Queen Latifah has been party to numerous movements, but now she is taking on obesity. She talks to Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur about the It’s Bigger Than Me movement, general health in Hip-Hop and even her thoughts on the state of the culture.
AllHipHop: I am very intrigued by this new movement, It’s Bigger Than Me. So first things first, can you tell us a little bit about it and what prompted you to start this?
Queen Latifah: Well, I connected with Novo Nordisk last summer when I was filming a movie in New Mexico. They came out and we had a conversation about a campaign, a movement they wanted to create based around obesity. I was like, “Okay, well tell me more.” The whole goal was to let people know that obesity is a disease that can be treated and that it’s bigger than you, It’s Bigger Than Me. It’s not just one shape, one size. It doesn’t look one certain way.
Queen Latifah: It was a good time and a good opportunity for us to talk about this now with body positivity and body image and body shaming and all these things coming to light. That we could explain a little more about what it is because I think a lot of people have this picture in their mind when they hear the word obese. They think you have to be 600 pounds and that’s not the case.
Queen Latifah: Also, with COVID bringing to light these huge health disparities, disparities in healthcare, it’s an opportunity for us to talk about it more and find out what it is and perhaps they could have a chance to live a healthier life. This affects us. This affects two out of five Americans. This affects almost 50% of Black women, almost 50% of Latino women. This is right in my family, in my community. Why not have a conversation to start talking about how we can make a change?
AllHipHop: Okay. Men have typically… I should say, In Hip-Hop, men sort of embraced [weight and obesity] a little more. You got Heavy D, you got Big Pun. Now it seems maybe the perception at least is changing. Lizzo most notably. How do you feel about it as it’s reflected in our Hip-Hop culture?
Queen Latifah: Well, I would say that that’s even more why we should be talking about it because I know Heavy D, and I know what Hev went through with his weight. I know Hev was trying to lose weight. I know Hev when he was running five miles a day and trying to drop weight and how challenging it was for him.
We all know that Big Pun lost 100 pounds before he passed. You know what I mean? We know Pun was having his challenges with obesity as well. We don’t want to lose Hevs. We don’t want to lose Puns. You know what I mean? Hev was like my brother, you know what I mean? These are major losses at a young age. They should still be here.
Queen Latifah: When we think about this, I’d rather go the Jadakiss route and think about, you the dead prez route and think about how we could live more healthy lives, more healthy lifestyles. Hip-Hop can definitely affect healthy lifestyles. And I’m not saying you have to be skinny. I’m not saying you have to be a certain body type. This affects men as well as women. But I think that we can definitely make a difference in the idea of talking about health. It’s kind of tricky because Hip-Hop is this competitive sport in a way, but it’s really backed up by people who are really just human beings.
Queen Latifah: We’re human beings behind the personas and we all need some help along the way. We all have a sister or a brother or a cousin or so. And so in our lives or mother, father, or kids, and they need to hear a different conversation. They don’t need to get chipped up along the way or have negative things said to them growing up, that’s going to make them not live their best life. So that’s what a lot of this conversation is about.
AllHipHop: You’ve never been skinny or super small. We [bigger folks] always been well received in our community. Have you run into any hiccups from a career perspective or even maybe in Hip-Hop? For you and your size. Even in the earlier days. Remember when Rakim did the second video, Don’t Sweat the Technique? And we were like, “What? What is he doing?” It was just the representations have changed throughout the years.
Queen Latifah: I would say so. I don’t think you could come into this business as a woman and not face some sort of something in regards to your image. We – as women – are always expected to look some sort of way, and that’s just in life period. It’s unfortunate, because it’s really not realistic. A lot of it and men in real life, don’t even date women who look like that. You’d have to go to a specific place where we all know to find certain women who look a certain way. Or go online looking at that. But in real life, that’s not real. We talk about what’s real and what’s not. And so I’ve always tried to bring as much realness, my own realness to my career that I could bring.
AllHipHop: Yeah. I agree. I’m working out crazy and technically I’m obese, according to the BMI. I ended up on that fence and I’m like, “What?” But on the health side, diabetes and high blood pressure and all of that stuff does not lie, no matter what you feel.
Queen Latifah: Right. And I did have a body fat test years ago and I landed up with 36% and it was like, okay, well this is what we got to do to get that down.
Queen Latifah: And so it is something that you can do something about once you are aware of where you stand. So that’s why it’s important for us to see our doctors as much as we can and make moves about it because we can prevent a lot of things. This is prevention.
You want to be able to live your life, do your thing, but the more you know your body, the more you know what’s going on on the inside, the more you can do all those things and learn how you can live the life you want within its own moderation because your body is your body. It’s not everyone else’s and that’s for you to understand. But what we’re doing here is also talking about the stigmas that are related to it. That cause people not to, for instance, oh, I’m not going to the doctor. Black men don’t go to doctor. What?
Queen Latifah: See that right there, the perpetuation of that is not a healthy thing. Black people don’t go to a therapy. What?
Queen Latifah: I see a therapist. I lost my brother at 22. I needed to figure out how to make it the next day. How was I going to walk through life when my arm (brother) is gone? How am I going to deal with that? I needed to seek a professional at one point. And I don’t have any shame about that. I would tell anybody about that you actually, I wish I had gone sooner.
Queen Latifah: And so now we’re really dealing in places where so many people are feeling mental stress and mental issues and dealing with so much on the inside that they need to talk to a professional. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just the stigma that comes along with it. It’s just the history of the word that comes along with it. We need to break all that down. That’s got to go because that’s not something. We got enough real stuff to deal with without having the idea of something be a problem. So this is why this conversation is important. So I’m glad you brought that up
AllHipHop: Absolutely. I put in a lot of self work. I’m a Hip-Hop head, AllHipHop. I gotta you how you feel about the state of the game, the state of the culture right now.
Queen Latifah: I mean, I think there’s some great things going on. I think music is sounding real good right now. New York seems to be coming back in a very strong way, which is very refreshing. But I think it’s also a collaboration of crossing music is finally spilling over into other music. At one point it was New York sounded this way. Atlanta sounded this way. Cali sounded this way. No. The music is now merging and creating sub genres. And to me that gumbo of music is creating the type of Hip-Hop that I want to listen to. I feel like you should be able to jump on this record over there, jump on that record over there, whatever you feel as an artist you should be able to do. And I feel like that freedom is what Hip-Hop has been denied for a long time, because we were pigeonholed.
Queen Latifah: Now it’s the number one music in the world, and now it’s much more global. So you could jump on a record with somebody who’s doing Afro beat. You could jump on a record with somebody from London. Somebody from London could get play in America when that wasn’t even happening. They’re like, “What? That accent? No.” And now it just shows you how the music has grown. So I just hope it continues to grow, especially for the women in Hip-Hop. It’s nice to hear several, several, several women out there, not just one or two, but we getting a much bigger influx. So I’m happy about that as well.
AllHipHop: Thank you so much for your time.