Queen Latifah: 'Put On Your Crown,' Make A Change When Queen Latifah realized how many young women are stuck in violent relationships, putting themselves down and dealing with other personal challenges, she decided to reach out. In Put On Your Crown, she tries to encourage young women by admitting her own mistakes, and sharing the lessons she's learned.
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Queen Latifah: 'Put On Your Crown,' Make A Change

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Queen Latifah: 'Put On Your Crown,' Make A Change

Queen Latifah: 'Put On Your Crown,' Make A Change

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Superstar Queen Latifah spends a fair amount of time on the red carpet. She hosted the BET Awards on Sunday night. But the actor, rapper, singer and model is also Dana Owens, the gangly kid who grew up in Newark who's made her share of mistakes.

Now she hopes to use her celebrity and her example to address what she sees as an epidemic of lousy self-esteem among young women and girls that contributes to violent relationships, to substance abuse, financial mismanagement and all kinds of other problems. Her message: If I did it, so can you. She joins us in just a moment.

Later in the program, the FBI breaks up a spy ring that seems to be right of John le Carre or Ian Fleming. But first, we'd like to hear from the younger women in our audience. Queen Latifah writes about the moments in her life where she made choices, choices that made a difference. Tell us about the moments when you made those choices.

Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Queen Latifah's new book is "Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments On The Path To Queendom," and she joins us from our studios at NPR West. And nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Ms. QUEEN LATIFAH (Author, "Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments On The Path To Queendom"): Thank you. Nice to be here.

CONAN: I know that during the BET Awards, at every interval, you changed into a different costume, one of the ones you wore in different movies and different TV shows. That must have been quite a trip through memory lane.

Ms. LATIFAH: It felt like, you know, it felt like "Saturday Night Live" in one way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LATIFAH: But it was - it was a lot of fun to, you know, to kind of touch bases on all these characters that I've played through the years, including, you know, my own identity as a female rapper and, you know, Cleo from "Set it Off," you know, and then to finally get to a place where I could just be glamorous. It was wonderful.

I was, like, okay, enough of these costumes. Can't I just be a pretty girl? Thank you.

CONAN: There you go. The one, the costume though, from "Chicago," you had to have that taken in, I bet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LATIFAH: I did. It was fun. I mean, I got to be, you know, Matron Mama Morton and be Maybelle from "Hairspray." It was a blast. It was a blast. It was hectic. It was crazy. It was fun. It was all very, like, last-minute, but, you know, I think I was able to kind of bring my identity to that show, which I thought was a lot of fun.

CONAN: It's interesting. In reading your book, you write about how playing some of those characters, well, those were some of the moments that changed your life. They were people that you connected with and learned a lot from.

Ms. LATIFAH: Absolutely, and also, you know, you have to deal with a lot of yourself when you, you know, just to be an actor, you have to be in touch with your emotions because, you know, whatever your, you know, character has to go through, you have to be able to deliver.

And if you're not - if you can't touch those emotions in your own personal life, it's kind of hard to bring them across to your character. So, I mean, I remember excuse me. I remember shooting "Set it Off," and I remember there was a scene where I had to cry, and, you know, I had lost my brother. And so my emotions were very numb at some point.

And I had to, literally had to go into it and deal with those emotions in order to even be able to pull those scenes off. So, you know, it really kind of forces you to look at yourself to be, you know, to be an actress.

CONAN: There are moments that - you're very candid about a lot of these moments in your life. And it must have been difficult for you to write about the episode where you went broke.

Ms. LATIFAH: It was, in a way. It was a little uncomfortable. But believe me, I've heard these stories from people who are much more successful than I am.

(Soundbite of coughing)

Ms. LATIFAH: I'm sorry.

CONAN: That's okay.

Ms. LATIFAH: So it wasn't, you know, something that was unheard of, and I think especially with our economic times, people go through these things. And I think the thing to remember, what I thought was the best thing to recognize was that it doesn't matter what level, economic level you're on.

