Queen Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, passed away on Wednesday, March 21, after a long battle with a chronic heart ailment. The 48-year-old actress confirmed the sad news to People. In her statement, Latifah described her mother as a “bright light” and admitted that she is currently heartbroken over her loss.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news [that] my mother, Rita Owens, passed away today. 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,” Latifah told the publication.
“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.”
A few days before her mom’s passing, Queen Latifah took to Instagram to ask prayers for her mother’s speedy recovery. But on Wednesday, following the announcement of her mom’s death, the actress and singer gave an emotional tribute to her beloved mom. She posted a touching video of her mother’s pictures and captioned it “143” for “I love you.” Her fans immediately extended their condolences in the comments.
According to People, Queen Latifah previously opened up about her mother’s decade-long health problem. Rita Owens suffered from heart failure, a chronic and progressive condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood supply. The actress stated that her mother has managed the disease by having a defibrillator implanted in her chest to avoid heart attacks, along with a low-salt diet and proper medication. She also narrated how she spent her free time at her mother’s home in New Jersey to act as a “caregiver.”
On Mother’s Day of 2016, Queen Latifah appeared with her mom in a fund-raising video for the American Heart Association’s Rise Above Heart Failure initiative. In the video, as posted by USA Today, Rita Owens was shown vibrant and full of life–even smiling and laughing despite having an oxygen tube through her nose. Latifah spoke about how her mom was always there for her and inspired her even after she took ill. She also encouraged the public to learn more about heart failure.
“On this Mother’s Day, I’m reminded how my mom, Rita Owens, has been there for me and our family… After her diagnosis with heart failure, [she inspired] me and everyone around her,” Latifah said in the short clip.
“I can’t imagine life without my mom.”
According to American Heart Organization, Rita Owens was an art teacher by profession. Even after Queen Latifah found fame as an actress, she continued to teach. Owens often accompanied Latifah on red carpet events and has guested on her daughter’s talk show, The Queen Latifah Show. According to Billboard, Owens also appeared on the 1990’s TV show Living Single, playing as the mom of Latifah’s character.