“When I got the role of amateur bank robber Cleo Sims in Set It Off, I sat down with my younger siblings and told them, ‘Listen, I’m playing a gay character. Your classmates might tease you or say negative things about it,’ ” she said. “But I’m doing it because I believe I can bring positive attention to the gay African-American community, and I believe that I can do a great job as an actor.’ They understood, and when those things inevitably happened in school, they were OK with it.”

The decision that she’d finally made paid off as the film, which also starred the likes of Jayda Pinkett-Smith, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise, is what helped to jumpstart her acting career.

Latifah later worked alongside Catherine Zeta Jone, Renee Zellweger and so many others after that and even earned herself an Academy-Award nomination for her portrayal of Mama Morton.

While being extremely candid about the difficulty that she did have when playing that role, she has always been very tight-lipped about her own romantic life outside of the film world.

Back in 2008, while she’d chatted with the New York Times, Latifah did make it very clear that her personal life is never up for discussion.

“I don’t have a problem discussing the topic of somebody being gay, but I do have a problem discussing my personal life… I don’t care if people think I’m gay or not. Assume whatever you want. You do it anyway.”

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