Oscar-nominated, Grammy-award-winning actress and hip hop royalty Queen Latifah just released her second self-help book, Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom, last month (Ladies First was her first book, with Karen Hunter). In it, the first hip hop artist on the Walk of Fame takes just under 200 pages to discuss her career strides and life lessons as “a series of moments.” I’ll highlight just a few here, but I have indicated a few spoiler alerts along the way. If you don’t want to know too much detail, skip the rest of those paragraphs where noted and go to the next.
Latifah has been rhyming about empowerment since she was a teenager (“Ladies First”) and one of my favorite anthems from her is 1993’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” She even starred in and sung the theme song to the TV show Living Single (a precursor to NBC’s Friends). She released a new album this year called Persona, but the only song I’ve heard from it is the one she performed on The Mo’Nique Show recently—I’m not hearing the urban stations showing it any love. But I’ve always liked her and respected her for her classy, positive image. If you follow this blog, you also know that I love her perfume, too!
But I digress—back to the book.
I read Put On Your Crown in a few hours, and enjoyed its conversational tone and simplistic chapter titles (e.g., “Beauty,” “Money,” “ Joy”). Latifah covers several topics, such as paying attention to your finances (SPOILER ALERT #1) Latifah went broke 10 years ago because she didn’t pay attention to bookkeeping). This story reminded me of when MC Hammer went bankrupt for “helping” so many people at the height of his “You Can’t Touch This”-ness (I think was coming from a good place, and Latifah echoed similar feelings about putting her crew on and supporting more people than she should have.)
Another year, after her parents separated, her family downsized and temporarily moved to the projects. (SPOILER ALERT #2) It was disheartening to read how her family’s things—everything—was stolen in broad daylight. And on Christmas Eve of that same year, all the presents that her mother worked 3 jobs to pay for were stolen from the trunk of her car. And unfortunately, material possessions and coping as a child of divorce were not the only losses she had to deal with.
Not everyone has experienced the loss of a loved one close to them, myself included. But I found the “Loss” chapter to be the most inspiring of the whole book. It really touched me. (SPOILER ALERT #3) In her early 20s, her brother died from a tragic motorcycle accident. For many years thereafter, she wore his motorcycle key on her necklace in his memory.
The “Love” chapter was one that tricked me. I thought she was going to talk about relationships, but most of the chapter is written by her mother, Rita Owens, aka “Mamma O.” As a person who did not have a female mentor, Nana, or a “Big Mama”-figure when I was coming up, this chapter was a real treat. Rita talked about her upbringing and her experiences as a teacher mentoring students over the years. Instead of being dismissive, she shows she cares by listening, breaking up a fight, or pulling them aside to chat when they need help.
I smiled as I read the “Fear” chapter, as Latifah reminisced about redlining down the highway with her brother and crew on their bikes. I thought about another hip hop legend, Pepa, who talked about car racing in her memoir.
The “Strength” chapter is where she warns people against enabling others, especially those who are toxic (they have negative habits or unreasonable expectations of you).
The recurring theme I took from this book overall is to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and not take them for granted—especially when it comes to everyday moments with loved ones.
Latifah has truly come such a long way since she showed up in the late 80s, and she lets us in on the journey of teachable moments, which I’m sure is far from over. Put On Your Crown is for the round-the-way girl, the everywoman, and the young lady who wants to let her worth come out and shine without shame.