I mean, Donald Trump, you know, filed bankruptcy years ago. I mean, and he bounced back. There's a lot of people on a lot of levels who go through difficult times, and you just have to figure out how to bounce back from those situations and learn from them.

So for me, it was about really learning how to, you know, restructure my business and to pay more attention to it, to not leave it in other people's hands. You work really hard to earn this money, but are you taking care of it?

So and oddly enough, after I reorganized that whole situation, God had just blessed me with so much more. I mean, I became much more, you know, wealthy after that happened, and it was almost like he wanted me to, you know, get it together so he could bless me more. But don't ruin, you know, don't mess it up again. Get your act together, kid. That's kind of what he was saying, I felt. That's kind of what I took from it.

CONAN: You've got more but now you know where it is.

Ms. LATIFAH: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: A lesson that you learned that doesn't actually apply to most of us is to sign all your own checks. Nobody signs...

Ms. LATIFAH: Sign all of your own checks, absolutely.

CONAN: There are lessons that people will say, you know, wait a minute, managing a, you know, multi-million-dollar business, that doesn't really apply to my life. You know, the kinds of well, you talk about managing your own body weight and saying, well, that's great. I can get a personal trainer, ha.

Ms. LATIFAH: Well, you don't even need a personal trainer, necessarily. It's really about, you know, just paying attention to your body, you know, listening to your body, looking at, you know, how you feel about it.

Are you drinking enough water? Are you eating the right kinds of foods? You know, sometimes, I mean, if we really listen to our bodies, they kind of tell us what we need. For some reason, you might crave a banana. You might need some potassium.

I mean, you know, you might need to eat a little more meat. Maybe your body needs some more iron, or some spinach, you know what I mean? Like, if we listen to it, I think our bodies kind of tell us what we need to be doing.

And of course, we obviously need to exercise more. And, you know, I'm not the, you know, I'm not the coach of telling everyone what to do with their bodies, but I know my body responds like that. When I'm working too hard, when I'm not eating enough, I seem to lose weight, and it's not the kind of weight that I want to lose, you know.

And it's I like to be healthy. I don't mind if I'm thick or heavy. As long as I feel good, I feel strong, I feel, you know, like I have the right nutrition, I'm good to go, you know. I don't really look at myself like, okay, I have to look a certain way, be a certain weight, jump on the scale all the time. That's really not how I judge myself.

But I know if I don't feel well, it's because something is not I'm not doing something properly for my body. So I just try to make sure I eat better or exercise a little more, and I think that's you just have to listen to your own body.

CONAN: We're talking with Queen Latifah about her new book, "Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments On The Path To Queendom," in which she describes, well, life-changing moments. What were the moments that your life changed?

We'd like the young women in our audience to give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. And Shirlin(ph) is with us from Chesterfield, Missouri.

SHIRLIN (Caller): Good afternoon. First and foremost, I'd like to say: Queen Latifah, I truly admire you for all that you've achieved, and I would like to say congratulations for doing it on your own terms.

Ms. LATIFAH: Thank you.

SHIRLIN: Me, myself, I'm in my mid-40s, and I remember when I first saw you on "Living Single," you know, I saw someone that I reflected what I looked like. And this woman was living her life and was happy in who she was.

And it kind of like embellished this level of self-pride in me. And today I am a middle-aged, very successful young lady who is always complimented on how I look. And I've been told that I shine from within and then it just comes out of me. And I think I can credit a lot of that to seeing you.

Ms. LATIFAH: Oh, thank you. It's you know, oddly enough, I remember when we were doing "Living Single," and the note came down from above that we needed to lose weight.

And I remember thinking no, I'm not going to lose weight for you guys, for some studio or for some, you know, production company because this is what we look like. You have to have these different images.

You've got four women who look completely different, who reflect what four African-American women look like in our community. And so why should we try to become size twos, you know, to reflect what's already been seen out there?

So I appreciate that, and I applaud you for being beautiful from the inside out and showing that side of your queendom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

I think that's important. That's so important. I mean, the fact that you look great and that your beauty shows from inside out and people recognize you for that, to me that's what it's all about. It's about that shining through.

