Queen Latifah on Returning To Host This Year’s NAACP Image Awards: ‘I Want To Deliver For My People’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 03: Queen Latifah speaks onstage during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center on November 03, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame )

Queen Latifah is returning to host the NAACP Image Awards for the second year in a row, and she admits she’s feeling the pressure.

“I put a certain amount of pressure on myself with every project that I do and with anything that I do because I want it to go well and I want it to be right,” she tells ESSENCE from her makeup chair in between rehearsals for the show. “I really just want to deliver for my people.”

Broadcasting live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 16, the 55th NAACP Image Awards will be the culmination of a week-long celebration of Black excellence in entertainment. Notable honors will be presented to Usher, who’s been named the recipient of the 2024 President’s Award, poet Amanda Gorman, who will receive the Chairman’s Award, and stylist June Ambrose who will be given the Vanguard Award.

Queen Latifah on Returning To Host This Year’s NAACP Image Awards: ‘I Want To Deliver For My People’
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 10: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Queen Latifah performs the national anthem before a game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on September 10, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Cowboys defeated the Giants 40-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Latifah may take the stage not only as the night’s host but also an NAACP Image Award winner, as she’s been nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her lead role on The Equalizer, of which she’s also an Executive Producer. Gaps, a short produced by The Queen Collective, a partnership between Proctor & Gamble and Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment to accelerate opportunities for female and non-binary filmmakers of color, has also been nominated for Outstanding Short–Form.

“I’m one of those people that feels like every time I try to make a film, you do your best to share your vision and make it universally appealing to everyone and it’s nice to have such a prestigious organization that your parents and everyone knows look at your project and feel it’s something that makes it worthy of being awarded,” says Jenn Shaw, director of Gaps, which tells the story of a pre-pubescent girl torn between keeping the gap in her teeth or pursuing a “perfect” smile by any means necessary.

“I’m just floored,” Shaw adds of the nomination, “but I also think it’s just the start of something for me as a filmmaker. I want to make more, I want to grow, and I want to get more opportunities.”

Queen Latifah on Returning To Host This Year’s NAACP Image Awards: ‘I Want To Deliver For My People’
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – JUNE 17: Director Jenn Shaw attends the 2023 American Black Film Festival during “Widening The View Of The Black Experience” at Miami Beach Convention Center on June 17, 2023 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)

Latifah is hopeful about Shaw’s future as a filmmaker and that of other Black creatives despite resurfaced conversations about the types of Black stories studios still allow to be told in light of the recent cancellations of popular TV series like Issa Rae’s Rap Sh!t, Grand Crew, and The Wonder Years.

“When it comes to us in the arts, I think there’s still a lot that we offer that no one can do but us,” Latifah says. “And I feel like if we stay on our path and keep continuing to do what we’ve been doing and continuing to build things like the Queen Collective and other collectives, supporting one another, we’ll start to see these projects progress through because there’s nothing else out there like them.”

Award shows also play a big part in that quest, she adds. “When one of us wins, we win in a different way. We tend to win, just like Cord [Jefferson] won at the Oscars, in a way that our speeches then go toward promoting each other rather than just being self-promoting or going with the status quo.”

That selflessness is why returning to host the NAACP Image Awards again this year was pretty much a given for The Queen. “It was not a big deal to say yes to it,” she shares. “It was just a question of whether I could make it happen with my schedule, and outside of that, can we create a show that is well done, that’s produced properly, and that has a great amount of people in it. I’m more than happy to do this show.”

Queen Latifah on Returning To Host This Year’s NAACP Image Awards: ‘I Want To Deliver For My People’
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: Cord Jefferson speaks onstage during the NAACP Image Awards Dinner at Hollywood Palladium on March 14, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images For NAACP)

As excited as Shaw is about her nomination and potential win, like many viewers she’s equally looking forward to seeing what Latifah will wear for the big night. Though the host wouldn’t spill any details on her upcoming wardrobe, she did promise to put on for the crowd.

“We’re going to bring it and I know everybody in the house is going to bring it,” Latifah says. “I love award shows and seeing what everybody’s going to wear and how everyone’s going to look so different from one to the next. I love looking at all of that melanated beauty and I can’t wait.”

The 55th NAACP Image Awards will air live on Saturday, March 16, at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on BET and CBS.

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