Before Queen Latifah dons her purple makeup and tentacles for The Little Mermaid Live, she was awarded the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at Harvard University on October 22.
Named after the first black to student who earned a doctorate from the school in 1895, the award is given to those who have made significant contribution to black history and culture.
“I feel so honored to be up here and among such great people who’ve done such accomplished things,” said Latifah, who appears on Good Morning America today.
Latifah was one of seven honorees which included Elizabeth Alexander (poet and educator), Lonnie Bunch III (Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution), Rita Dove (poet), Sheila Johnson (co-founder of Black Entertainment Television), Kerry James Marshall (artist) and Robert Smith (founder, chairman and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners).
While accepting her award, Latifah pointed to her business partner who was sitting in the audience, reports People. “Crossing over from rap to film, the people at our agency told my partner [Shakim Compere] I could never be an A-list artist. Wrong thing to tell him. He was determined to make sure I became an A-list actress.” And that she has.
Her majesty also took time in her speech to speak to the students of the school saying, “I want to speak to all of you students out here, and let you know that you can be whatever you want to be if you put your mind to it, and you will have to work hard for it.
“Just understand that there will be times when you will have to stand alone. There will be nobody else that will believe in your dream. They will think you are out of your mind. You have to be strong, and be courageous, and know that if you believe in it, it’s gonna happen. Don’t give up. Do not give up. Do not quit. Fight for it.”
In addition to this most recent award, Latifah has been nominated for many other awards and has won the American Black Film Festival Award for “Outstanding Performance – Actress” for the film, Set It Off, a BET Award for her work in the movie musical Chicago, two Black Reel Awards for Best Supporting actress for Chicago and Best Actress for The Secret Life of Bees, two Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards for Best Ensemble for Chicago and Hairspray, a Golden Globe for Best Actress in TV production of Life Support and many others.
In 2016, she won an Emmy for the Outstanding Television Movie Bessie. And you never know, she just might do it again when she transforms into Ursula the sea witch for ABC’s presentation of The Little Mermaid Live.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Disney animated classic, the two-hour special will not only feature the original film but will also include live performances of the classic songs from both the film and the Broadway show.
The special also stars Auli’i Cravalho as Ariel, Shaggy as Sebastian, Graham Phillips as Prince Eric and John Stamos as the French chef. The Little Mermaid Live airs on Tuesday, November 5 at 8 p.m. EST.