Queen Latifah is ready for some real talk about weight and wellness.
“The Equalizer” star, who first entered the spotlight as a rapper in the 1980s, has experienced working in entertainment – and the public scrutiny that comes with it – in a range of sizes.
She told CNN she’s aware that she’s been a positive role model to some plus-sized women, because she’s been so successful in a world that judges women, in particular, based on how they look.
“I have felt the pressure of representation throughout my career,” she told CNN. “I’m glad that I decided to be me. I’m glad I had parents who raised me with enough self-love and constantly filled me with self esteem.”
Queen Latifah now hopes to share that spirit of empowerment by partnering with the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk for a campaign that aims to refocus the conversation about obesity from weight to one about health.
“There has been a lot of stigma attached to that word [obesity], a lot of history attached to that word, a lot of ignorance attached to that word…and a lot of negativity throughout people’s lives,” she said.
Called “It’s Bigger Than Me,” Queen Latifah will travel with the campaign for conversations in cities like Houston, New York City and Los Angeles.
With statistics showing 41% of Americans are obese – which includes four out of five Black women – Queen Latifah said she wants people to put more thought into the impact obesity has on health and spend less time blaming and shaming themselves for their body size.
A perspective shift, she said, she herself has struggled with over the years.
Queen Latifah said she has witnessed artists who have been one size prior to releasing music only to quickly transform their bodies when it’s time to promote their new projects that go on to become hits.
“When you’re someone that’s looking at that, it’s like ‘Ok, is this what I need to do next time I drop this album,’” she said. “So, I contemplated that and it really made me have a conversation with myself.”
The artist, actor and producer, who lost a family member to complications from obesity, said she always thought of the term as someone who weighed hundreds of pounds and struggled with mobility.
Which is why, she said, she was was shocked to learn from her trainer at one point that she would be considered obese. The star said she’s open to answering questions about her own weight journey during the tour to demystify it all.
“One of the scariest things is watching people secretly do surgeries,” she said of those who have been less willing to share their weight journey publicly. “Because a lot of people feel alone when it comes to this topic. They deal with their emotions alone, they feel alone.”
Queen Latifah wants to encourage people to talk to their doctors and take control of their individual health.
“Information is power,” she said.