Queen Latifah’s guest-starring role as a talk show host on Single Ladies, the Vh1 hit series she executive produces, was a just preview of her real world moves.
It was recently announced that Latifah’s company Flavor Unit is joining forces with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment to bring her back to the daytime talk show world in 2013 to compete in the open field created by Oprah Winfrey’s decision to end her iconic The Oprah Winfrey Show this past May. CNN host Anderson Cooper has already put himself in the race with Anderson. Katie Couric enters the fray in 2012 with Katie and Steve Harvey is also expected to unveil his effort in 2012.
Given the current daytime television landscape, however, Latifah may indeed be in the most unique position to fill the Oprah void. Never mind that her daytime television talker, The Queen Latifah Show, which launched in 1999, just lasted two seasons.
That was then, this is now. Latifah has since grown immensely in stature as well as experience and just may have the goods to pull it off. There’s little doubt that she can draw star power. As an Oscar and Emmy Award nominee as well as a Golden Globe and Grammy winner, the well-liked Latifah certainly has the ability to enlist her many high-voltage friends in Operation: Replace Oprah.
Her biggest advantage may indeed be the growing daytime television sorority of African American women. Prime-time may be missing African-American estrogen but daytime is swimming in it. Robin Roberts co-hosts Good Morning America, Wendy Williams helms The Wendy Williams Show, Dr. Lisa M. Masterson dishes medical advice on The Doctors, Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd help anchor The View, Lynn Toler is still laying down the law on Divorce Court and, most recently, both Sheryl Underwood and Aisha Tyler have been added to The Talk. While Top Chef standout Carla Hall cooks up a storm on The Chew.
On top of that, Tamron Hall regularly appears on The Today Show, while Egyptian-American Hoda Kotb shares center stage with daytime legend Kathie Lee Gifford. This is before even factoring in the black actresses who are on the remaining daytime soaps.
For once, television is actually getting something right as this increasing representation of African-American women on daytime television falls in line with black women’s daytime viewership. In a Wall Street Journal online article writer Lauren A.E. Schuker noted that African-American women comprise roughly 20 percent of the audience for Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil . Based on those numbers, the increased presence of African-American women throughout daytime television is right on target.
What’s even more noteworthy is the diversity among the black women of daytime television. These women are not cookie cutter at all. Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, Sheryl Underwood and Aisha Tyler, for example, may all be funny women but each woman is a truly unique personality in her own right.
At one time, Hollywood’s top black actress, Goldberg, who also has the distinction of being an Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy winner, has a long track record of infusing politics with her comedy and brings that wit and wealth of information to her role as moderator of The View. Shepherd, on the other hand, relies very heavily on pop culture, very much representing the average woman in her reaction to the daily topics and guests.
Whereas Underwood is, to the surprise of many, very politically astute, she has built a career that has a very raunchy undertone and often toes the line on The Talk between flat-out ignorance and brilliance. Tyler, with her tall, slender build and Ivy League education, is attractive and educated by white mainstream standards. She is forever credited as being the first regular “black” friend on Friends. To date, she’s also still the first African-American and female host of E’s once popular Talk Soup.
Wendy Williams, despite her educated family background, revels in her Jersey ways championing reality television and gossip to escalating ratings. If she stood alone, this might be a problem. But the beauty of daytime television in 2011 is that there is a plethora of black female voices.
On a typical day, television viewers encounter black women who look very different from one another and who are their own women. This is a far cry when Star Jones was on The View. During her prominent stint on daytime television, she was often viewed as representative of black women think. Currently, the many black women of daytime are accepted as individuals and not racial ambassadors. The fact that there have been few articles noting their numbers is evidence of this.
So this is the landscape that Queen Latifah is entering and, frankly, it couldn’t be a better business move. With so many other women of color in the daytime mix, a weight has to be lifted from Latifah’s shoulder. Oprah opened up a huge door through which other black women could enter of course but daytime’s current overflowing well of black women think means that Latifah can show up and truly be herself.
She doesn’t have to be bogged down by trying to be every black woman or even filling Oprah’s talk show shoes. Because the field is wide open, she just needs to find her niche and own it. In other words, she’s free to be the queen of anything she chooses.