queen latifah*Queen Latifah arrived with her royal court to an amped and enthusiastic crowd of subjects summoned to celebrate the 29th Annual Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival on Saturday, May 19.

The annual event held in Long Beach, California boasts of drawing approximately 100,000 attendees each year, making it the 2nd largest Pride festival in California and 4th largest in the nation. With such star power like Queen Latifah embracing this year’s event and taking the stage, attendance was presumably higher because everybody loves to see and hear a queen. And there was only one way for Her Highness to make her grand entrance, and that was upon the wings of rap hits like “U.N.I.T.Y.” and “Ladies First.”

Similar to the title of her 2003 film Bringing Down the House, Queen Latifah came hyped, energized and ready to do just that. She “brought it” in more ways than one, bridging songs with inspiring and encouraging words by telling the crowd to “let their inner light shine in the world” and “to conquer hate with love.”

It wasn’t just her Covergirl glow that radiated from the main stage and mesmerized festival goers; it was the light of her transparency emanating from within. The moment she uttered, “I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time,” the crowd knew she was prepared to reflect all sides of herself throughout her musical performance.

She was as free as she wanted to be and as honest as she needed to be, from bumping and grinding onstage to acknowledging that she was proud to be among “her people” to the predominantly LGBT crowd.

In my opinion, for a highly respected African American celebrity to display that kind of courage was “Simply Beautiful” – the Al Green remake she rendered midway through her performance.

It was a celebration and party onstage as well as offstage as Queen Latifah performed from a smorgasbord of musical genres ranging from rap, hip hop, jazz, R&B to reggae as well as performing songs from various artists and paying homage to a plethora of female rappers.

Boldly proclaiming that today’s hip hop is “missing the female voice,” it wasn’t too many moons ago when Queen Latifah first busted onto the scene as a socially conscious East Coast female rapper to debut her album All Hail The Queen. It represented both strength and softness, and provided a positive image of beauty, class and self-confidence for young African American women.

Although originally from the East Coast and retaining a residence there, Queen Latifah took a moment to express her love and appreciation for the West Coast by performing the Roy Ayers’ hit “Everybody Loves The Sunshine.”

The multi-talented artist has always been ready and willing to share her gift with the world which enabled her to skyrocket to fame in music, film, television, and as a spokes-model where she remains at the top of her game.

Her first musical appearance at the Gay Pride Festival was a testament that Queen Latifah not only wants to be true to her loyal fans, but that she is willing to stand up and be herself, perhaps gaining even deeper respect and appreciation from her supporters.

Dana Stringer is a freelance writer based in Southern California. Contact her via [email protected]