Royal Revelations

December 02, 2007|By KARLAYNE PARKER

Queen Latifah was in Maryland in October, giving concerts at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda and at Baltimore's Lyric Opera House as part of the Sheroes program, which honored women for their community service in the Baltimore area. Here are some things you might not know if you didn't see Latifah perform:

She likes to relate to her audiences by playing up her homegrown roots. She spent many a day in Edgewood, where she has relatives, including her grandmother.

Her father was backstage at both shows. "Behind every woman there's a good man. That's my dad," Latifah told the audience at the Lyric.

Latifah isn't as elegant as her image would suggest. She likes to be comfortable, with style. She wore a royal-purple silk blouse and black pants with flats, big hoop earrings and a bracelet at Strathmore. In contrast, she stepped it up a bit in Baltimore. She wore a full-length black dress with plunging neckline. Again, modest jewelry and flats.

She used every opportunity to be the consummate spokeswoman. About halfway through her performances, she took a few seconds to put on a lip balm, which she said was made by CoverGirl. The moment made for lots of laughs.

Latifah has a thing for drums. At both performances, small bongos were center stage so that she could play along with her band. At the Lyric she did just that, making sounds that easily blended with the music.

She was touring to promote her latest album, Trav'lin' Light, which is a jazzy remake of cover songs by some of her favorite female vocalists. She told the audiences in Maryland that she had the opportunity to meet and sing with Phoebe Snow ("Poetry Man") in Stamford, Conn.

She received a standing ovation in Baltimore when she sang "I Know Where I've Been," a song she did in her role as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, the movie musical about Baltimore in the 1960s.

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