Gay Iconography | Queen Latifah

Gay Iconography: Could Queen Latifah Be A Closeted Icon?


The phrase "gay icon" gets tossed around a lot, but why is it that some figures amass more of a gay audience? Welcome to Gay Iconography, a feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts. 

Last October, the Equality Forum announced its list of LGBT History Month icons, and appearing on the list alongside folks like Anderson Cooper and Nathan Lane was actress, singer and producer Queen Latifah. Unlike her fellow icons (their word), Queen Latifah never officially came out.

LatifahThe Equality Forum explained their choice to Philadelphia Magazine, “based on information available to the LGBT History Month selection committee at the time of the Icon selection process, Queen Latifah was expected to officially come out when her new talk show premieres in September. Now she has made it clear that is not going to happen. In the future, living LGBT History Month nominees will not be considered eligible if they are not out.”

Not only is Queen Latifah not out, but she's been steadfast in her denial of rumors that she is a lesbian. Whether that's in connection to her alleged girlfriend Jeanette Jenkins (the two bought a home together in 2010) or refusing to comment on her personal life on her new talk show, Latifah has made it clear that she doesn't intend on sharing her personal life privately. She told the New York Times in 2008: "I don’t feel like I need to share my personal life, and I don’t care if people think I’m gay or not. Assume whatever you want. You do it anyway."

Her personal relationships aside, Queen Latifah's career has often intersected with the gay community. She famously performed at Lesbian and Gay Pride in Long Beach, calling the crowd "her people." (She would later specify that was not intended as a coming out.) She won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in Life Support, an HBO film about a woman who is diagnosed with HIV. Queen Latifah has also appeared in lots of gay-friendly fare, including Chicago, Hairspray, the Lifetime remake of Steel Magnolias and Joyful Noise (alongside indisputable gay icon Dolly Parton). Most recently, she officiated the weddings of 33 gay and straight couples live on the Grammys alongside Macklemore and Madonna.

Check out some of our favorite Latifah performances, and hail (or dethrone) the Queen in the comments, AFTER THE JUMP ...


Queen Latifah first rose to prominence as a female MC, discovered by Fab 5 Freddy. Her album Black Reign featured the Grammy Award-winning track "U.N.I.T.Y." which addressed cat-calling, derogatory language against women and domestic violence.



Latifah starred as Khadijah on Living Single from 1993-1998. She also appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper.



Her largest mainstream success was as Matron "Mama" Morton in the 2002 Academy Award-winning Best Picture Chicago. The role earned her an Academy Award nomination, making her one of only three hip-hop artists to receive an acting nomination.



In 2007, Latifah appeared in another movie musical, Hairspray. As Motormouth Maybelle, Latifah delivered a soulful rendition of "I Know Where I've Been." (While we're on the subject, if you haven't already, you should definitely watch Glee's Alex Newell do an earth-shattering version of the song for AIDS Walk New York.)



Even when she's not singing, Queen Latifah can own a scene, like in the clip from Joyful Noise, above. Plus, who among us can resist the siren song of Last Holiday when it's on cable? Let's be real.

What do you think of Queen Latifah? If she is keeping her sexuality secret, does that make it impossible for her to be recognized as an icon?

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  1. Can a closet case be a gay icon? *sigh*

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Feb 21, 2014 8:29:02 PM

  2. Was Elton popular in the gay crowd before he came out?

    Posted by: Mikey | Feb 21, 2014 8:46:15 PM

  3. What, exactly, is "iconic" about being closeted? Yes, that's a great role model for our community. We should absolutely worship and admire her. *sarcasm* Look, I like QL, but she ain't no gay icon.

    Posted by: graphicjack | Feb 21, 2014 8:57:04 PM

  4. @Mikey
    There are very few historical documents on 'gay' from the 1890's.

    How do we nominate Rick for closeted Icon recognition?

    Posted by: JASPER | Feb 21, 2014 9:02:56 PM

  5. Sorry but as long as she remains closeted she has little respect from me. No gay person should hide in a closet. It is disrespectful to the rest of the openly gay people of this world. Accept yourself, put yourself first, not your pocketbook or how you feel you will be perceived by the public or those around you. You are what you are and you can't change that.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Feb 21, 2014 9:20:08 PM

  6. Maybe she just doesn't give a sh*t. Maybe she doesn't want her career to be hijacked by her sexuality and just wants to work. I don't see her walking around pretending to be dating men. I have seen pics of her kissing women by the paparazzi. Seems like the is out. Don't expect every celeb to be a role model for something.

