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Latifah and Monae, and their right to privacy
by Ella Vincent
2013-09-10

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Queen Latifah in Joyful Noise. Photo by Van Redin


Queen Latifah and Janelle Monae are A-list stars who get as much attention for what they don't say as what they do say. The stars are notoriously tight-lipped about their personal lives.

Although they are rumored to be gay, Latifah often says she doesn't discuss her personal life, while Monae says she dates "an android.'' These women may be criticized for not revealing who they love, but these stars have the right to keep their personal lives private.

Latifah has heard the gay rumors ever since she starred as the lesbian bank robber Cleo in the '90s movie Set it Off. Although she has kept her private life to herself, she has quietly supported gay rights. She performed at the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in 2012 and has called the LGBT community "my people."

"To me, doing a gay pride show is one of the most fun things," Latifah said.

Just because she won't talk about her private life on her upcoming syndicated show, it doesn't mean she's closeted: it only means she's private. She's not actively anti-gay, saying she's "cured'' of being gay. She doesn't have a male beard to show off at red-carpet events. Latifah doesn't want her private life discussed on her new talk show, just as Katie Couric doesn't discuss her personal life on her show.

Although people online wanting Latifah to come out say she could help other gay people come out of the closet, there is a difference between being out to help the LGBT community and just to satisfy people's nosiness. As Aja Worthy—Davis wrote about Latifah on the women's website Jezebel last year, "Some online bloggers have made entire careers peddling the concept that it's some kind of service to the LGBTQ community to out celebrities they declare are closeted." Neil Patrick Harris wasn't outed by Perez Hilton to help LGBT people—it was just a gimmick to get page views. Latifah is rightfully mum on her private life because she doesn't want bloggers or gossip shows in her business.

While Latifah is private about her life, Monae is not only challenging talking about her private life—she's challenging sexuality in general. Because of her tuxedo uniform and Oxford shoes, she's been rumored to be gay. Monae embraces an androgynous appearance because she's challenging the binary gender roles that heterosexist society puts women in all the time.

As she recently told Vibe Vixen, songs like her latest single, "Q.U.E.E.N," come from conversations that "Erykah [Badu] and [Monae] were having about a woman's place in the world. And how [they] were expected to be freaks and muses and virgin goddesses all at the same time by patriarchal cultures and religions."

Monae may be wearing men's clothing, but she may not necessarily be gay. Whether she is or not, she is definitely challenging gender roles. Like many other artists before her, such as Grace Jones, Monae is subverting how women are supposed to behave and how they are supposed to dress. Female musicians are expected to talk about their romances more than their art. Monae keeps the focus on her music, so fans and bloggers will write more about her new album, The Electric Lady, than her private life.

Whether they date men, women or androids, Latifah and Monae should have their privacy respected as long as they support the LGBT community. They are famous because of their talent and uniqueness. That should be the only focus of their fans and the media.


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