Queen Latifah delivered an acceptance speech at at the inaugural TheGrio Awards over the weekend and opened up about how her sense of identity and self-acceptance have evolved over the years.
“It all starts with the family for me,” Latifah, 52, shared with the audience at the of the ceremony celebrating icons, leaders and legends who have impacted Black community and culture. “My parents raised me with the idea that Black is beautiful. Black is beautiful, Black is beautiful. Black is OK.”
She continued, “You start saying it enough and you start believing me. And so I didn’t realize at the time that what they were preparing me for was a whole world.”
The Equalizer star also reflected on the moment she realized boys and girls play by different rules.
“I didn’t know I was a girl, initially, I had to be told that,” Latifah said. “That had to be explained to me…. ‘Cause I was running around with my T-shirt off like the boys … I wanted to play the sports and all these things had to be explained to me because I was free.”
She emphasized, “And so my whole life would feel like I’ve been trying to maintain my freedom to be me.”
Today, she said, “I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to, because that’s part of me. I play in the dirt, I play basketball with the boys — ’cause that’s me. I love who I love because that’s me. I know me. I know what I’ve done and what I haven’t done.”
“I realize that life is fleeting,” Latifah continued, “and you just gotta do the best you can. Be as honest and genuine as you can. Don’t go for what people are trying to tell you about yourself. It’s not true. I said, don’t go for what people are trying to tell you about yourself.”
This isn’t the first major award Latifah has won for her body of work. While receiving the 2021 BET Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award, she told the audience: “I’m so extremely moved that I don’t even know what to say. Let me just say that I want to thank God because God designed this whole thing to be this way.”
She continued by acknowledging “the parents that I was born to — my father, my mother [who died in 2018], who is still so much in me — my family, I love you — my siblings. My best friends who ride or die with me whether my face is on the dirt or I’m flying in the skies — they know me. And they’re there for me.”
Byron Allen Presents TheGrio Awards will be broadcast Saturday on CBS from 8 p.m. ET and will be available to stream live on Paramount+.