Queen Latifah has steadfastly refused to discuss persistent rumours about her sexuality.

But she has not refused to play queer characters on screen including bisexual singer Bessie Smith in the acclaimed HBO movie, Bessie, last year.

But 21 years ago, the Oscar-nominated actress agonized when offered another queer role in the 1996 film, Set It Off.

“When I got the role of amateur bank robber Cleo Sims in Set It Off, I sat down with my younger siblings and told them, ‘Listen, I’m playing a gay character. Your classmates might tease you or say negative things about it,’” Latifah tells Huffington Post.

She also told the siblings: “But I’m doing it because I believe I can bring positive attention to the gay African-American community, and I believe that I can do a great job as an actor.”

Latifah now says: “They understood, and when those things inevitably happened in school, they were OK with it.”

Latifah remains mum about her own sexuality after all these years.

Some thought she might come out last year when she won a GLAAD Media Award for Bessie. Instead, she dedicated the award to the LGBTI people in her family including ‘my cousins who are gay’ and her aunt, ‘a lesbian who raised me … my inspiration. (She) taught me how to be a loved person.’

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