This week has brought heartbreaking news for Queen Latifah. On Wednesday, Latifah's mother, Rita Owens, died after battling a heart condition for more than 10 years. In a statement to People, Latifah shared the news, along with so many sweet words about what her mother has meant to her. It's already clear that Owens, who was once a high school teacher, will be so missed by her daughter and by everyone who knew her.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my mother, Rita Owens passed away today,” Latifah said in her statement. “Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth."
"She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldly but pragmatic, a woman of great faith and certainly the love of my life. She had struggled with a heart condition for many years and her battle is now over. I am heartbroken but know she is at peace. Thank you for your kindness, support and respect for our privacy at this time. Much Love, Dana Owens (aka Queen Latifah), forever Rita Owens’ daughter.”
Latifah also took to Instagram to share a photo of her mother:
Back in 2015, Latifah opened up about Owens' heart failure in an ad for the American Heart Association. In the ad, which featured footage of Owens and Latifah and their mother/daughter bond, Latifah called her mom the "strongest person I know" while encouraging those watching to take steps to keep their own hearts healthy.
According to People, Owens was diagnosed in 2004 after she fainted in her classroom. She treated her heart failure with a healthy diet, medication, and a defibrillator implanted in her chest, and during a 2015 interview with the magazine, Latifah revealed that when she's not working, she lives with her mom as her caretaker in her New Jersey home. Because of that shift in their relationship, they ended up relying on each other in a totally different way, but according to what Latifah said in the interview, it helped her find a new appreciation of her mother.
“We’ve learned a new us,” Latifah said. “We’ve gotten a lot closer and we’ve learned each other on a whole different, deeper level ... I will do whatever I can to make sure my mom is comfortable and has whatever she needs."
Eventually, Owens also developed a lung condition, which required her to be on oxygen at all times.
"I found myself becoming a recluse,” Owens told People in the same interview about her life after her diagnosis. “You have to understand your body is not processing the same way it was before. I started counting the things I can’t do instead of the things I can do. And I said, ‘Nope, this is not acceptable.’ ”
As a New Jersey high school teacher, Owens didn't retire when her daughter found success and gave her the money she needed to live without working, and she was able to touch many students' lives through her work. In fact, in 2014, Latifah honored her on her talk show with messages from her former students, sharing what Owens meant to them.
This loss will certainly be a difficult one for Latifah, but it seems like she has so many great memories with her mother from the time they got to spend together. And from that video of her and her students, it seems like she was able to help so many of them just by being their teacher. Owens may be gone, but it's obvious she won't be forgotten.