Hail to the Queen and her royal revelation. After five seasons of downplaying her beauty on FOX's Living Single
, Latifah emerged last year as a big-screen nightclub chanteuse, a 5'10" vision in gold lamé in Living Out Loud.
"I clean up really well," says Latifah, 29. "I can get dolled up."
Richard LaGravenese, the film's writer and director, found out fast. "She transformed into this voluptuous knockout," he recalls. "She has luminous skin, amazing cheekbones and—most of all—this power that goes deep down and makes her beauty seem regal." Vivica A. Fox, Latifah's costar in 1996's Set It Off
, applauds her pal's "dynamic spirit and approach-ability. People really like her."
They always have. During high school in Irvington, N.J., the Newark-born Dana Owens, daughter of a former cop and an art teacher, "wasn't the best-looking student," she says. "But I thought I was cute. I was well-liked and definitely had style," despite one disastrous visit to a salon for a hair-processing treatment. "I came out bald," Latifah remembers. "I should have sued."
Within two years of graduation she was a rap star and, Fox says, the epitome of "the supreme, full-figured black woman. She's a very attractive woman who's not a size 4." But she is trying to get toned, with daily Tae-Bo workouts and occasional basketball scrimmages. "If I can't have the body of Angie Bassett, so be it," Latifah says. "I worry about my gut. I don't want it to be flat-flat, but enough to wear a bikini." In the meantime, she says, "my legs are nice, my lips are shapely, and my breasts are pretty. They popped up when I was 11 and they weren't small then. I was teased, but now those kids wish they had what I have!" On her own wish list: "long, curly eyelashes" and, as they say, a bit more back. "I have my dad's shape," Latifah laments. "No booty."
With some M.A.C "Fetish" lipstick and mascara, the Queen is ready to rock her public (which will soon include the audience for her syndicated talk show, due to air this fall)—and a boyfriend she declines to name. "I do a little batting of the eyes and crack my million-dollar smile," she says. "When I'm wearing too-high heels and swaying my hips, I do that Sharon Stone kind of thing—she has the sexiest walk, a New York cool thing that throws you back. I'm cool with myself." Long live the Queen.