to be honest.

  2. If someone is depending on some celebrity to guide their life, boost their self-esteem and/or to take action in their life, then that’s kind of pathetic in itself! There are other role models in the AA and LGBT community that deserve far more adulation and better to emulate than some actor or actress.

  3. I’m so torn about Latifah because I truly adore her and been a fan since ‘Ladies First’ (one of her first rap songs) that she put out on her very own label and management company.
    I just loved her Afrocentric style and her very positive messages she was sending to people that she felt needed it. She isn’t just a rapper but she is a singer, an actress, a Cover Girl, business manager, writer and even a mogul who would have her own line of cosmetics and many business ventures.
    She has donated her money, time and blood and sweat and tears for many charities throughout her time being in the spotlight.
    She truly is a gift to this world and her personal life is important but if she wants to keep her personal life personal I don’t feel there is anything wrong with it. There are so many public figures that waited until the time was right for them to come out and others would continue to keep their personal life personal. Liberace’ (RIP) never publicly came out and there were people who were very present in his life that accused him of being gay. Most remember how he was ‘allegedly gay’ to all the rag papers that wanted to sell their publications and even after the man was dead. Liberace himself never came out and publicly announced it to anyone and regardless of what anyone says or thinks he never said publicly.
    I can’t lie and I have to shame devil and confess that I am waiting for the day or night when Latifah might come out but if she doesn’t it’s not going to make me not appreciate all that she has done and going to do. There might be people in the industry that know about Latifah’s private life but she has such a great team around her of people that love, respect and adore her and will not allow anything or anybody that could hurt her career come out and I don’t blame them or her.
    As a gay man I know about the closet and how comforting it can be but mainly it’s to protect you from any kind of harm that could come your way when your not mentally, physically and emotionally ready to deal with all that comes with ‘coming out’. It’s a process and it can be very therapeutic but it can be damaging as well because we do live in a world that there are those that don’t want the truth.
    I used to hear all these amazing stories about the ‘baths’ and the Adult Book Stores (Head Shops/Glory Holes) and how many ‘alleged’ straight men would go in and have a ‘field day’. Do you think those men would leave there and talk openly to their wives or girlfriends or even friends about doing all they did or all they didn’t do but could have done?
    There is a difference between other public figures that have came out ‘After Ellen’ and ‘After Elton’ (Two websites I used to love to go on) because some of these people were successful and not force to pay a price for being their true authentic-selves. Others paid a different price by attempting to be honest and talking openly about their private life and it didn’t go over very well. It became more about what they were doing in their bedroom and less about a project or something they were creating or trying to promote. Athletes are a great example of that because many feel that Michael Sam would be in the NFL if he didn’t come out. There are those that argue he just wasn’t good enough to play in the NFL but I don’t know because I don’t watch football like that but I did watch the Super Bowl this year from beginning to end. Lady Gaga is something else, chile!!!!!! I actually enjoyed the game (If Gisele don’t want Tom, I will take him; HE IS FINE), the commercials (Melissa McCarthy is amazing and Snoop and Martha just slay me) and of course Ms. Gaga rocked the house!!!!!
    Stating about sports, I do remember Jason Collins who was already in the NBA and was engaged to a woman and then came out after he was already playing actively in the league. He got some support but there was backlash as well, so as much as most of us want to feel like coming out is important it can ruin something you spend your entire life trying to build.
    ‘Sean Hayes’ who I adore so much played ‘Jack’ on ‘Will & Grace’ and he didn’t talk about his private life at all. Even when the show was second to probably ‘Friends’ on TV as far as the ratings and the notoriety everyone knew that Sean was playing one of the most visible gay characters in history, whenever he was asked about his own sexuality, Sean would ‘keep it moving’.
    Most of the cast of ‘Queer As Folk’ (The American Version) didn’t mention their private lives while playing iconic gay characters on their hit TV show and yet no one was up and arms.
    You have all these young actors and actresses and public figures that are out and about while on Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat which is so great. Most of the LGTBQ personalities having several thousand followers compared to their straight counterparts with millions of followers and even making side careers out of social media.
    ‘Colton Haynes’, ‘Charlie Carver’ and the cute snowboarder, Gus Kentworthy with his cute ‘overbite’ are just divine to look at and these very talented men has the entire social media in a choke-hold with their tweets and pictures of being young, gay, carefree and even being in love which is so inspiring on all levels. Now the question I ask and it might only apply to the ‘Teen Wolf’ stars but do you think them being open, out and gay might have put a damper on a career that could have taken them to Ryan Gosling or Andrew Garfield type of success? Right now every time you look up either actors name it’s starts with: “Openly Gay actor…” which I feel cheats some out of all the spoils of celebrity and fame. I know it’s not about the notoriety for some but Andrew Garfield who might have his own deal with his sexuality (my Gaydar goes off when I see him and that is my deal because I do find him to be very BEAUTIFUL) but would not only get the opportunity by being featured in major box-office movies but he also got to kiss a few guys on national TV which I find a bit funny and strangely cool.
    Sarah Poulson who is an incredible actress and would rack up award after award is out but as a ‘bisexual’ woman. Even though I have only seen her in relationships with women (lately) I have this hunch that if she comes out as a ‘lesbian’ everything might change and all those parts might not be offered to her. Jodie Foster is another amazing talent and I don’t think she came out until 20-30 years later and that was her choice and she got to do a great deal of projects that if she would have been out they might not have offered her those parts or allowed her to direct those movies, which is sad.
    I have always known how Hollywood is a business and that is why you don’t have a popular gay soap opera on a prime time network or when Trans Actress and mega-talent Laverne Cox comes along and everything she does makes some kind of history because it’s taken this long for everyone to get over themselves in the land of Hollywood.
    I truly don’t feel Latifah is being smug or trying to alienate any of her fans but she is drawing a line with her professional life and her personal life, can you blame her for doing that to protect herself, her brand and a career that she has worked so hard at and with?!?.

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