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Queen Latifah Empowers Women with Confidence

This hot summer is a busy one for Grammy Award winner and Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah. She is performing around the country on her first concert tour in 8 years. At the same time, she is spearheading a national campaign with a powerful feminist message, calling on women across America to participate in her Project Confidence.

Queen Latifah is excited to be performing live concerts again. She says her current tour, the Sugar Water Festival, showcases strong female voices, offering a unique mix of jazz, hip-hop, R&B and rap in a festival atmosphere. In addition to Queen Latifah, the concert features Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Floetry. While the last scheduled performance is August 10 in Los Angeles, Ms. Latifah says more dates may be added due to sell-out crowds.

The multi-talented performer says the tour gives her the opportunity to connect with her audience -- an audience that has bought close to a million copies of her latest CD. "I released The Dana Owens Album last year and it's almost a platinum," she says. "So, I just want to get out there and perform it for the people. So it has been great. They have been receiving me well. People have been very supporting and getting up and having fun during my shows and just welcoming me back to the stage."

Queen Latifah has often been referred to as the first female rap star. Many say the New Jersey native paved the way for female hip-hop artists in the late 1980s and early 1990's.

Soon after establishing her singing career, Queen Latifah branched out into acting on television and in movies, including a major role in the film Chicago, which earned her both a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. Over the years and through different experiences, she says, she realized that a sense of self-confidence has been a driving force in her career. "I was not always confident all the time," she says. "I think what I did do is recognize where I was at certain places in my life, and how my self-esteem -- how I felt about myself -- caused me to make good decisions or bad decisions. When my confidence was low, I made bad decisions. And I paid for those decisions. This taught me very quickly that I needed to keep my mind in a positive place, focused on positive things."

Queen Latifah credits her parents with raising her to believe in herself. "I had a mother and a father who encouraged me to achieve my goals," she says. "My father didn't treat me in a chauvinistic way. So, when you have someone telling you you can achieve anything you want, if you just work hard - which was what my Mom told me constantly as well as 'I love you', and 'you're beautiful' - so when you're pumped up with these positive messages, they come through eventually. Everyone goes through that awkward stage where your body is changing and all that kinds of things. Once you come through that, when you get on the other side of that, it's so bright."

The singer-actress believes that while the basic building blocks of self-confidence are laid down in early childhood by parents, later on, teachers and social programs can strengthen a girl's sense of self-esteem. "Girls need to be involved in things, extra-curricular activities that encourage their talents," she says. "So they are not just focused on boys or just focused on looking in the mirror all the time and worrying about how they look."

To encourage young women to live more confident lives, Queen Latifah is calling on them to nominate women they find inspiring for the first annual Project Confidence Awards -- a national campaign sponsored by Curvation, a clothing line for full-figured women.

"We're going to do a nation-wide search and identify women who have been inspirational to other women, who projected or personify confidence through programs, or education or fundraisers," she says. Early next year, Project Confidence's panel of experts, which includes Queen Latifah, will announce the winners. "[We] will select 5 winners and give them $2000 grants. Our grand prize winner will receive a $10,000 grant to continue the work they do to build confidence in women."

Empowering women is one of the messages Queen Latifah often incorporates in her song lyrics. "I think UNITY is one of the strongest records I've ever written and performed that embodies my views on things," she says. "This record is really about unifying ourselves, kind of coming together, having a positive outlook. It's also a song that I talked about domestic abuse in one verse, talked about females being involved in gangs, or falling into that kind of peer pressure. It's one of these records where I got to say what was on my mind. I won a Grammy for it."

Queen Latifah closes her shows with UNITY. When women in the audience come backstage after a concert and tell her the song inspired them to lead more fulfilling lives, she says she feels even more empowered to further the cause of raising women's self-confidence.