There's no question that talent has enabled Queen Latifah to become a star across various platforms. But while building a successful career in music, television and film, sister followed her gut and did her homework. And, perhaps just as important, she believed in herself and wasn't afraid to fail.
On the final night of BET's fourth annual Leading Women Defined summit, Queen Latifah reflected on her path to success. It began with supportive parents who taught her from a young age the importance of being independent and self-confident. Their strong bond allowed her at the tender age of 17 to take a year from off college to try to become a female rapper in a male-dominated area.
It wasn't easy. Queen Latifah had to work hard to prove to record labels that she was worth their investment and work with fewer marketing dollars than her male counterparts as she carved out her niche.
"And me coming out with this African crown on my head?" she laughed. "That was different."
Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere, her childhood friend and business partner, got a lot of good advice from industry veterans but they also learned a lot on their own.
"We really sat around as a crew and looked at the music business, looked at the history and how many people made all these hit records and had nothing to show for it and accidently signed away their own publishing or accidently did this and didn't read that," she recalled.
Those people, Queen Latifah added, had the attitude that they just wanted to sing ; they didn't read contracts, just signed. She didn't want to be that person. Instead, she and Compere took what they learned and created their own company.
"It was a really good decision. We had to learn a lot the hard way because we were young and we weren't educated about a lot of things. We didn't have college degrees or finance backgrounds so we had to take our lumps to learn but we did it," she said. "I'm really grateful that we did because I don't think anyone would have really understood what we were capable of us other than us to the degree that we did. Sometimes you do have to bank on yourself. You do have to believe in your ideas enough to really get out there and fight for it despite what people think of some young kids from the hood."
It's all about taking a leap of faith in oneself as both she and her parents did in her and also being unafraid to fail. Latifah used a kids and kickball analogy to make her point. Dealing with rejection at an early age teaches you that it's okay to stumble and even fall, and, she said, that has helped her achieve all that she has.
"You can't let fear paralyze you. The worse that can happen is you fail but guess what: You get up and try again. Feel that pain, get over it, get up, dust yourself off and keep it moving," she said.
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(Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images for BET)