By Fred Topel | Image property of New Line Cinema.
We know Queen Latifah can belt out a tune or crack us up laughing, but she can also provide the moral center of a film. Even Bringing Down the House dealt with modern day racism. Hairspray is a musical about segregation in the 1960s. Motormouth Maybelle (Latifah) fights for integration for her African-American dancers. Since Hairspray is full of singing and dancing, it can get away with having such a deep message.
Queen Latifah Talks Hairspray
"Movies are entertaining," she said. "At the end of the day, you want to entertain someone and you want to keep their attention. You can read a book and pick it up and put it down and an article you can do the same way. But you're here for the two hours to watch this movie so hopefully you're captured by what you see on the screen. And I think the reason a lot of movies can penetrate is because you see yourself in them. You see real life scenarios."
In addition to dealing with racism and sizeism, Hairspray also talks about confidence. "I relate to the confidence that Motormouth tries to get people to feel confidence. She has to be a pretty confident woman to own this record store, to be a host on TV, to have all these kids think that she's actually cool enough to hang out with and to encourage Edna to just be herself. 'It's all right, girl, just be you, do you.' I think a lot of people make bad decisions when they don't have high confidence. When their self esteem is low, they're willing to tolerate stuff that they shouldn't. Women will stay in an abusive relationship when they have low self esteem. A man will create one when he has low self esteem. A lot of what happens, a lot of the ills of the world probably have a lot to do with how a person feels about themselves on the inside."
If it sounds too preachy, consider that this summer's biggest comedy hit is also full of messages. "I was watching Knocked Up, people think that's just a big comedy, just a big joke but I found so many relatable issues, relatable themes in there. Just relationships and losing your identity sometimes in a relationship. I can relate to that guy who she thought he was cheating but he really just wanted to play fantasy football, just wanted to be one of the guys sometimes. I've seen my friends go through that, it's happened to me before but movies can have a way of capturing your attention, especially when you see someone you know or yourself in them."
If Hairspray can impact men and women the same way, Latifah will be pleased. "I think Hairspray is one of those movies that kind of bring a little bit of attention to that and try to get people to step out and be confident about themselves. Don't give up. Try. It's okay. They might close that door today but another one will open. Just keep moving forward."