Queen Latifah is one of the most influential and multi-talented entertainers in the business, so she deserves the confidence she walks this world with. She fought hard to gain that confidence, and part of the reason for that difficulty was the stigma Latifah faced over her weight throughout her career. In a recent Red Table Talk episode, the Equalizer actress explained how she overcame the stigma and how she’s working to make sure other women know their worth, no matter their size.
Queen Latifah On Loving Herself, Being Healthy
She’s a movie and TV star, a recording artist, and one of the most recognizable faces in the world, but it’s not always easy to be Queen. Though she’s experienced success unlike anything most people will ever know in their lifetime, she still struggles with an everyday issue that is shockingly common: obesity. She appeared on Red Table Talk early in June to discuss her experience as an obese woman and how she wants to change the conversation around weight.
“I am on a mission right now to change the stigma associated with obesity,” Latifah began. “Let’s take these numbers: two out of five Americans. Obese. Four in five black women. Obese, right? But we just look at ourselves different, right?” As Latifah spoke, a graphic appeared on the screen citing several studies that show Black women are more satisfied with their bodies on average compared to white women.
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Latifah continued, “I’m involved with this campaign that’s called Bigger Than Me. It’s about the shame attached to weight, the stigma attached to it. People talk about how they talk about you. The little words people drop. I think if people understood it more, then it could change the conversation.”
When host Jada Pinkett Smith asked Latifah what happened to influence her into taking such a stance on the matter now, Latifah answered, “What happened is I hooked up with a trainer, Jeannette…She was showing me different body types and she was like, ‘This is what your BMI is, this is what your weight is, and you fall into this category of obesity.’ I was mad at that!”
Latifah On Accepting Her Obesity
“That just pissed me off,” Latifah continued, “I was like, ‘What?! Me? I mean, I’m just thick.’ She said I was 30% over where I should be. I was like, naw. Because I didn’t see myself that way. But that’s the problem, and that’s why I’m here. Because that word [obese] brings a connotation with it. And the connotation is the problem. It’s about how it’s looked at.”
“Put it like this, if you looked at obesity as a disease, which it is, do you think you would crack all these jokes that people do?” Latifah added, causing Pinkett Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, to compare the stigma of obesity to the stigma faced by people suffering from addiction, which is also a disease. Banfield-Norris has battled addiction in the past, which made the exchange all the more poignant.
“For me,” Queen Latifah added, “it’s really not a weight thing. It’s really about health at the end of the day. But I know a lot of people who are quite thin, who are not healthy.”
More Than Just Lifestyle Choices
The ladies briefly discussed the reasons why someone could become obese, as well as the negative stigma attached. Pinkett Smith explained that weight-based discrimination is still a huge problem, with stereotypes about overweight people being parroted by children as young as 3 years old according to some studies.
There are many factors other than individual lifestyle at play, including genetics and hormones, that could impact a person’s weight. Latifah also pointed to “the price of groceries” and “access to healthy foods” as stumbling blocks that sometimes keep people from fully achieving a healthy lifestyle.
Facing Public Scrutiny Over Her Weight
Moving on to more personal matters, Pinkett Smith asked Latifah if there was ever a time when she was publicly scrutinized for her size. Latifah chuckled somewhat ruefully before responding, “I’ve been publicly scrutinized, I think, my whole career. I just came out the door looking…different. It’s like, who is this girl with the African clothes and no shoes on her feet? [laughs from everyone] They’ve been trying to figure me out from jump. Like, where is she going with this?”
While working on her hit 90’s sitcom Living Single, Latifah remembered, “ The word came down that we needed to lose weight. That’s how it was delivered, ‘the word came down.’” Latifah’s long-time business partner made her aware of the issue but made sure that the actress didn’t have to deal with the insulting edict herself. Latifah recalled him refusing to follow the directive, saying, “She’s not doing it. Not for you, not anybody. Goodbye.”
‘Living Single’ Weight Loss Demands Cut Deep
Latifah recalled thinking about her cast mates in that instance, and how they felt hearing that sort of nonsense handed down to them. “Maybe you’re the one with the problem,” Latifah said, and we’d have to agree wholeheartedly with her.
The conversation between Latifah and the ladies of Red Table Talk was a far-reaching, intensive chat that we highly encourage you to check out yourself. Weight and body shape have no bearing on a person’s soul or talent and it’s refreshing to listen to a conversation about weight and health without weight loss being the end-all, be-all solution.