CONAN: Shirlin, was there a moment when you said enough already, I am who I am?

SHIRLIN: Well, actually, it occurred I guess I would have to say around 2000, and it was kind of like I had an epiphany. I had gone September 11 had happened, I lost my job, and I had to reinvent myself. I had to go back to school.

And when I made these decisions, I had the support of my husband. And then suddenly, I felt empowered, and then I began to see myself differently.

I have to be honest with you. The whole time I saw Queen Latifah, I admired her, but it wasn't until I began to see her evolve that I said to myself wow, there's more to me than just the person you see before you.

So I began to develop in different areas. And every time she has a movie, I'm there, I see it, and I'm proud.

Ms. LATIFAH: Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Role model, there you go. Shirlin, thanks very much.

SHIRLIN: Thank you. Here's an email from Neesha(ph), and she writes: Do you feel like the media is to blame for mixed messages sent to young black women who aspire to become the stereotypical reflections, images of themselves, which make for good entertainment? Also, how would you suggest or what advice could you give to me as I begin my goal for change to uplifting woman everywhere?

Ms. LATIFAH: That's heavy. You know, I think we could blame the media for everything if we wanted to, but I think parenting is very important. I think how you're raised and the level of love and support you're given as you grow up to me makes a big difference.

I think that can combat anything that the media could portray or put out there for you to absorb. Because, I mean, just for me growing up, my mom always told me I was beautiful, always told me she loved me, tried to inform me about things that I would face when I got in, you know, out in the world.

And I think and my father was supportive, as well. And I think that core, having that core built inside of you really helps you to combat all the things that you're going to face when you go out into the world or when you're subjected to what the media can send you, those messages they can send you.

Now at this time, it's so we live in such an information age, there's so much happening that yeah, there's a lot you have to fight against, and there's a lot of stereotypical things. But I think the more you inform yourself, the better off you'll be, and just to continue to build the core of who you are.

CONAN: Queen Latifah's book, "Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments On The Path To Queendom." Tell us about the life-changing moments in your life, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Our guest is Queen Latifah. We're talking about her new book, "Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments On The Path To Queendom." She writes in one section of the book about the importance of reinventing yourself, trying new things, finding people who support you. You can read more about that chapter in an excerpt on our website at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We'd like to hear from the younger women in our audience. Queen Latifah is talking about some of the moments in her life when she made choices, choices that made a difference. Tell us about the moments when you did, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. Again, thats npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And let's see if we can go next to this is Laura(ph), Laura with us from Powell in Wyoming.

LAURA (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

LAURA: I have more of a question, really. My husband and his little sister both grew up in very abusive households, and this kind of ties into what Queen Latifah was saying before the break about parenting. They both grew up in not very good households, with a lot of abuse and drugs and things like that.

And my husband has overcome this upbringing, and his sister hasn't. She continues to be a drug user, even though she's been in and out of rehab programs, and just gets tied up in very bad relationships that are abusive and uses sex as a way to help her self-esteem.

And I just wondered: Why is there such difference for my husband, who's a man, and for her, who's a woman, to overcome this? Why is her self-esteem, why hasn't she found, I don't know, the answer or some kind of a life-changing moment for her?

Ms. LATIFAH: Well, I'm definitely not an expert. So I can't speak to what it is exactly that, you know, has kept her in that same, that space. But I know you know, one of the things that people go through when they're abused is the guilt of it.

For some reason, you feel like you're a part of it, like you contributed to it, like you allowed it to happen. And, you know, I had to go to therapy just to understand it because I was I mean, I was five years old when it happened to me.

But, you know, what my therapist said to me was, okay, you're a grown woman now. If there was a five-year-old kid here, could they do anything to hurt you? No. Could they do anything to harm you? Could you push them around? Could you do anything to this little kid? And I was like yeah, I could because they're a kid.

And now, you're that kid. So it was not your fault. It's not your fault. There's an adult who took advantage of a child, and I think in our minds, you know, sometimes we try to process it as if we're an adult, and we're not.

