In 1996, after establishing her reign over hip-hop, Queen Latifah set her sights on Hollywood, appearing in her first feature film, Set It Off, an all-female bank heist co-starring Jada Pinkett-Smith and Vivica A. Fox.
ET was on set to talk to the rapper-turned-actress -- just look at those cornrows!! -- about striking a balance between her already successful music career and growing acting resume, which included three seasons of Living Single.
“I don't ever think I'll have to choose between music and acting,” Latifah said at the time. “I mean, I won't choose between music and acting. They're two different things that satisfy me in two different ways. They satisfy my creative soul.”
It was a bold promise for the then-26-year-old and one that she didn’t initially keep. It would be five years before the rapper followed up the 1993 album, Black Reign, with new music. In 1998, she not only released Order in the Court, but also returned to the big screen with roles in Living Out Loud and Sphere.
Then, in 2002, Hollywood took notice when Latifah combined both her talents for the Oscar-nominated role of Matron “Mama” Morton in Chicago.
A decade later, following three albums and several hit roles, Latifah is doing it again with the HBO film, Bessie, about the life and struggles of the legendary blues singer. This, which took over two decades to get off the ground, is Latifah’s most raw performance yet.
“If I can't put my thing on it like I've done some extraordinary work at some point in it then I haven't been fulfilled,” she said back on set of the 1996 film. With Bessie -- and the work in between -- there's plenty for Latifah to feel proud of.
Watch as Latifah discusses going nude for the HBO film, which pushed the 45-year-old the furthest we’ve seen her on screen: