QUEEN LATIFAH/BEAUTY SHOP INTERVIEW By Paul Fischer in Los Angeles
LATIFAH SHARES BEAUTY SHOP SECRETS.
Queen Latifah could well be the reigning Queen of Hollywood comedy, as sheroyally bounces from one hit to the next. Cementing her screen presence withan Oscar nominated turn in Chicago, Latifah now stars in Beauty Shop. Here,she is Gina Norris, a long way from the 'Barbershop' - now she's in Atlantamaking a name for herself at a posh Southern salon with her cutting-edgehairstyles. But when her flamboyant, egotistical boss (Kevin Bacon) takes itone criticism too far, she leaves his salon to open a shop of her own,taking the shampoo girl (Alicia Silverstone) and a few key clients (AndieMacDowell, Mena Suvari) with her. Gina buys a rundown salon and inherits anopinionated group of headstrong stylists (including Alfre Woodard), acolourful clientele, and a sexy upstairs neighbour (Djimon Hounsou. Theboisterous and voluptuous comic actress loves to talk, as she proved whenshe spoke to the media about her starring turn in her latest comedy, as PaulFischer reports.
QUESTION: EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO TURNS TO GOLD. WHAT'S GOING ON?
LATIFAH: I'm trying to get it to turn to diamonds. Damn it. I've gotto get my alchemy on. Secrets? The man upstairs. (She points upwards.) Godhas just blessed us beautifully and put good people in my life and when youwork with your friends since high school and you guys have loyalty and youbelieve in each other and you tell each other the truth, I mean, I don'tknow. We just always have dreams and we saw them as goals and not justdreams. We just said, 'Okay. How do we get to it? Let's go for it.' I'venever really been afraid to do that. I look at people as people. No one isbetter than me. No one is worse than me. I'm not afraid to talk to anyonebecause you're just another person to me. So if I have an idea and I thinkthat it's a great idea, I'm going into the room to sell you an idea that Ithink is great. I'm not going in there and saying, 'Oh, God, this is thepresident of so and so.' You know what, the president of so and so needs togive me this deal right! So I mean, I don't know, we just try and be smartabout things and be creative and believe in ourselves and do the work that'sinvolved in trying to get there.
QUESTION: THERE WAS A TIME WHEN YOU WERE REFERRED TO AS AN AFRICAN AMERICAN ACTRESS. YOU'RE NOT ANYMORE. HOW DOES THAT FEEL?
LATIFAH: You know what, to me it was like ignorant writers. Peoplelike to label you. I've never like being labelled. I can't take it becauseI'm never going to do the same thing over and over and over. I hate beinglimited. I hate being put in a box. The music that I've made, the way thatI've carried myself, I've always had this weird broad audience. When it wasjust this many people, they were listening to my music. Some people werelike, 'I like that girl. There's something about her.' People's parentsalways like me or their grandparents. So I had the kid and then I had thegrandmother. Gay, straight, black, white, everything in between. It's alwaysbeen this broad sort of audience that has been down with Queen Latifah. So Ithink that it's a beautiful thing because that's how I look at the world. Iwasn't raised to be a racist. I have such a multi-cultural family. For me tobe a racist, I'd have to hate my relatives, my aunts and uncles, myrelatives. And that's not going to happen. So I'm glad that people are kindof letting go of that because that's how I look at things. I know we haveour differences and things that make us special, that's why we're different.There are really special things about us, but we have so much more in commonjust being human beings.
QUESTION: WOULD YOU LET ANY OF YOUR CO-STARS DO YOUR HAIR?
LATIFAH: Maybe Keshia [Knight Pulliam]. I might let Keshia do my hairbecause she does her own hair sometimes and it looks pretty good. But that'sabout it.
QUESTION: SHE DID HAIR FOR THIS MOVIE, DID YOU LEARN IT FOR THIS MOVIE?
LATIFAH: Yeah. She does some of it I think. Yeah, we all we did it. Weall had to do it. I think that she did it. I know I did it. Alicia[Silverstone] did it. Keshia did, didn't she? We all had to do it. She stillhad to do, initially there were some scenes where she was supposed to bedoing more styling. So I think that we all had to learn it to be on the safeside. I had fun with it. They gave me a manikin and I chopped that hair off.I said, 'Don't give me a person, but I can cut this manikin hair noproblem.'
