02/11/2002 AT 01:40 AM EST
Queen Latifah took a break from filming the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical "Chicago" with Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger in Toronto this weekend to address more than 2,000 young African American women in Washington, D.C., reports PEOPLE. The topic of her discussion: health and well-being, as part of a national tour sponsored by Tampax. The rap entertainer -- and new model for Cover Girl -- talked with PEOPLE about her childhood struggles with self-esteem. "As a teenager, I had big breasts for my age, and my friends cracked on me a lot," said Latifah, 31, a native of East Orange, N.J., whose real name is Dana Owens. "My freshman year, I went to an all-girls high school, so they were like, 'Oh my, look at those big zonkers!' " Given that, said Latifah, "I just had to grow to love my body. I did not have a good self-image at first and that misery . . . I guess I hit a bottom, and I was like, 'I'm either going to love me or hate me.' And I chose to love myself." That was the beginning, Latifah said. "Then everything kind of sprung from there. Things that I thought weren't attractive became sexy. I often find it's just the confidence that makes you sexy, not what your body looks like. It's how you feel about yourself that makes you sexy." What it all boils down to, Latifah found, is diversity. "We're a big country and everybody doesn't look the same. There are a bunch of Faith Hills out there, but then there are a bunch of Queen Latifahs out there."