'Queen' helps women celebrate their boldness

March 28, 2013
Queen Latifah spoke at the 18th Annual Bay Path College Women's Leadership Conference on March 22 at the MassMutal Center.
Reminder Publications photo by Carley Dangona
By Carley Dangona


SPRINGFIELD — Attendees of the "Be Bold" conference at the MassMutual Center all hailed the queen when Queen Latifah herself stepped onto the stage as a keynote speaker for the event.

Latifah, born Dana Owens, participated in the 18th Annual Bay Path College Women's Leadership Conference on March 22, where she discussed her definition of "bold" and offered advice to women on making the most of life.

She broke onto the rap scene in 1989, but has since morphed into an actor, author, entrepreneur and model, according to Bay Path President Dr. Carol Leary.

Leary asked Latifah for her definition of bold. "To be bold is to allow yourself to even think bold," Latifah said. "It can be a very big thought or a very small thought. Boldness is having the audacity to accomplish what you think you can. Being bold means to go against the status quo to make your opinion heard."

She continued, "Boldness is an energy. To be bold means to be a brave, courageous and daring woman."

Latifah noted that sometimes, being bold means standing alone. She shared her "first lesson in alone." She said that school recess was the first time she was alone. She wanted to play basketball and baseball with the boys, and was the only girl to do so.

"I felt bad when they called me a tomboy," Latifah admitted. "My mom would tell me, 'Dana, you're not a tomboy, you're just sports inclined.' Try telling that to the other kids on the playground."

Latifah said there were a "lot of strong women" in her family. She cited her mother and grandmother as influences. She named Salt-N-Pepa, MC Lyte, Patti LaBelle and Tina Marie as inspirations too.

"My parents encouraged me to stand on my own two feet. I wanted to control my own destiny," Latifah added, explaining that she created her own identity in the world of hip-hop. She explained that while "Latifah" was her nickname, she thought that putting "Queen" in front of it would make a louder statement.

One of the acting roles that most inspired Latifah to be bold was her part in "Last Holiday." She explained that she lived vicariously through the character of Georgia Byrd, a woman diagnosed with a terminal illness and decides to cash in her life's savings to make the most of her remaining days.

"The role reinvigorated me to live life to the fullest," Latifah commented. "It had an impact on my spirit."

Leary noted that the movie was indicative of Bay Path's motto "Carpe Diem," which means "to seize the day."

When asked by an audience member what the one change she would make to American society, Latifah whistled, sat in contemplation and then answered, "love."

She said, "The promotion of love needs to be marketed and promoted a lot more than it is. We need to love our neighbors more, come together more and not be as divisive. We need to have tolerance, acceptance and love for each other. We're a country of immigrants — if we're really Americans, we should care about each other."

A second question asked Latifah to define her legacy. "I don't really think about that," she said. "I want to continue to help people; to inspire people. I want people to say I wasn't afraid to try things; that I wasn't afraid to fail."

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