Queen Latifah has become a major force in Hollywood with a resume that includes singer, actress, producer, CoverGirl model and successful businesswoman.
She was born Dana Owens and raised in the Newark, N.J., area. At age 8, her cousin gave her the nickname "Latifah," an Arabic word meaning delicate and sensitive.
As a teen, the hip-hop pioneer performed in her high school musical "The Wiz" and started rapping with the group Ladies Fresh. She also became one of the members of the original Flavor Unit, signing with Tommy Boy Records and releasing her first album, "All Hail the Queen," in 1989.
The 39-year-old star's career has been on a near-stratospheric rise. She showed her comedic talents alongside Steve Martin in the box-office hit "Bringing Down the House" and hit dramatic high notes in "The Bone Collector" and "The Secret Life of Bees." Then there was the musical film "Chicago," which brought her an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Matron "Mama" Morton.
In addition to singing and acting, Latifah has produced several films, including "Beauty Shop" and "Life Support."
Over her career, Latifah has won a Golden Globe, two Screen Actor Guild awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award and an Emmy nomination.
This year, you'll see her in "Valentine's Day" and "Hairspray 2." Bankrate caught up with Latifah recently as she moved from project to project:
Bankrate: You are a veteran CoverGirl spokeswoman. Now you have joined the brand's "CoverGirl Clean Makeup for Clean Water Campaign." Can you talk about this a bit?
Queen Latifah: It's a partnership with Children's Safe Drinking Water, and we're addressing the need for clean drinking water around the world. Dania (Ramirez) just joined our family and went back to her native Dominican Republic to deliver a year's supply of clean drinking water. It's sad seeing how this contaminated water can affect families and children. I don't know what life is like not having clean drinking water because it has always been provided for me.
Bankrate: You are so busy right now. You just hosted the People's Choice Awards on top of everything else you're doing. How do you relax and chill out?
Queen Latifah: I do need a break right now. I like hanging out and doing regular things like going to the movies. I can go to the movies by myself. I can definitely do an 11 o'clock show. I like bowling. So, normal, everyday things are great.
Bankrate: Is it easier at your production company having a partner?
Queen Latifah: Sure. I'm not doing it all by myself. I can't take the credit for being the only producer. I like to have team efforts on my films. I do everything I can up to the time we start shooting, and if I'm also in the movie, then I can take a step back a little bit and let them take the reins more.