We were children when this happened to us. Someone abused us. Someone took advantage of us, took our innocence away, tampered with us. And we have to number one let ourselves off the hook. We had nothing to do with that.

Then we have to figure out how to build - rebuild the idea of what love is to us. And it takes a long time. It's been a challenge for me. I've had success on so many levels. My personal life has always been a challenge. And I think that's partly because of what happened to me as a child.

But, I mean, honestly, you know, then when you involve drugs and, you know, substance abuse with it, that becomes a whole different thing. And sometimes people just want to numb themselves from the emotions that they feel.

And women, we're very sensitive, you know. So maybe she's continuing to try to numb herself from all the things she's feeling inside, but the truth is, once she faces that and deals with a lot of those feelings and emotions and lets it frees herself from that, maybe it will be a lot easier for her to make that change.

But it's something that you have to face, and it's an individual's choice. And, you know, all those things sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, all that I mean, that's just covering for feelings that are underneath that she has to deal with, that she has to face, that she has to learn how to handle those emotions.

And it's a challenge. And I really hope and pray that she is able to make that breakthrough and you guys are able to be able to support each other. Her brother knows what she's been through. So hopefully, they can continue to be, you know, connected in some sort of way that allows her to just have an honest conversation with someone about what she's feeling.

So I don't know, but I wish you the best.

LAURA: Thank you. Do you recommend that - I mean, I just don't know what the best thing for us to do for her but just continue to support her and show empathy?

Ms. LATIFAH: I think yeah, I think you have to support her, be empathetic. You don't have to enable her, you know, but I think, you know, as long as she knows somebody's there, it will be helpful because you never know what she's going through out there in the world she's dealing with.

And I come from a family with a lot of people who abused drugs and alcohol. So, you know, there's just that one time where you need to make you know, somebody just has to be there at some point. And when they make that turnaround, that change, you know, hopefully it'll come. Sometimes, people have to get locked up for that to happen.

You know, it goes to that level, but as long as she knows there's someone there that she can have an honest conversation with, who knows her and won't just judge her, you know what I mean?

LAURA: Yeah.

CONAN: Laura, we wish you and her the best of luck.

LAURA: Thank you.

CONAN: Queen Latifah, I listen to that, and I say, you had a talk show, and it didn't go over?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LATIFAH: Na. The talk show went well, actually. I just decided I didn't want to do it anymore. But I actually might go back into that. You know, I might try that again.

CONAN: The hosting business, just stay off of radio, okay?

Ms. LATIFAH: Yeah, no, no, no, you're good. You're good, Neal.

CONAN: All right. Let's go next to Jo(ph). Jo's with us from Panama City.

JO (Caller): Hello. Queen Latifah, I just want to thank you so much for your whole body of work but particularly for the movie "Last Holiday." It came at a time in my life when I had cancer, and I saw the movie 10 times, and it got me through some of the darkest days and just blessed me so much. So thank you.

CONAN: She writes a lot about that movie and that part in the book.

JO: Yes, I'd love to read the book. I haven't read it yet.

CONAN: Well, it was about the decision and for those who aren't familiar with the plot, a woman who gets a diagnosis of cancer and is told that she only has a very short period of time to live and decides to spend it on that last holiday and to live her life to the fullest.

JO: It was quite inspiring.

Ms. LATIFAH: You know, I'm glad to hear that, and I'm glad you're well, and I've heard this story from people, and it, you know, sometimes when you when I set out to do some of these movies, I never really realized what is going to what can come from it. But so many people have come up to me about "Last Holiday" and how it inspired them.

And my manager, his neighbors said I owe them a housekeeper because she saw "Last Holiday" and quit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LATIFAH: She quit, and she said forget this. I'm going back to Brazil to live my life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LATIFAH: So it was pretty funny, and, you know, sometimes these movies that I do, some have great box-office success, and some are kind of lukewarm, and "Last Holiday," I think maybe, you know, it did okay. It wasn't a huge success.

But so many people found that movie, whether on cable or DVD. They just found that movie and felt so good about it. And I had such a great time making it. So I'm really glad to hear that, you know, when I hear people who are inspired by that movie. It's about living your life.

