Queen Latifah gets real about weight and the trainer who called her 'obese'

‘It pissed me off,’ she shared on Red Table Talk.
June 7, 2022 4:21 p.m. EST
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The Equalizer star and legendary rapper Queen Latifah has teamed up with her Set It Off co-star Jada Pinkett Smith for a new episode of Red Table Talk, and they go in hard on the usage of BMI as an indicator of health.

Speaking with Jada, along with co-hosts Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, the Living Single icon talks about how she started training with a “scientific and mathematic” trainer who tried to tell her she was obese due to her BMI. 

“She's showing me different body types, and she's like, ‘This is what your BMI is, this is what your weight is, and you fall into this category of obesity," she explained in a new clip released ahead of the June 8 episode.

"I was mad at that," she says. "It pissed me off. I was like, 'What? Me?' I mean, I'm just thick. She said you are 30% over where you should be. And I'm like, 'Obesity?' "

The Girls Trip co-stars then go on to discuss how BMI (body mass index) is not a suitable tool for everyone when discussing obesity and risk factors, per People (The full episode will drop tomorrow). 

According to The Washington Post, BMI was invented 200 years ago by a Belgian mathematician using body statistics from white European men such as himself, and largely ignores the ranges of different body types and shapes for Asian, Black, Latino, or other ethnic groups. Despite this, WaPo notes that The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health use BMI to define obesity, which can lead to many people finding it difficult to access the healthcare they need due to stigma or incorrect labeling as obese.  

This isn’t the first time Queen Latifah (birth name Dana Owens) has spoken about the stigma in Hollywood against being thick. Last autumn, she spoke with Yahoo Life about her experience of being told to lose weight to get acting roles and the pressure that comes with that.

“I have felt that pressure and I've literally been asked to lose weight, through my people the word came," she told the outlet.  "Luckily I have people who are like, 'Yeah, that's not going to happen. She’s not losing weight for you.'"

"It made me angry because I felt like I was fine. I'm what people look like," she continued. "You want me to lose weight? Why? So there's a whole bunch of women out there who won't have someone to relate to on TV, is that what you're trying to get at?”

“Honestly, I knew by me standing up, I was actually standing up for some other people."

Speaking about the stigma surrounding obesity, she added, "A lot of it is just that people are misinformed or uninformed. If they could understand what is really underlying it, including ourselves. Judging ourselves, shaming ourselves, saying we're not good enough, we haven't worked hard enough, we didn't try enough. No, sometimes it's not you, it is your genetics. It is your DNA. It's your body."

In that interview, she also spoke about the plus-size modeling industry, questioning the term “plus-size” itself. 

“Plus-size? Let’s check the number. First thing- we are the normal size!” she exclaimed at the time.

Last year, she also partnered with Novo Nordisk for their "It's Bigger Than Me" campaign, where she actually starred in a comical short advert that demonstrated how people can suffer greatly under the stigma and misinformation surrounding different body shapes.

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