QUESTION: WHAT'S THE BEST BEAUTY ADVICE YOU'VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
LATIFAH: To let my skin rest. Less is more. Beauty comes from theinside. That's the best advice that I was given because now I'm not tryingto make it all happen out here. It does start in here. I'm sure that youbeing in this business have interviewed a lot of actresses who don't evenrealize how beautiful they are, or have the worst attitude in the world.They're pretty, but they got nasty attitudes which makes them ugly. So forme, it might sound cliché, but beauty for me really does start on theinside. It's like a state of mind, a state of love if you will. Then,whatever you can do on the outside is all like a bonus. Most women don'teven need a lot of makeup. They just put all this crap on their faces andclog up your pores, get pimples and stuff. I mean, when I'm not working Idon't wear makeup. Maybe some lip gloss and maybe a little mascara, butthat's it. my skin needs a break. My hair needs a break from all that heatpressing on it. I'm in a ponytail. I'm keeping it simple. I'm kind of a lowmaintenance girl, but I got a badass team that hooks me up.
QUESTION: AS FAR AS THE TRANSITION FROM 'BARBERSHOP' TO THIS, IT SEEMS LIKE IT MIGHT BE DIFFICULT. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
LATIFAH: We kind of just wanted to create something new. Gina wasintroduced in 'Barbershop II,' but she wasn't really established. We didn'treally know who she was. So now it's like who is she? Who are we creatinghere and what's the story, what story are we going to tell? We wanted tohave some fun with the idea of a person who builds a clientele in thisexclusive, mostly white shop decides to open this shop that's in the hoodnow and her clients follow her because, you know what, they need their hairdone and you tend to follow your stylist. So what happens when you throughall these people in one shop and what happens when you inherit someoneelse's staff? There's a tension that's created and how you work through allof that stuff and raise a daughter at the same time and put food on thetable and pay the bills? That kind of stuff is human relationships,relatable, anyone can understand that. Anyone can connect to it. We've allmaybe seen situations like that or maybe we'd like to see a situation likethat. But I think that parents can definitely relate to a relationshipbetween the mom and the daughter. Anyone who's ever had to deal with a bosswho's a jerk can relate to that, and how you really just want to tell theirass off one good time and walk out the door. So I'm doing it for everyonewho really wants to do it. I've got to do that one time in my life, and Iknow how it felt. I quit Burger King because the manager disrespected me. Soafter I tore him a new one I walked up out of there. Okay, actually he saidI was fired, but I was going to quit anyway [Laughs].
QUESTION: WHY DID YOU SHOOT IT IN ATLANTA AND NOT CHICAGO?
LATIFAH: Because it's warmer than in Chicago and it was thewintertime. I really didn't want to shoot in the winter in Chicago,honestly. Come on. I was like, 'We've got to move this to some place warm.'The boys wanted Miami and I'm like, 'Look guys, we can't shoot in Miami.There is no way we can shoot in Miami right now. We might have too much funand not get a movie done in Miami. Lets not go quite so far south.' Atlanta,you know what, we know Atlanta. Bille [Woodruff] knows Atlanta. He livedthere for three years, and we felt like he could kind of pick up the vibe ofAtlanta. Keshia is from Atlanta. We spent a lot of time in Atlanta. At leasta couple of times a year we're down there for like the past fifteen or soyears. So Atlanta is a place that has a lot of rich musical culture. It'sgot it's own kind of flavour, it's own thing going on and we felt like thiswas a place where if we did do 'Beauty Shop' and Beauty Shop' two and three,this is a place that it could happen because there's plenty to draw fromlocally. So we thought it would be kind of cool.
QUESTION: YOU AND KEVIN BACON, YOU TWO WERE REALLY GOING AT IT. DID YOU WORKOUT HOW YOU WERE GOING TO DO THAT SCENE?
