Queen Latifah’s Mother, “The Love Of My Life,” Has Died After 14-Year Battle With Heart Failure
For as long as Queen Latifah has been in the spotlight, she’s proudly shared it with her mother, Rita Owens. Sadly, the actress and singer announced on Wednesday night that her 69-year-old mother passed away after a 14-year-long battle with heart failure.
In an exclusive statement to PEOPLE, just days after her 48th birthday, Latifah shared the news, calling her mom “the love of my life.”
“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my mother, Rita Owens passed away today,” Latifah said. “Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth. She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldy 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,” she added. “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.”
Owens was diagnosed with heart failure in 2004 according to NJ.com. Also known as congestive heart failure, it’s a chronic condition in which one’s heart fails to pump blood well. And in 2013, her health took a hit even further when she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease scleroderma. It can impact the lungs by making scar tissue form in them. To deal with both conditions, Owens had a defibrillator implanted in her chest, started taking oxygen treatments, and changed her diet, decreasing her intake of fat and salts in the hopes of living a full life. But Latifah and her family would eventually have to step up and help care for her mother over the last few years. In an interview with the American Heart Association last year, Owens said they’d helped her to stop looking at her heart condition as something that would slow her down, but rather, a challenge she would overcome.
“You have to remain positive…my positive attitude has been my source of strength.,” she said. “It’s a big journey that my daughter and our whole family have undertaken, and I’m grateful for that.”
The pair even appeared in an advertisement for Mother’s Day in 2016, encouraging people to donate to the American Heart Association.
A teacher, Owens also had the chance to shine on screen. She played her daughter’s mother on TV as Rita James on Living Single in the ’90s, and was in two films produced by Latifah: 2004’s The Cookout and 2011’s The Cookout 2.
Late Wednesday evening, the star shared an image of her mother on Instagram with the message “143,” which means “I love you.”