The first movie to earn Latifah critical acclaim was when she portrayed a rugged, lesbian bank robber in the 1996 film, "Set It Off." Latifah said she hired an acting coach for the film who helped her prepare for the role by donning men's clothing.
"He did have me wearing, you know, [men's] Hanes underwear, which are really comfortable," she said. "I'm wearing Dickies every day and flannel shirts and boots and, you know, it was like, OK -- braids to the back, corn rows."
After a couple of months of playing such a rough figure and dressing as a boy for several months, Latifah recalled being ready to dress as a girl again.
"I just absolutely could not wait to get a full set of nails and a pedicure and just let my hair flow and just really, really be a girl," Latifah said, laughing. "I don't think I'm an ultra girlie-girl. I think I'm kind of a woman's woman, if you will…I can kind of get down and dirty, but I can also get really beautiful."
But grunge would soon turn into glamour. And soon Latifah landed the role of the voluptuous Mama Warden in the 2002 film adaption of the musical "Chicago." Her booming voice and saucy portrayal earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Tapping into her funny bone, Latifah went on to star in numerous comedic films such as, "Bringing Down the House" (2003) with actor Steve Martin, "Scary Movie 3" (2003), "Taxi" (2004), "Beauty Shop" (2005), and the 2007 musical movie "Hairspray" as Motormouth Maybelle, starring alongside John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer.
In 2008, she became the first woman of color to be a spokesperson for the make-up line, CoverGirl.
Now Latifah also has her own clothing line, Queen Collection, which is sold on HSN. The successful actress and businesswoman, who has pulled herself up by her bootstraps, attributed her drive from the strong, motivated women in her family, especially her mother, who have helped make her undeniably Queen.
"[I] see something that is done with beauty that comes from the inside out, with confidence inspiration and sort of collective attitude," she said. "I might be part of that one percent, but I'm part of that one percent that came from nothing and worked my way up to something."