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'Came out of nowhere': Queen Latifah discusses mother's illness

It was “something that affected my mom who was otherwise a totally healthy person,” the actress said of her mother who died 2 years ago.
Lifetime's TCA Panels featuring Supernanny and The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospelat the 2020 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour
Queen Latifah is seen onstage during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour on Jan. 18, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif.Michael Kovac / Getty Images for Lifetime file

Queen Latifah is opening up about her mother’s illness and loss.

The actress and musician discussed Wednesday her mother’s battle with interstitial lung disease, a group of chronic lung disorders that involves the scarring of lung tissue, on the “TODAY” show. Her mother, Rita Owens, died two years ago of scleroderma, an autoimmune disease in which the condition is common, which has no cure.

It was, “something that affected my mom who was otherwise a totally healthy person,” she said. “It kind of came out of nowhere, it felt.”

Latifah’s latest project, “Beyond Breathless,” a new documentary focused on people affected by interstitial lung disease, features her mother's story. She said she hopes it will educate people about the illness.

“We want people to be aware of it to recognize some of the symptoms — breathlessness, dry cough — and talk to their doctors and make sure it’s not something they’re dealing with ” she said.

Owens, who died in 2018, was a former teacher.

“Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth," Latifah said in a statement following her mother's death. “Her battle is now over. I am heart broken but know she is at peace.”

She described her mother as someone who could always make someone feel special.

“The guy coming in the room to clean up the floor in the bathroom, by the time she finished out the conversation with him, he was walking taller, feeling more proud and he felt a different sense of hope in his life,” she said. “She had the effect on every single person that she came in contact with.”

“Beyond Breathless” premiered Dec. 5 on A&E.

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