This 2014 tribute to her mother, Rita Owens, was just one of many ways in which Queen Latifah embodied the sentiment of a James Cleveland song and often-repeated line: “Give me my flowers while I yet live.”
The singer, actor and talk show host has always made it clear that one role was more important to her than any other — loving daughter. No matter what the entertainment world demanded of her, Latifah put family first and stayed close by her mother’s side until her recent death after battling heart failure for 14 years.
“Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth,” Latifah said of her mother in a statement. “She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldly but pragmatic, a woman of great faith and certainly the love of my life.”
“She had struggled with a heart condition for many years, and her battle is now over,” she added. “I am heartbroken but know she is at peace.”
Once diagnosed with heart failure, Rita Owens kept her spirits high, adopted a positive attitude and began working with her doctor to keep a close watch on her health.
She and her daughter shared their journey as an inspiring and important example to the hundreds of thousands of black women who are battling heart disease. More than 46 percent of black women have some form of heart disease.
Owens was dealing with heart failure, which “occurs when the heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen,” according to the American Heart Association.
“My mom has always been my rock,” Latifah said in an AHA talk. As part of the Rise Above Heart Failure campaign, mother and daughter wanted people to know that heart failure is something they can “rise above” with education, support and by making small healthy changes in their life.
“You can’t change the past, but you can change the future,” Latifah said. Read more about their story, or just watch the video below. And click the red question on the right to take the “What the HF?” quiz.