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Queen Latifah Opens Up About Black Homophobia and Playing Bisexual Blues Icon Bessie Smith: VIDEO

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In a recent interview with Uptown magazine Queen Latifah opens up with what it was like to portray 1920’s blues legend Bessie Smith, who was known for her sexual fluidity and numerous relationships with both men and women. Unlike Latifah, who is notorious for keeping her personal life out of the public spotlight, Smith as an unabashedly sexually free woman. Her portrayal of Smith, Latifah explained, underlines the ways in which our ideas about sexuality have become less tolerant with time.

“People’s ideas in general are antiquated when it comes to who you love,” Latifah explained, specifically focusing on the gay black community. “We haven’t moved as quickly as we probably should. And the reality is that there’s always been gay people in the black community, so it’s not foreign to us. And not just as a black community but just a society as a whole.”

“Who you choose to marry is really up to you and it’s not something you should be judged on. I don’t find being gay or lesbian to be a character flaw. Couples should be protected under the laws of this country period. It actually angers me. It’s not unusual so let’s be adults and let’s move forward.”

Watch a trailer for the upcoming Bessie biopic AFTER THE JUMP...

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What To Watch This Week On TV: 'Bessie' Sings The Blues; A Must-See 'Drag Race' Lip Sync

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Check out our weekly guide to make sure you're catching the big premieres, crucial episodes and the stuff you won't admit you watch when no one's looking.

— The allegedly bisexual blues star Bessie Smith gets the biopic treatment in HBO’s Bessie. The film stars Queen Latifah in the titular role, with Mo’Nique as her mentor, Ma Rainey. The film premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. on HBO.

Another topnotch lip sync, finales for Grey's and Scandal, and more TV this week, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "What To Watch This Week On TV: 'Bessie' Sings The Blues; A Must-See 'Drag Race' Lip Sync" »


Gay Iconography: Bessie Smith’s Queer Blues

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When you think of pioneering queer musicians, folks like Elton John, David Bowie, and Sylvester might come to mind. But think further back. Much further. Before we even had rock ’n’ roll to speak of, blues artists were defying expectations (and often the law) to sing about their same-sex affairs.

Among the stars of the 1920s and 1930s, Bessie Smith is one of a few female blues singers that discussed lesbianism in her music. Nicknamed “The Empress of the Blues,” Smith was known for her big voice, hit records and a bit for her scandalous affairs. It was said she took male and female lovers while on tour, particularly during her tumultuous marriage to Jack Glee. She allegedly barked at one of these female lovers, Lillian Simpson, “I got twelve women on this show, and I can have one every night if I want it.”

Of the 160 recordings she made for Columbia throughout her career, three of her songs were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for their historical significance, including “St. Louis Blues,” “Empty Bed Blues,” and her No. 1 hit “Downhearted Blues.” Her music included references to her tastes for both sexes, including the line in her 1930 track “The Boy In the Boat,” where she sings: “When you see two women walking hand in hand, just look ‘em over and try to understand: They’ll go to those parties—have the lights down low—only those parties where women can go.”

Get a bigger taste of Smith’s lasting legacy, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Iconography: Could Queen Latifah Be A Closeted Icon?

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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 ...

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Queen Latifah Brings Us Backstage at the Grammy Marriage Ceremonies: VIDEO

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Queen Latifah is taking viewers of her talk show backstage at the Grammy marriage ceremonies before and after she officiated the weddings of 33 gay and straight couples at the awards show on Sunday night.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Meanwhile, there is lots of talk this week about Latifah's open closet and her own sexuality — a topic she had to know would come up again around the Grammy segment given its persistence over the years.

Said Latifah in 2008 in an interview with Alex Witchel in the NYT:

"I don’t have a problem discussing the topic of somebody being gay, but I do have a problem discussing my personal life. You don’t get that part of me. Sorry. We’re not discussing it in our meetings, we’re not discussing it at Cover Girl. They don’t get it, he doesn’t get it (she gestured upstairs, toward [her manager and childhood friend Shakim] Compere’s office) — nobody gets that. 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."

She repeated that sentiment more recently in 2012 with regard to reports that she came out at Long Beach Pride in 2012:

"That definitely wasn’t the case,” she tells EW. “I’ve never dealt with the question of my personal life in public. It’s just not gonna happen.”

LatifahNotes Rich Juzwiak at Gawker:

"Latifah's public profile exists somewhere between gay ally and actual gay...Latifah's public relationship with her sexuality is fascinating. She lives right on the precipice of coming out...Latifah speaks in that kind of code when discussing her sexuality, which there would be no issue with discussing were she straight. She is emphatically hiding something. This makes her, effectively, openly closeted."

John Aravosis at Americablog notes a "furor" at Latifah from some journalists over the fact that she refuses to come out of the closet, adding:

One big problem with Latifah’s position is that she’s sending a message that there is a problem.  She’s signaling that there’s something wrong with being gay.

People can defend Latifah’s choice, claiming that she has a right to privacy.  And Latifah can talk all she wants about her desire to protect her “private life.”  But straight Americans – and particularly celebrities – don’t invoke the right to privacy when you simply inquire about the well-being of their spouse.  And they don’t rail about their “private life” when you ask, “how goes the girlfriend?”....

...The only time celebrities try to hide who they’re dating is when it’s someone else’s spouse, an underage child, an animal, a corpse, or a gay.

What do you think? Was it the height of hypocrisy for a closeted Latifah to be officiating gay weddings and declaring "love is love" as she does in the video below, and yet send a signal by refusing to discuss her own orientation?

Check out her behind-the-scenes video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Dolly Parton Raps About Her 'Wrecking Balls' for Queen Latifah: VIDEO

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The queen of country turns to hip-hop in a rap performance on The Queen Latifah Show: "I’m workin'. I’m twerkin'. Hey Miley, I got your wrecking balls right here!"

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Dolly Parton Raps About Her 'Wrecking Balls' for Queen Latifah: VIDEO" »


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