Authors: Queen Latifah
Copyright © 2010 by Queen Latifah, Inc.
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Thanks to all those who have been a blessing to me. Especially my mom and dad, and my partner Shakim. May these words be a
blessing to someone else.
Thank you Karen Thomas, my editor, for your patience and dedication, and Carol Mann, my literary agent, for bringing all the
pieces together. LaWanda “LB” Black, my amazing assistant, for staying on the case and making sure I met my deadlines, and,
finally, Samantha Marshall, for helping me bring my words to life in this book.
’ll be honest with you. Before I started writing this book, I didn’t have a clue about what direction to take. I knew I wanted
to say something to girls and women that would help them build their self-confidence and bring out their inner queens. There
seems to be an epidemic of lousy self-esteem in this country, especially among young women, and it concerns me deeply. We
ladies have stopped putting ourselves first, and I wanted to share something with you that would help you feel empowered and
make you recognize the individual and innate beauty that is you.
But whatever I said in this book, I wanted it to be authentic. I wanted to give you a piece of me from my heart, not some
formulaic celebrity advice manual. You deserve better. Besides, I’m no psychologist or
self-help guru. I never set out to
be anyone’s role model. That’s too much responsibility for any flawed human being to carry. I can’t tell you what to do. Who
am I to lay down a bunch of rules? Where would I even start?
Then, just as my deadline was looming and my publisher was dogging me for a first draft, I attended a luncheon for female
executives in the beauty industry. I found myself in a room full of confident and beautiful women. Seated near me were senior
executives from Christian Dior, Estée Lauder, and Space NK. They were there to honor Esi Eggleston Bracey, the new vice president
of global cosmetics for CoverGirl. This woman is impressive. She has a degree in engineering from Dartmouth College. She was
Procter & Gamble’s first African-American general manager. And at thirty-eight, she’s also a glamazon with a standout look
that’s all her own. Her makeup was flawless, and she wore her hair cropped short, curly, and platinum blond, like a crown.
As she got up to give her acceptance speech, I was curious to hear what this accomplished beauty queen had to say.
Her speech was peppered with interesting quotes, stories, and metaphors. But one thing stood out to me. Esi explained how
her life was just a series of moments. We live from one moment to the next like heartbeats, she said, but every now and then
moments that stop you, where you know everything is going to change.
That was it. Moments! I’ve packed a lot of living into my forty years, and that’s exactly what I have to share with you—those
moments when everything, present and future, changed for me. All those experiences that taught me something about how to live,
love, and feel like a real queen.
Moments are all we really have in life, but they come and go so fast that most of the time we aren’t even aware of what’s
happening to us. We’re so busy worrying about the past or scheming to make our next move that half the time our moments—our
lives—pass us by. We’re too distracted to allow ourselves just to be and appreciate all the little joys that come our way.
I am truly a “live by the moment” kind of girl. The Sinatra song I recorded on my album
, “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” is my anthem. I always try to take a big bite out of life and savor every flavor. “Before my
number’s up I’m gonna fill my cup…”
We can’t get these moments back once they’re gone, but we can choose to live them full out. We need to pay more attention
to the present and what it has to teach us, because every so often you’re going to have a moment that hits you so hard, it
is truly life-stopping. I don’t mean just life-changing. I mean life
as you’ve always known it stops. You pause for a minute,
taking in that feeling or truth the moment brings. It’s like the wind gets knocked out of you for a second and there’s this
sudden feeling of recognition. Maybe your heart skips a beat, or your spine straightens, or the hairs on the back of your
neck stand up. Or maybe you just feel more awake somehow. But from that point on everything changes, either by just a few
degrees or by a full 180.
That moment, whether it’s something wonderful, like the sudden realization that you’re in love with somebody, or something
terrible, like the news that you’ve just gone broke, will shape the rest of your life. Every following moment you live and
action you take will be a by-product of the insights you gained and the hurt or the joy you felt. And you’ll have a choice
to make in how you respond: It can tear you down, or you can choose to see and hear what that moment has to tell you, learn
from it, and decide where you go from there.
When that life-stopping event happens, it can bring real clarity to a situation. It’s like the queen inside us is speaking
the truth, and we’d be wise to listen. Good or bad, that moment is a gift, because it’s a chance for our inner voice to cut
through all the noise and tell us what we really need to hear. We can choose to ignore it and go on being victims, letting
life’s circumstances play us and push us this way and that. Or we can put on our crowns and fill our cups with the best that
life has to offer.
