Amid the AI boom, the star has partnered with Lenovo’s Evolve Small to lend her likeness to small businesses
Artificial Intelligence has stirred some controversy, but The Equalizer star, 53, says she’s putting it to good use by partnering with technology company Lenovo for its Evolve Small initiative and using her digital likeness to help promote small businesses.
“Lenovo came to me with the idea, and as someone who came from a startup with our management company Flava Unit, we know how challenging it can be to keep the doors open and the lights on,” says the star of launching her music management company with partner Rakim back in the late '80s and early '90s.
“At one point we managed about 11 gold and platinum artists from SWV to Naughty By Nature and Monica. We were young and learning on the job. There were ups and downs and so something like this would’ve been great to have available to us.”
As ambassador for Lenovo’s Evolve Small (the company’s initiative to champion and promote small businesses), Queen Latifah has signed on to be the face of select small businesses in six different major cities using AI-customized ads featured on social media and billboards across the country.
This month businesses in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Raleigh, Toronto or Los Angeles are able to apply for a chance to have the Emmy and Grammy-award winner as their superstar digital spokesperson.
“This is something we’ve been working on for quite a while,” says the star, “and of course I have my concerns [about AI] just like everyone else. But we talk about it, about how we’re going to use my image and likeness.”
Of the benefits, she says, “I don’t have to travel to six different cities or make hours' worth of videos. It can be tailored specifically to what they want.”
But the biggest benefit is being able to give back, especially to businesses owned by minorities, women and those with disabilities. “The reality is, most businesses can’t afford me,” says Queen Latifah, “yet they deserve that kind of promotion. Small businesses are really the backbone of our economy.”
While the star reiterates that she “always has her concerns” when it comes to AI and the digital replication of her likeness, “I don’t think this is a bell we can unring. So I want to use it in a positive way, which is to help people and help people succeed.”
That said, she’s in full support of strict parameters being placed around the new technology, especially when it comes to Hollywood. “I’m down with the [SAG-AFTRA] union when it comes to that,” says the actress of the issue that was front and center during the recent strikes. “Nobody wants to have their image and likeness just recreated in perpetuity. That’s unacceptable.”
Preparing to head back into filming The Equalizer next month, with a new episode airing Feb. 18, she says, “I’m happy that my union is back to work, that they found common ground and we were able to wait it out until an agreement could be made because this is critical to our future and what we do.”
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