LATIFAH: No. We got Kevin Bacon and Queen Latifah. We act, this iswhat we do. It's like, 'Okay, a couple of rehearsals and lets shoot it.'He's a great villain. I was like so excited to have Kevin onboard. When wegot the call that Kevin was doing it, it was like, 'Yes! Kevin is doing it.This is great.' Andie [MacDowell] and Alfre [Woodard] and Mena [Suvari] andAlicia [Silverstone] and Sherri [Shepherd]. It's like everyone that wewanted is in the movie and they were all able to do it and wanted to beinvolved in it. So we got our dream cast, we definitely got our dream cast.
QUESTION: WHY DO YOU THINK THAT A LOT OF THESE TYPES OF MOVIES ARE COMING OUT NOW?
LATIFAH: It's because of 'Barbershop.' I'm sure it's because of that.It's almost like a no brainer. Like, 'What took so long for us to make amovie based in one of these locations because everyone goes there?' Thereare like ninety thousand hair salons in this country. Ninety thousand beautyshops and barbershops in this country. That is a humungous amount ofbusinesses. These are places where we find out what's really going on in thecommunity. What's going on in the world? What's important to people? Peopleneed to go to the beauty shop. You need to go to the beauty salon. You needto find out what's going on from the people because this is where they'retalking about everything. If it's on TV and talk shows, it's getting talkedabout in the shop. If it's on the radio, it's getting talked about. Whereelse do you go where you let someone feel on your for two hours outside ofyour relationship and not get in trouble for it? It's a disarming situation.You go here, someone rubs head, they wash it, they fix it, and I mean,they're touching on your for a good hour or so once a week. So this is likeyour therapist. You can't keep this wall up for very long when you do thisevery week. So you tend to open up and have conversations and talk aboutthings that are going on. So, yeah.
QUESTION: DO YOU PREFER SCRIPTS THAT DEAL WITH RACE LIKE THIS, AND 'BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE?'
LATIFAH: No. I don't go out of my way to do it. Sometimes they come tome and sometimes like this one we created. But 'Bringing Down The House,'they brought that to me. It was written already. If anything, we had to fixthat script. The script that I read and the movie that you saw is not thesame thing. I would've never made the script that I read. I had to tearthing that up which is always the case. So it's fun to get into the creativeprocess. But you know what, America is really on some race stuff. It'sunfortunate that we don't deal with it and that's why it doesn't go away. Iwas conceiving a pilot with a friend of mine who used to direct 'LivingSingle' based on a college basketball team in the south and we put thesepeople together and they go back and forth, and the thought of it was that Imiss the '70's where you had shows like 'The Jefferson's' and 'All In TheFamily' where Black people could be Black and white people could be white.Racists could be racists, and non-racists could be non-racists, but it wastalked about. You could form your own opinion as to how ignorant or howreasonable these people were being. See, we don't talk about the shit nomore. Excuse my language, but we don't. We're just politically correct andwe act as if it went away and it didn't go away. I mean, we've got too manyexamples of how racism is still alive and thriving in this country and Ithink that a lot of that is because we run from it. We don't deal with it.We don't admit to it. We hide it and we do covert things. We do thingsbehind the back. We don't celebrate the differences that we have andcelebrate the things that we have in common. We buy into whatever media hypeis going on. We don't talk with each other like we should. When you reallythink about it, I mean, at least in the business that we work in we get towork with so many different cultures, races, people. And I have so many coolfriends of different races. It's hard for me to imagine not living life likethat or my family members of different races. So like I can't really imagineanother world different from that. When I had a talk show we had people comeon the show who were only racist because of where they lived. We got theirass out of that town in Texas, away from their peers where they had to fallin line with everyone else because of peer pressure, we brought them to NewYork and we had a Black producer bringing them in, walking them through thesteps, getting them into their hotel. They're in New York City and seeingall these different kinds of people and faces and are being treated well andhaving a good time. They go out to a local bar and have fun, whatever, andyou start knocking that stuff off and you realize, 'You know what, it's justwhat was taught. It's not really how they feel. They're just going with thecrowd. They're just succumbing to peer pressure.' I find that that's how itis a lot in this country. It's not really how people want to think. They'rejust used to following the status quo. So I think that the more you can openup this kind of dialogue, the more that you can poke fun at it, mess withit, put it in people's faces, yeah, you might piss some people off, but sowhat. So what, deal with it.
BEAUTY SHOP OPENS ON JUNE 2.