I don’t know that news of Queen Latifah‘s former drinking problem are much of a revelation – I think there were rumours of such a thing some years back – but in the new issue of Good Housekeeping, she finally opened up about her past alcoholism and the motivation behind it. In the mid-’90s, she was the victim of a violent carjacking which ended with her passenger and good friend being shot. Just a couple of years before that, her younger brother Lancelot was killed in a motorcycle crash (she’d given him the motorcycle as a gift), so it was a rough time, and alcohol helped numb the pain.
She turned to self-medication: “Drinking a bunch of alcohol, numbing myself. Every day I would be faded, like a painting that’s just not vibrant, whose edges are dull,” she says somberly. “I wasn’t living my full life.” Indeed, in early 1996 she was arrested while driving with a small amount of marijuana and also a loaded handgun, which she had carried since the carjacking.
Latifah knew it was time to stop the downward spiral. Jada Pinkett Smith, her friend and Set It Off costar, recommended a therapist to help her process the grief. And there was more to her sorrow than the death of Lance. She dug deep and confronted the fact that, as a child, she had been molested by a babysitter — a secret she’d kept buried for years. “We ignore our feelings a lot, I realize,” she says. “Many of us have to…until they really bite us in the butt.” Therapy helped her realize that, contrary to her feelings, the abuse had not been her fault. “What set me free was looking at it from a different perspective,” she says. “I was 5, manipulated and afraid.” Today, she encourages anyone who has been through or suspects abuse to speak up: “You have to say something. The power of those who perpetrate the abuse is your fear and your shame…and that’s unacceptable.”
It’s good to see Latifah speaking out on these important things, because maybe it’ll help others who are in her position (or have been in the past). Plus, it’s really inspiring to know that she could pull herself back up by the bootstraps, so to speak, and get her life together before she spiraled too far out of control. Also, therapy is the shit. Even if you haven’t had some devastating life, it’s more than worth it to go to weekly sessions, if you can. It’s nice to have an impartial party listen to your life.