Where did the name Queen Latifah come from? Andy Cleveland GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.
My birth name is Dana Owens. Latifah is a nickname that I chose when I was about 8. It means delicate, sensitive. I was kind of big as a kid, but I felt that name fit me. Later, when I was about to sign a record contract, I didn't want to be MC Latifah. So I decided on Queen.
What prompted your move from music to acting? Victor Anazodo LAGOS, NIGERIA
My mom taught me to never put all my eggs in one basket. I figured if I wasn't the best rapper, then I shouldn't completely rely on rap. Will Smith was also a big inspiration. We grew up on the road together and toured a lot. When he went out and got The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it made us feel like we could do it too.
How has hip-hop changed since you first started? Amy Sandberg COLUMBUS, OHIO
I think people got the message when Nas said [in the title of his 2006 album] Hip Hop Is Dead. There was just a lack of creativity, a lack of fresh energy in the music. When people don't stretch and expand and try different things, music gets boring. That's what hip-hop was suffering from--a bad case of monotony.
Will you ever make another rap album? Muniqui Muhammad SENDAI, JAPAN
Absolutely, and it's done. It should be coming out in January. I've been working with Cool and Dre, who are some of the biggest hip-hop producers right now. The album is hot. It's called All Hail the Queen II.
Of all your roles, what has been your favorite one? Caylea Johnson KANSAS CITY, KANS.
[Bank robber Cleopatra Sims in] Set It Off. Going to work every day with Jada Pinkett and Kim Elise and Vivica A. Fox, shooting guns and driving cars, was just a lot of fun. Plus, it was kind of controversial because I played a character who was gay. People were like, "You gonna kiss a girl? In a movie?" People were against it, but I knew I could do something special with that role.
Did your Oscar nomination for Chicago change your career path? Charmaine Robinson OKLAHOMA CITY
No. I like to choose roles that are different from one to the next. I did Scary Movie after I got nominated. Some people might not have done that, but the kids gotta get their Oscar-nominated actresses too.
Are you reluctant to be touted as a role model for women with "real bodies"? Catherine Desoe NEW YORK CITY
No. I'm thankful. I had a guy tell me that his 12-year-old daughter has a beautiful voice, but she's afraid to sing because her classmates would tease her. But by seeing me--and she looked more like me--she started singing again, saying "If Queen Latifah can do it, I can do it."
Is there a glass ceiling for women of color in Hollywood? Irina Perju, THE HAGUE
America can be a very male-dominated place sometimes, so there's a challenge, as a woman, to achieving the heights. Still, I'm going to say no. There's nothing we can't make it past.
What do you miss most from before you were famous? Vanessa Bravo GAINESVILLE, FLA.
I miss anonymity. Now everybody knows my face, so I can't just do whatever I want. I can't pass out drunk on the ground after leaving the club, speaking gobbledygook. Because guess what? Somebody's got a camera phone, and it's on YouTube in 20 seconds.
It seems that you're often expected to be an advocate for various segments of society. How do you feel about that? Mark Cropper NEWNAN, GA.