|The paparrazzi caught Queen Latifah with her long-time lover Jeanette Jenkins on a yacht off the coast of France.Rev. Irene Monroe Long before the African- American celebrity gossip, news, popular culture and entertainment blog Bossip.com outed Dana Owens
Long before the African- American celebrity gossip, news, popular culture and entertainment blog Bossip.com outed Dana Owens, a.k.a Queen Latifah, with photos of her and gal pal âpersonal trainerâ Jeanette Jenkins in a tender embrace not meant for public viewing, the century-long reliable âchitlinâ circuitâ told us our closeted Queen was âin the life.â
Queen Latifah, however, emphatically refuted the rumors as scurrilous attacks.
âItâs insulting when someone asks, âAre you gay?â A woman cannot be strong, outspoken, competent at running her own business, handle herself physically, play a very convincing role in a movie, know what she wants - and go for it - without being gay? Come on, â Queen Latifah wrote in her 1999 autobiography, Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman.
But when photos of Queen Latifah and Jenkins intimately embraced aboard a private French yacht in Corsica, France went viral on the Internet, the publicâs long awaited âGotchaâ moment was sad.
âMy private life is my private life. Whomever I might be with, I donât feel the need to share it. I donât think I ever will, â Queen Latifah said in a November 2007 interview with People magazine, refuting rumors that sheâs a lesbian.
Hip-hop culture displays a hyper masculinity, and this male-dominated genre is aesthetically built on the most misogynistic and homophobic strains of Black Nationalism and afrocentricism. In 1989 at age 19 Queen Latifah changed the way many of us viewed hip-hop with her hit single âLadies Firstâ from her first album âAll Hail the Queen,â rebuking misogynistic lyrics, and bringing to young women an uplifting message of self-respect and empowerment.
As one of the most prominent and influential female hip-hoppers of her generation, however, Queen Latifah hid her sexuality as a way to not only survive her own internalized homophobia, but also the musical genreâs.
âI feel more comfortable with myself - my sexuality, my mentality and my viewpointâ Queen Latifah told People.
And Queen Latifahâs viewpoint, even with these recent damaging photos of her with Jenkins, is hell bent on not disclosing.
What set off the on-going flurry of queries concerning Queen Laitifahâs sexual orientation was her portrayal as a butch lesbian in the 1996 movie Set it Off. And the response from the African American community ranged from applause to outrage.
For her portrayal as Cleopatra âCleoâ Sims, Queen Latifah received the American Black Film Festival Award for best actress, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.
But within the hip-hop community, Queen Latifahâs butch lesbian âCleoâ wasnât well received; it cast her within this community as a liability, bringing attention to not only her sexual orientation but also bringing attention to the questionable sexual orientations of others. And Queen Latifahâs emphatic denunciation of her lesbianism only fed more curiosity and intrigue about the âdown-lowâ gay and lesbian subculture of hip-hop.
For example, former MTV producer Terrance Dean wrote a page-turning memoir titled, Hiding in Hip-Hop: Confessions of a Down Low Brother in the Entertainment Industry, depicting his âdown lowâ dalliances with married Hollywood and Hip-hopâs leading black men âliving a double lifeâ.
âThe very men who they think arenât doing anything is the very man that is hiding in hip-hop,â Dean told Danica Dow in a 2008 interview with the hip-hop news website SOHH.com.
Deanâs book created enormous fear and angered among many prominent hip-hoppers. In 2008 SOHH.com interviewed hip-hoppers Yung Berg, whos first single ââ peaked at #18 on the Billboard 100, and Nelly, whoâs ranked as the 3rd Top Overall Artist of the 2000-2009 decade by Billboard Magazine, about Deanâs book and âdown-lowâ gay subculture of hip-hop.
âYou could f*ck up a man happy home,â Yung Berg told SOHH.com. âIt might be the dude who wear his boxers on backwards every damn day dats getting hit in the ssâŠ homo damn dude u talk about in the book but he probably still got a wife and kids and you might f*ck up his life.â
Nelly shared his view on the matter stating, âLike I played sports a lot, you know, so Iâm like âwhat goes on in the locker room stays in the locker room.â Itâs like a guyâs sanctuary. You may say some sh*t in here you donât never want to get out there.â
Some argue that hp-hop forced Queen Latifah to be closeted. Others argue she had enough clout and crossover appeal to not worry about it. But Queen Latifah, no doubt, did worry about it.
For years Queen Latifah has held private same-sex parties with all in attendance understanding to be on the âdown-lowâ about it. That intimate and tender embrace Queen Latifah had with her long-time lover aboard a private French yacht in Corsica, France at Alicia Keyesâ wedding was to be on the âdown-lowâ too. But in those perceived stolen moments, when you think no oneâs watching, especially far out in the waters, are really when youâre most vulnerable. And itâs not because someone snapped a photo of you, but rather itâs because you thought you could hide