JO: Thank you so much. It inspired me to change my life entirely.

Ms. LATIFAH: Oh, thank you so much, sister. You take care of yourself.

JO: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye, Jo.

JO: Bye-bye.

CONAN: When you are so candid about so many difficult parts of your life, about losing your brother, you mentioned the abuse, the sex abuse when you were a child, about so many other things. Do you worry sometimes that people are going to start feeling entitled to know about all the parts of your life?

JO: People already feel that way sometimes, but I'm only going to give you what I want to give you - of my life. But when it comes to really trying to help someone better themselves or make better decisions, for me, that's the best way to do it.

I don't know how to be pretentious in that way. For me, it's about sharing some of these difficult times that I've been through, as well as some of the great times, so that they understand and they can relate, you know, so that they understand that hey, things happen.

You go through things, but you can respond to these different situations on your terms. And it's how you respond to them that is going to make you who you are.

So yeah, it gets a little personal, but no, this is all I'm going to give you as far as who I'm with or what I do. I mean, that's not for you. That's not for you. That's for the next book.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: (Unintelligible).

Ms. LATIFAH: But I mean, you know, media people, they always try to come at you in certain ways, and you just I just, I'm not that person who's going to give you all of my life. You can have the public parts that we share. You can have the movies, the books, the films.

But as far as what happens personally with me, I'm actually living my life. So I'm not going to share that with you. I need to have something that's just private, that's mine. I have to own some part of me. And so that's why I don't really go into those kinds of things. I keep that for myself.

CONAN: Let's go next to Casey(ph), Casey with us from Jacksonville.

CASEY (Caller): Hi. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

CASEY: When I turned on the radio, I felt like you're speaking directly to me. I am a recovering addict who will be celebrating five years of sobriety in August.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Oh, yeah. Fantastic.

CASEY: Thank you. I'm 27. And it's really - it's wonderful to sit here today and turn on the radio and be proud of my life-changing experience.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Mm-hmm.

CASEY: So I'm grateful to hear something like this on the radio.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Aw, see, Neal?

CONAN: There we go.

QUEEN LATIFAH: That's what it's all about, right there.

CONAN: Congratulations, Casey.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Congratulations, Casey. Keep it up, girl.

CASEY: Thank you so much. Take care.

CONAN: We've gotten a lot of emails along this line. This one happens to be from Scott(ph) who describes himself as retired Coast Guard. Quick comment for Queen Latifah: I love everything you do. You are the best actress out there. You are not only extremely intelligent, but you are very gorgeous and overly talented as well. You're an absolutely magnificent example for young women and girls to emulate. Thank you for all you do for our troubled world. And please don't ever stop being you. You are awesome.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Give me that guy's number, because when I'm feeling down, I'm going to need to talk to him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

QUEEN LATIFAH: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And let's go to Courtney(ph), Courtney with us from Cincinnati.

COURTNEY (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Hey, Courtney.

COURTNEY: I just wanted to share something that completely changed my life around for the better. All throughout in high school, I had to struggle with eating disorders and self-image, and then I learned more about vegetarianism. And when you put so many negative things into your body in which - it fluctuate your weight and it just makes you feel bad inside.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Mm-hmm.

COURTNEY: But when you cut those things out, you began to feel more in tune with yourself. And the longer that I've done it, the better I felt. And now I completely am vegan, which I consume no animal products. And it just completely opened my eyes and made me feel complete with myself.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Oh, that's good.

CONAN: And you've overcome the eating disorder?

COURTNEY: Yeah. It was more or less just coping with my feelings inside. And I don't - attaining the - I don't know what I'm trying to say.

CONAN: Well, I know that eating disorders are not one of those things that you're ever cured of.

COURTNEY: Yeah. It still...

CONAN: You always have it.

COURTNEY: ...comes to your head at times, but I can look at myself now and be happy knowing that I'm being good to myself and I'm not hurting myself anymore.

CONAN: And, again, was there a moment when you realized that this was the path for you?

