Latifah's latest role in Miracles From Heaven, a true story based on a young girl who makes a miraculous recovery after being diagnosed with a terminal stomach disorder, brought back memories of a tragedy in her own life.
"I lost my brother when I was 22 and he was 24 [from a] motorcycle accident, and I was really, really sad," Latifah tells reporters during the film's press day in Los Angeles on Friday.
Her brother, Lance, died in 1992 after a motorcycle accident.
"I was on a plane and I flew a red-eye a lot back and forth from New York to L.A. I would be alone and kind of cover my head with a blanket and talk and pray. Then I would start talking to him and I would cry because I was so sad," she recalls.
During one particular flight, Latifah believes she experienced her own miracle.
"I was looking at the sky one day and I was really crying and I was like, 'I really miss you,' and then I saw a shooting star go across the sky."
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Believing this was not an ordinary shooting star, Latifah placed a symbolic meaning on it from her and her brother's favorite pastime.
"My brother and I rode motorcycles – we were fast – so I was like, 'no way did you get to become a shooting star! What!?'" Latifah says.
She continues, "Another flight, same thing – blanket over the head, talking to the sky, crying – I see another one. I started to say, 'Wait a minute. This is getting weird.' So the next flight, I was like, 'listen, if you really are a shooting star, I dare you to fly across the sky right now.' And I saw a shooting star. I started crying. That's my little story – my little miracle – but I believe."
Miracles from Heaven hits theaters on March 18.