Queen Latifah’s Mother, Rita Owens, Dies After Battle With Heart Disease

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Queen Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, passed away on Wednesday, March 21st after struggling with a heart condition for more than a decade.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my mother, Rita Owens passed away today,” says Latifah. “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,” the Girls Trip star shared. “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.”

In 2013, Owens was diagnosed with scleroderma, an incurable autoimmune disease that caused scar tissue to build up in her lungs, requiring her to be on oxygen 24/7.

Owens later was diagnosed with heart failure after passing out while teaching art at a New Jersey high school. The diagnosis changed Latifah and her mother’s relationship for the better Latifah told PEOPLE in an interview. “We’ve learned a new us. We’ve gotten a lot closer and we’ve learned each other on a whole different, deeper level.”

“I watched her come through so many things, ups and downs, hospitalizations – I mean really being in the ICU for that matter – you know, going through tough times and watching her come back and bounce back and still maintain this sense of humor, and love and drive and will,” Latifah said of Owens. “I just love her so much more, I respect her so much more. She really just gives me hope for life and the world.”

One woman dies every minute from heart disease, a little know fact that is overshadowed by other high profile diseases for women. Heart disease, once considered a “man’s disease”, is a cause of great concern for women. It is called a “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms or presents pain that is barely noticeable. The most commonly recognized symptom is persistent chest pain, pressure or other discomfort, called angina. This pain results when the heart is…