Janelle Monáe on becoming one

A woman stood in the evening light looking out the window

What is your current energy that you’re hoping the world picks up?

‘I’ve been thinking a lot about thriving, not just surviving, and what it looks like to be fulfilled in your purpose. What it looks like to have community, be with community. To experience joy and pure bliss. We spend so much time fighting for these simple things, but we can get so caught up in surviving that we don’t actually thrive. I’ve been trying to steal back joy and use that energy to thrive.’

Janelle Monae two images

What does thriving in the community look like, for you?

‘Thriving and feeling like I’m living, for me, is rooted in collaborating with artists and writers, and thought leaders who I admire and respect. It’s rooted in how we can create ideas that help shape the future, [and] shift the culture.’

A woman sat in a chair shot from above

‘When I think about rise and shine... when you say that to yourself, it means you have to rise to the occasion of who you’re supposed to be and shine unapologetically’

What are some nuanced topics that should be more brought out for Black women?

‘I always want to highlight and celebrate Black women, celebrate those who have been pushed to the margins of society. To me, Black joy has been at the centre of what I want most for Black women. As we take a look at this country, all the women who have led the Black Lives movement – including Stacey Abrams and what she was able to do in Georgia… When I think about the sacrifices that so many Black people have made, from ancestors to people right now, and those in the future who will stand for marginalised voices, I think helping supply more joy through TV, music and anthems feels like my gift back to them.’

Janelle Monae black and white

Is style a vehicle for empowerment for you?

‘Style is something not everybody has. There’s fashion and trends, but style can’t be taught; it can’t be bought. One of the things for me is recognising that my uniform – which is black and white – aims to acknowledge my working-class parents and grandparents by drawing back to the community through my style. Style is something I recognise in other people, and I try to preserve it for myself.’

Janelle Monae two images

What else is important to you about style?

‘There’s a lot of intersectionality. When I think of my style, rebellion was always at the forefront of it – it wasn’t just about community; it wasn’t just my uniform. I’m trying to pay homage to working-class folks like my mumma and my daddy and my grandmother. But also, nobody can tell me how I’m supposed to dress as a Black artist – you can’t tell me that I should be more feminine or masculine; I’m all about blurring the lines. As somebody who lives outside the binary in fashion, style and gender, I’ve always wanted that to be very clear in my career.’

Monáe’s new single ‘Turntables’ is out now at jmonae.com

A woman sat in evening sunlight

‘To me, Black joy has been at the centre of what I want most for Black women’

A black and white photo of a woman in a skirt
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