COURTNEY: I guess when you wake up every morning and you look in the mirror and today, like - I guess, it's something to do a couple of months after, and I just didn't care anymore about why so because I felt so complete inside.

CONAN: Hmm.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Hmm.

COURTNEY: So, I don't know if maybe other people might be interested in looking into that.

CONAN: Well, stay with it, Courtney. Thanks very much for the call.

COURTNEY: Thank you.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Yeah.

CONAN: We're talking with Queen Latifah. Her new book "Put on Your Crown: Life Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go next to Melissa(ph) calling us from Tucson.

MELISSA (Caller): Oh, hello.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air.

MELISSA: Oh, awesome. Yay, Neal. Yay. I love Queen Latifah. I was just calling - you were in "Chicago," and that movie is awesome. But my favorite, favorite number is Mama Morton, you know, you be good to mama and mama is good to you.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Mm-hmm.

MELISSA: Oh, my God. It's a cool juxtaposition. Like, you know, you played this heavy, kind of looking all dowdy as the queen of the prison.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Mm-hmm.

MELISSA: And then you just have this beautiful, you know, outfit on and the number. And I have the soundtrack. Me and my best friend, Sam and I, every time that song comes on, we just crank it and sing, you know, Mama Morton song. I just want to let you know.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Thank you.

MELISSA: Yeah. Thanks so much. I love this show. I listen all the time. And I'm so excited to get to talk to you.

CONAN: Well, thank you very much for that, Melissa. Appreciate the phone call.

MELISSA: Thank you. Bye-bye.

CONAN: I wonder, do you ever get concern - you write a lot about yourself as Dana, the little girl. Do you ever fear that you will lose Dana Owens in Queen Latifah?

QUEEN LATIFAH: No. I remember being - I remember when Queen Latifah sort of outgrew me. And I realized this is not just a name. This is now a brand. This is now, like, a company. This is a corporation. I was about 24 years old when that happened. And I thought to myself, okay, just be yourself. That is going to become a business of its own, but I always have to be true to who I am. And that's why I think I'm not very - as much as I'm in Hollywood, I'm not Hollywood. I don't try to hang out at all the parties and - with all the stars. And, you know, I try to stay close to the people who really know me and love me and care about me, and who can smack my hand when I do a bad thing and pat me on my back when I do a good job, you know?

So, I think as long as I keep those people around me and try to just be real, I'll always be Dana. You know, I always be La(ph). It's just - well, that's about it. That's how I feel about that. I mean, it's about keeping real people around you.

CONAN: Well, one of those real people is your mom. You turned over part of the book to your mother.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Yeah, because I think it's important for people to understand where I came from, and where I got a lot of these lessons from and why I speak the way I do, or why I talk about the things I do. It really comes from my mom and the lessons that I learned from her. And so I thought it will be important - I thought it would be important for people to get, you know, just a little -a few words from her about the things that she went through or how it was raising someone like me and...

CONAN: I bet you were a handful.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Yeah. Oh, man. I was definitely a handful. When I read my baby book that she wrote, I just crack up, you know. I was little rambunctious kid but I was a sweet kid, you know? I was okay in those ways. But my mother is also a high school teacher. She's retired now, but she was a high school teacher for years. And she was one of those teachers that really cared about the kids. You could come and talk to her about anything. She was almost a parent to a lot of the kids that she taught, because some of them, they didn't have that kind of support in their home.

They couldn't have, you know, conversations with their parents about certain things and the pressures that they were under as high school kids, and maybe their parents worked a lot, or maybe they had abuse in their households or substance abuse or physical abuse, you know? She was that teacher that they could always come to.

And I thought it would be important for people to get a little bit of a lesson from Mama O. on how, you know, how she did it, you know? So that's why we did it and I'm - it's my favorite part of this book, actually.

CONAN: There are plenty of other moments that changed Queen Latifah's life in her book, "Put on your Crown." Queen Latifah, Dana, thank you very much.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Neal, thank you.

CONAN: Coming up next, the Russian spy ring brought down by the FBI, a story right out of a spy thriller. We'll talk about how they did it and how they got caught. Stay with us.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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