    Posted by: Tonez | Feb 21, 2014 9:31:22 PM

  7. This column is ridiculous.

    Posted by: Jay | Feb 21, 2014 9:42:03 PM

  8. I do not laud cowardice.

    Posted by: Tigernan | Feb 21, 2014 9:49:44 PM

  9. hi tree, I am gay.
    hey cat, I am gay.
    hello theater usher, I am gay.
    howdy big bird, I am gay.
    hey everybody, I am gay!.
    Did your world just become better now that I've told everyone I’m gay, Marcus ?

    Posted by: Andy Towlette | Feb 21, 2014 10:35:03 PM

  10. No. She has had the opportunity to do a lot of good, but she has let it go to waste. I find her presence at the Grammys very hypocritical (celebrating achievements in liberty but choosing to live her life hiding and appearing shameful of her true self.) You don't need to discuss one's private life, but being gay/straight is too basic an element of who a person is to try and keep it to oneself. It isn't something a straight person would think to keep "private", so why should a gay person? You can keep the details of your social life private, but to deny it's entire existence is just not healthy, not admirable and, quite frankly, with her, not realistic. People already know she's gay. To deny it, even just by omission, sends the wrong message, that being gay is something that needs to be hidden. What is icon-worthy about shame?

    Posted by: macguffin54 | Feb 21, 2014 10:43:13 PM

  11. This column = click bait

    Posted by: Rich | Feb 21, 2014 11:12:44 PM

  12. You mention "Joyful Noise" (nothing gay in it) but lets not forget she played a lesbian in "Set it Off"

    Posted by: Billy | Feb 21, 2014 11:37:32 PM

  13. You might think I'm here to make your life a living hell, but it's just not true...feature Cyndi Lauper on Gay Iconography.

    Posted by: Thomas | Feb 21, 2014 11:51:41 PM

  14. I agree with many here - as a person who derives her income from her celebrity she has a duty to the gay community and to the many young gay people she could help. Too many of us kill ourselves because we are brainwashed to believe we are less than everyone else, that we don't have a right to live our lives. That's wrong. We do have a right, just as everyone else. By hiding her sexuality she is disrespecting the gay community. If she isn't gay she should say so publicly and the gay community should accept.

    Posted by: Cary Chauvet | Feb 22, 2014 12:43:29 AM

  15. MACGUFFIN, you are correct. Straight people do not think to keep their orientation private. But they also do not publicly come out as straight. And isn't that the point? If we're all to be equal, then it should be a non-issue either way, and doesn't need to be declared. She hasn't denied the entire existence of her social life, she's stated she prefers to keep it to herself and those close to her. I kind of respect that.

    Posted by: Mike | Feb 22, 2014 12:47:39 AM

  16. "Closeted icon" is an oxymoron.

    Posted by: throwslikeagirl | Feb 22, 2014 1:34:04 AM

  17. Where are the male icons? We gay guys are absurdly devoted to females. Maybe guilt has something to do with it.

    Posted by: roger | Feb 22, 2014 3:08:07 AM

  18. Funny choices of people to highlight. If you gonna highlight people why don't choose actual gay icons. Then find interesting performances from YouTube or something? And no I've never heard a gay guy express any interest in Queen Latifa.

    Posted by: Michael Khalsa | Feb 22, 2014 3:21:06 AM

  19. Closeted icon? What does that even mean? This feature is silly

    Posted by: danswon | Feb 22, 2014 5:44:55 AM

  20. "Closeted icon? What does that even mean?"

    Kevin Spacey.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 22, 2014 9:36:37 AM

  21. This woman can put on a pretty good show, in her down low kind of way, and she has spoken many wise words. But Queen...of what? How absurd. Still, she's not required to tell anyone anything about her personal life. None of us are.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Feb 22, 2014 10:30:20 AM

  22. No.

    Posted by: Travis | Feb 22, 2014 11:22:37 AM

  23. No.

    Posted by: Travis | Feb 22, 2014 11:22:42 AM

  24. Not even close.....

    Posted by: styler | Feb 22, 2014 1:19:04 PM

  25. "No gay person should hide in a closet."

    Easy for you to say from the safety of your computer.

    So, no gay person in Iran or Indonesia or Somalia or any of a number of places shouldn't "hide"? Staying alive is more important than being out of the closet, good for people who make a decision based on their particular circumstances.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Feb 22, 2014 2:29:25 PM

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