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Queen Latifah gets the royal treatment while busting out some Ursula on The Late Show

Photo: Scott Kowalchyk (CBS)

Scott Kowalchyk

Stephen Colbert likes to play host. Which makes sense, being a late-night host and all. But The Late Show host hosts his favorite guests like, well, a really good host as well, busting out his in-studio bar to make his honored visitors feel at home. So when Colbert invited Queen Latifah to his stage on Monday, he brought out an appropriately regal setup—champagne and a plate of generously powdered zeppole—to welcome his first ever visit from the woman he rightly termed “entertainment royalty.”

The Queen—there to promote her role as Ursula in ABC’s upcoming live Little Mermaid—feigned aristocratic shock at Colbert’s choice of welcoming pastry. (Her all-black pantsuit ensemble an enemy to powdered sugar, plus, as she confessed to Colbert, “I will eat the whole plate.”) But obvious fan Colbert won her back by producing a picture of the then 19-year-old Latifah’s 1989 debut, All Hail The Queen, and asking her if she has any party plans for the 30th anniversary(?!) of the classic hip-hop record, and her ascent to the throne she’s occupied ever since. “Sombody should be throwin’ me a party!,” she roared in mock queenly outrage, “I been representing the women for 30 years!,” before consoling herself with a sip of Colbert’s gift of champagne.

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On the subject of how awesome the Queen is, was, and ever shall be, Colbert also showed a shot of Latifah receiving Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal last week, an honor she now shares with personal heroes like Oprah, Muhammad Ali, and Maya Angelou, who, Latifah revealed, she used to just call up at home sometimes. Telling Colbert about the self-doubt that plagued even her at the birth of her hip-hop career, Latifah said that she’d phone up Angelou for encouragement and guidance, which the noted author invariably gave—even if she wasn’t exactly up on the latest music trends. “They doubted us,” said Latifah of the music industry and public at large when hip-hop first hit, but that Angelou was always “loving, kind, and generous.” “Don’t worry, they know what they sayin’,” impersonated the late literary legend’s unwavering supporting young black artists.

The Queen, who, Colbert noted, is already halfway to an EGOT (she’s got the “E” and the “G,” having been robbed by Catherine Zeta-Jones for her “O”), whipped out her diabolical cackle as The Little Mermaid’s villainous—yet regal— Ursula. Premiering on November 5, the half-live/half-projected adaptation will, according to Latifah, see her “shut Ursula down.” Drinking to that, Colbert and Latifah then finally dug into those zeppole. It’s good to be the Queen.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.