Why I Love ...
New Jersey native
Queen Latifah stays
true to her Garden
It’s rare to meet a celebrity who doesn’t
seem to have changed from the person
they were before finding fame and fortune. But then again rapper-turned-actress Queen Latifah, who’s looking
better than ever, is a rare individual on a
number of levels.
The artist formerly known as Dana
O wens gre w up in Newark and East
Orange, N. J. Given the nickname Latifah (Arabic for “kind”) by a cousin at the
age of 8, she loved both performing and
basketball, and eventually led her high
school team to t wo New Jersey state
“I used to live over a barbershop,” she
recalls warmly. “Darryl Dawkins was one
of the Nets players—he was the first guy
to break a backboard—and he used to
get his hair cut downstairs from me.
I’d always say hello, and he was real cool.
That was very exciting to me, you know?
Local guy makes good.”
At the age of 18, Latifah was discov-
ered by Jersey-based rap legend DJ Mark
the 45 King, and at 19 released her ground-
breaking debut, All Hail the Queen. But
even after establishing herself as the First
Lady of Hip-Hop and crossing over into
Holly wood films, Latifah continued to live
in New Jersey.
“Jersey is a very unique place,” she says
of the decision. “It’s right bet ween Phila-
delphia and New York, t wo major metro-
politan cities, but there are a lot of farms,
orchards and places you can ride horses.
It’s a lot more beautiful than people make
it seem like. It’s not just about [Jersey Shore
cast member] The Situation. It’s a cool
place to be!”
These days, the same thing could be
said of Queen Latifah’s bustling career,
which includes recurring roles on 30 Rock
and in the Ice Age film franchise, produc-
ing, singing, creating her own fashion and
beauty products, serving as Jenny Craig’s
spokeswoman and authoring a self-help
book called Put on Your Crown.
“I just love what I do,” she says when
asked why she continues to juggle so many
projects, “and I don’t sign up to do anything I don’t like to do. I can do 10 things
in one day if I love what I’m doing, but I
know I have to take break, decompress and
back o; of it sometimes. I do have a life,
because otherwise Jill is a dull girl and we
can’t have that!” — BRET LOVE
places to ...
ENJOY THE SUN,
SEA AND SAND
Jersey Shore Beach &
275 Beachway Ave.,
• “The whole shore is very
beautiful and it’s very expansive,” Queen Latifah says.
”It’s not like three steps, and
you’re in the ocean. It’s very
wide, so there’s a lot of room
for you to just chill out.”
Cheesequake State Park
300 Gordon Road, Matawan;
732-566-2161 • “It’s a nice
little place,” Latifah says of this
state park 30 miles south of
Newark. “There’s a great walking path in there if you want to
hike for a few miles, and you
can swim, too. Nice lake.”
GRAB A BITE
260 Halsey St., Newark; 973-
623-8848 • “Good stuff,” Latifah says of this Southern-style
soul food restaurant. “They’ve
got great grits and cooked
apples that you put on your
pancakes. Skip the syrup!”
WATCH SOME HOOPS
165 Mulberry St., Newark;
973-757-6000 • Opened in
2007 as part of an effort to
revitalize the city, this 18,500-
seat venue is the 2011 home
of Latifah’s beloved Nets,
whom she paid tribute to in
her film Just Wright.