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While wrapping up production for her award-winning talk show last spring, Queen Latifah learned some disturbing news. Her mom, 64-year-old Rita Owens, was diagnosed scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis), an incurable autoimmune disease that affects the connective tissue in the body. As a result, the “Queen Latifah Show” host decided to personally take care of her mother full time.

“I wasn’t going to do the show unless she came here,” Latifah told People. “I knew she was dealing with her health issues sometimes and I would not be able to get to her as easily.”

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She went on to say that she couldn’t imagine anyone else caring for her mother. “Anyone who has a job and then has a family member at home who is ill, it’s 24 hours. You have to be there. They need you,” the 44-year-old entertainer said. “I try to be as in the moment and as present as possible. And then I try to get some sleep and go to work and be present there and then go home and be present there.”

In Mama Owen’s case, the disease has caused blood pressure and scar tissue build up in her lungs, making it often difficult to breathe. “It’s not a day or night that she doesn’t peek her head in my room and make sure I’m okay,” Lafiah’s mother told the magazine. “If it’s medical she’ll go in and grill the doctors and make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do.”

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“She sacrifices her time, her resources,” the former high school teacher added. “She genuinely loves me and I know that.”

In related Queen news, she will star in and executive produce a Bessie Smith biopic for HBO. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the upcoming film will revolve “around iconic blues singer Smith as she overcomes the challenges of her tempestuous personal life to become one of the most acclaimed performers and recording artists of the 1920s and ’30s, to be known forevermore as the ‘Empress of the Blues.’”

Pariah’s Dee Rees will serve as scriptwriter and director.


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Queen Latifah Opens Up About Her Mother’s Battle With Scleroderma  was originally published on