More and more, women—from young girls to grown-up thirty- and forty-somethings—have gone deaf to what their best instincts
are trying to tell them. We’re sleepwalking on some path we think we’re supposed to take. We’re feeling the pressure to be
a certain way and not be our true, authentic selves. Too many of us don’t feel we’re good enough. We worry if we don’t have
boyfriends or if we’re not married with kids by a certain age. We stress if we haven’t achieved some milestone in our careers
or if we haven’t bought a house and mortgaged ourselves up to the hilt like the rest of our friends. We beat ourselves up
when we eat too many biscuits and gain five pounds. We put ourselves down and fuss and fret that we don’t look like Halle
Berry. Some women, who were beautiful to start with, even put themselves through all kinds of cosmetic procedures to look
like their favorite celebrities or supermodels, and the results can be downright frightening.
What’s with all this self-loathing? I read something the other day that made my heart sick. Females ages sixteen to twenty-four
are more vulnerable to partner violence than any other group, almost three times the national average, according to a U.S.
Department of Justice survey. Teenage pregnancies are at an all-time high. HIV infection rates have soared, and AIDS is now
the leading cause of death among African-American women ages twenty-five to thirty-four, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. That tells me young women in this country are facing a serious crisis in self-confidence. I believe
the government is partly to blame for taking proper sex education out of the classroom, but there’s more to it than that.
Abuse and risky sexual behavior happen when you don’t love yourself enough to say no or walk away.
Our younger sisters have it worst of all. The economy hasn’t been this bad in living memory. You’re leaving college deep in
debt and with seemingly slim prospects of finding any job, let alone the career you’d hoped for. The unemployment rate for
graduates is sitting at 46 percent and climbing. Man, that’s rough!
Even though much of this is beyond your control, you probably blame yourself for not getting ahead like you thought you should.
You’re scared, and you feel like less than you are. Maybe your fear is making you hurt yourself by acting out. Maybe uncertainty
about the future is paralyzing you and keeping you locked in an unhealthy situation. As I travel around the country, visiting
schools and talking to kids, I see it all the time. My mother taught art at an urban high
school in New Jersey for twenty-five
years, and Ms. O, as she’s known round the way, is still very much involved in the lives of her former students. She’s shared
some horror stories with me about what some of these girls are living through and doing to themselves. (Ladies, if this describes
you, Ms. O and I want to reach through these pages and shake you by the collar. Then give you a hug.)
Hey, I’ve been there. I’ve lived the full range of low moments from the self-inflicted and stupid to the unspeakably tragic.
One in four young girls has been sexually molested or abused in this country, and I was one of those statistics. As a teenager
growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Newark, I also made some moves I’m not proud of. Money was tight, and I experimented
with stuff that could have taken me right down into the gutter if I’d continued with it. To get to the point of true contentment
with who I am, I guess I had to go through a few years of being something other than myself. Living in those dark places taught
me to appreciate the light. I learned who I was and grew from these situations, and that gave me the confidence to reject
a lifestyle that could have killed me.
I was blessed to have people around me, like my mother and father, who influenced me and kept me strong enough to pull myself
right back up. They taught me how to listen to my inner queen and to
God. Moments of unconditional love from family and friends
sustained me through the worst periods of my life, even the death of someone I loved deeply. That moment took me so far into
the darkness that people were worried I’d never come back. I threw myself into activity so I wouldn’t have to think. But every
now and then, my brother’s spirit would break through the noise and speak to me. He wasn’t about to allow me to give up on
life, and neither was the rest of my family.
I couldn’t continue down that dark path because there were too many wonderful moments to come. Curiosity about life kept pushing
me forward. From the time I was a child, my mother always said, “You can do anything.” That simple statement stayed with me
in good times and bad. I took those words to heart throughout my career. It never mattered what the haters said. I stayed
true to who I was and refused to succumb to the stereotypes in the entertainment business.
My greatest happiness has come from giving myself permission to do me, on my own terms, whether it’s singing on an album,
acting in a movie role, hustling for a business deal, or just living my life and soaking up those moments of pure joy that
come my way every day. I decided early on that I was going to put on my crown and rule my world by acting right and treating
myself like a queen.
Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone is surrounded by a nurturing family and positive influences. Maybe your teachers failed
you and your parents are struggling too much with their own issues to tell you what you need to hear. Maybe all you’ve got
is yourself. So listen up, in case you missed what your own life-stopping moments are trying to tell you. I’m writing this
book to tell you that you
do anything! It isn’t easy, but it sure is possible. I’m living proof.
Like I said, I’m not dispensing any hard and fast rules here. There is no single prescription for happiness or success. Everybody’s
different. You have to follow your own life’s path and do what works best for you. Stop looking too much on the outside for
affirmation. The trick is to discover who you are and what your passion is early on, then believe in yourself enough to go
for it without compromise. Answer to yourself and your God, not to what others expect of you. Be yourself, have faith, and
love who you are.