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March 2005
Beauty Shop: An Interview with Queen Latifah

Beauty Shop: An Interview with Queen Latifah

By Wilson Morales

Queen Latifah is certainly making a mark in Hollywood these days. After getting a nominated for an Oscar for her performance in "Chicago", she not only produced the hit film "Bringing Down the House" and also produced the film, The Cookout. After making a cameo appearance in "Barbershop 2" as Gina, Latifah is bringing the character back in a new spinoff called "Beauty Shop". In speaking with blackfilm.com, Queen Latifah goes over the character and the whole beauty shop environment.

Were you a big fan of the "Barbershop" franchise?

Queen Latifah: Oh yeah. They definitely got my money.

Did you and Ice Cube sit down to discuss how this spinoff would be put together?

QL: It was actually MGM that came to us, but we called Cube and asked if it was cool to do it. You gotta pay your respects to the man.

Do you think the format is different from "Barbershop"?

QL: I do think that it's totally different. It was designed to be different. "Barbershop" was Craig's story and "Beauty Shop" is Gina's story. You got a little dose of Gina in "Barbershop 2" but not enough to let you know who she was. You just knew that she wouldn't stand for any craziness. This was a chance to introduce you to the character and show you what's she's all about. We introduce you to her daughter and that relationship and her family, and deals with the pressure of opening a shop; and a boss is a jerk.

Do you feel any pressure from the Barbershop audience for Beauty Shop to have the same feel?

QL: I don't feel any pressure. Barbershop is a great franchise. We don't want to copy the movie. We just want to create something new; a little spinoff. A little different but related to Barbershop. There could be a Barbershop 3 and they will continue to do what they do and we will tell the story from a female point of view.

What's your take on the amount of films that are like "Beauty Shop" such as "Hair Show, Nora's Hair Salon" and "The Salon"? I believe some of them were initially called Beauty Shop until the title changed.

QL: Well, I think it makes sense. For every barbershop, there's a beauty salon. Things are happening at the same time, but no one has told the story from that side ort any side. I think it's a good thing. I don't knock anyone for creating these movies. This is only one shop. This is Gina's shop and we see how she runs it. She sets the tone for how people speak or not speak in her shop. That's only one shop. We have 90,000 barbershops and beauty salons in this country. In beauty salons, people will speak their minds and we had to temper some of the conversations from getting an R rating. In some of the salons I went to, you cant say half that stuff.

Most of the cast had mentioned that you had called them and wanted them to be in the film, and that was it for them. They said yes.

QL: That's nice. It was better than having me call and they hang up on me. It was cool. It's a testament to the work we have been doing and I hope it continues to be that way.

How was working with (Director) Billie Woodruff? Did you bring him in to this project?

QL: Yes. Working with Billie was a pleasure. Billie is cool. I've known Billie for a while, but from the music side. It was fun with Billie. I was like, "Billie, can you handle these women? I don't know who we are going to get, but if I'm not going to be a diva, then no one is going to be a diva." He was like, "Come on La, I've done work with so manyŠ" and I was like, "It's cool. I'm done." It was easy in terms of attitude. Everybody's attitude was positive. They all came to have a good time. We had a fantastic crew that shot this movie and got it done and made it a lot easier for us to have a good time. We were each other for 12-18 hours a day and it's better when you can all get along and have a good vibe on the set. Billie had music playing all the time. I just did another movie (The Last Holiday) where there was no music playing.

Is it easier to go from Producer to actor and from friend to boss on this film?

QL: It's not always easy. I had to separate myself from these different needs. That's why I still work with an acting coach because I need to be taken away from Queen Latifah mode and be brought back to Gina so that the character gets her just due. It's not always easy, but it's not always so bad.

What do think of the community of beauty shop? What do you think it does for women?

QL: It's cheaper than hiring a psychiatrist. What other situation do you put yourself in when you allow someone to touch you for about two hours every week? When you are in that kind of situation, it sort of disarms you. It opens you up and you get to know this person and you start sharing things that are on your mind or things you are going through and the person does becomes your therapist in a way. You share things with them and you get things off your chest. I think it's very important to who we are. Sometimes you don't want to talk about everything. You want to come and be pampered for a change and this is the person who is going to do that and you get to leave looking more beautiful than you did when you came in. You feel a little better so it's very important.

Have you ever experience a bad hair day going to a beauty shop?

QL: Yes I have. I tried to get this California curl, a jery curl from back in the day. This girl had a fly one and sent me to this shop where she got her hair done but she didn't send me to the operator who did it and I got the person who own the store and they were old school and didn't know the latest hair styles and I still had a perm going. A curl perm and a straight perm don't mix and I don't know any better. She tried to cut the perm out of my hair and she cut my hair off and she tried to put this curl in and the curl wouldn't take and it was just wave of hair. So much of my hair was cut, I couldn't put in a ponytail and I was a freshman in high school and that's not a good time. It's a very tender age, so it was rough for a month or two. What about now?

QL: Nah, I'm too low maintenance. I can get it done in ten minutes. I usually don't do my hair when I'm not working because I do it so for much that I need to give a rest. I need to give the edges a rest. Your hair needs a rest and your face needs a rest. I don't want to be poked and prodded when I'm not working. I need to give it a break and maybe some lip gloss and mascara or something but the ponytail will do.

What are some of the characteristics that you and Gina shared?

QL: I think I have more in common with character than most of the characters I've played except Kadijah. Kadijah was based on me. It was based on one of Yvette's friends in college and based on me. They wrote the character for me. She just hung around me for three weeks and learned how I spoke and she really developed that character on me but Gina is a combination of a few people. She's my hair stylist Julie and she's my hair stylist Annette in New York and she's my mom. She's so many women I know who are raising a child and making those sacrifices in relationships departments. I watched my mother make those sacrifices in that department because when her and my father split up she was concerned that we would worry whose replacing our father. She kept it on the low and out of the house and that was hard. She was young and she deserved to be in a relationship, but when you have kids, you try to think of them first and work extra jobs to keep food on the table. I watched her go for her dreams too. My mom took us to college with her. This janitor would watch my brother and I while she was in class. It wasn't a big deal back then but now that I'm older, I'm like "You stuck to your goals and dreams. You took us with you rather than miss your classes" and I look at people nowadays and some people could be so dam lazy, I'm like, "I don't even want to hear it". Gina is the type that makes those same sacrifices. She works for a boss that she doesn't like because she wants to make sure her daughter can go to this private school, but then it becomes more important for her to take control of her own destiny and achieve her goals and that's a good lesson for her daughter to see.

What kind of sacrifices did you make to get where you are now?

QL: I've made a lot of sacrifices through the years. You have to sacrifice friends and hanging out and going to every little thing and being around your family. You sacrifice your identity. I have to be this person every day for 24 hours. People are looking at me and watching me or studying what I'm doing.

Were the cameo appearances of LisaRaye and Kimora Lee Simmons always part of the script?

QL: Yes. They were great. We had the idea of basketball wives who compete with other basketball wives and the ladies did a great job with those roles.

What do you think about when you start to cast the actor who will play your boyfriend or romantic lead?

QL: It's a chemistry thing. It has to be good chemistry. It's hard to act for someone you don't feel chemistry at all, but it that's what you have to do then that's what you have to do. But it's just a vibe. Do we look right together? Does it feel comfortable? Ultimately we have to make you believe that we are attracted to one another. If that doesn't come across then it won't work.

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