Throughout the history of music, there are many women who have added the title “Queen” to their name to represent their reign in the many categories of music. We have a Queen of Soul, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, the Queen “Bee” of Hip-Hop and, of course, Queen Bey. But there is only one woman that answers to the moniker as a first name and that is the living legend Queen Latifah.
The beautiful 47-year-old actress, who stands tall at 5-foot-10, makes heads turn when she enters a room. Not because she demands it, but because she has earned it. When she came on the scene in 1989 with her first female anthem, “Ladies First,” she proved that she was able to rock the house with the best of them in the world of hip-hop — which is still a male dominated field. She then became a Billboard chart topper when she created her second ode to women with “U.N.I.T.Y.”
Although you no longer hear her rap, that does not mean that she has stepped down from her throne. She has just adjusted her crown and pursued the field of acting/producing. With impressive accolades under her belt, including a few BET, MTV and NAACP Awards, not to mention her leading role on Lee Daniel’s hit FOX drama Star, she's proved she has what it takes to reign supreme in the world of acting.
Recently, Queen Latifah was honored with the Women of Distinction Award at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions opening ceremony in Anaheim, California, for her continuous support to increase the awareness of heart failure (HF).
She most recently challenged Americans to ask “What the HF?” and learn the symptoms of the disease that has increased with alarming rates, especially in the African-American community.
Her dedication to Rise Above Heart Failure, the multi-year initiative nationally supported by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, has spread awareness to millions.
What’s driving her? Queen’s mother, Rita Owens, has lived with heart failure for more than a decade and her health remains her daughter’s number one priority.
Yes, although Queen holds many titles in her successful career, nothing compares to the title of daughter and caregiver to her mother, Ms. Rita.
We had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Queen about the importance of discovering the early signs of health failure, how her mom is doing well and how’s she living a healthier life just before she graced the stage in California.
“She’s fine,” she says in regards to her mother. “She is always in good spirits and a very private person, but she is always willing to share information, healthwise, that she believes will help someone else.”
Queen Latifah went on to explain the lifestyle changes that she made in order to help her mother and decrease her chances of experiencing heart failure. “Well, the first thing we did was decrease the amount of salt that we used on our foods.”
“We had to do things that would help her from retaining fluids because that’s not good for heart failure patients,” she continued to school me. “Heart failure is when the heart is not able to pump the fluids around the body efficiently. So the fluid begins to back up and there begins the swelling in different areas of the body and shortness of breath. This is why we encourage people to go to RiseAboveHF.org and take the “What the HF?” quiz so that they can be educated on the signs of potential heart failure.”
According to Queen, Ms. Rita was not aware of the many signs that arose, she just always thought that she was fatigued from working as an energetic art teacher. “Once we got the diagnosis, then we were able to do something about it, but imagine if we would have known the signs ahead of time?” she questioned.
“We would sometimes pour salt on our food before we would even taste it, so as a family we became more cautious of the type of foods purchased, prepared and then set on the table in front of our loved ones.” She makes it clear that she is not salt-free but she has changed from table salt to pink Himalayan salt and other sea salts.
Now that she and her mom have cut their salt intake, she finds that she no longer desires a sprinkle here and there on her food. “Moving to California, made it a lot easier as they offer more healthy foods and the lifestyle is very different. I only add salt if the food is really bland, but so far, it is good for all of us.”
Queen Latifah plans to continue sharing her education on heart failure and spreading the word to women and men both young and old. “There are more than six million people that are living with heart failure and 1 in 5 will develop it in their lifetime and these are statistics that need to change,” she informs. “It doesn’t have to be this severe. Again, if people are educated on what to look for and start changing their lifestyle, then they can prevent this.”
According to the Queen, it can all start with visiting the doctor and not ignoring signs. “I learned through life what to look for and I dug in to learning more about heart failure. This is also why I implore that people take the quiz and share the link with friends and family because you can help save their lives.”
Taking care of her mom has not slowed downQueen. Remember, just last year she starred in Girls Trip, a movie with fellow noted actresses Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tiffany Haddish and Regina Hall that made history at the box office.
“We all moved out here to California so that I can continue to make movies, so I wanted to be in a stable place,” she explained. “I have the great fortune of making sure that my mom can see great doctors at UCLA and northern New Jersey. Being stable has made a difference in our lives.”
Now Ms. Rita is chilling in her home in New Jersey while the Queen does her best to care for her. While there's probably so many proud moments to choose from, Queen Latifah offers what she thinks her mom considered her proudest moment. “Giving birth to me after six hours of labor because I was comfortable in there. It was warm and I was getting a lot of love in there and I was not ready to get out. This is why her heart means everything to me.”
To learn more about heart failure and take the quiz, visit RiseAboveHF.org
(Photo: Mathew McCabe)
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