As this is the Pride Month, we want to remember some of Janelle Monáe’s best moments as a representative member of the LGBTQ community. Her latest album, “Dirty Computer” is, in her words, an ode to black and queer women; and it’s exactly during the “Dirty Computer” era that Monáe gets out of the alter-ego that dominated the stories of her previous albums and starts speaking about her own experiences, that included taking courage to come out as a pansexual (in this regard, “Make me Feel” is a brilliant, funny and catchy anthem about bisexuality). Janelle advocates for the empowerment of any sexual orientation, including non-binary people, as she said when she tweeted the hashtag #IAmNonBinary:
“I tweeted the #IAmNonbinary hashtag in support of Nonbinary Day and to bring more awareness to the community. I retweeted the Steven Universe meme ‘Are you a boy or a girl? I’m an experience’ because it resonated with me, especially as someone who has pushed boundaries of gender since the beginning of my career. I feel my feminine energy, my masculine energy, and energy I can’t even explain.”
All of her albums, that take the form of concept albums, revolve around a futuristic imagery and a futuristic sound. Her way of bringing Afrofuturism and science fiction into R&B and pop is particularly original. It all started with the first record, “ArchAndroid”. There she sings about the struggles of Cindi Mayweather. Cindi is an android who falls in love with a man she cannot have because of restrictions imposed by society. In order to be free and pursue the life she wants, Cindi becomes the leader of a movement to fight prejudice, guiding people to rebellion and freedom. The fascinating aspect is that the struggles of androids serve as an allegory for the civil-rights struggles of Black Americans.
Everything Janelle Monáe artistically engages with is connected and nothing is left to chance. Even when she doesn’t make music, but another type of art, such as acting, there is a continuity with the main themes that characterize her persona. She acted in two critically acclaimed movies: “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures”. “Moonlight” received numerous prestigious awards and was defined one of the best movies of the 21st century. Awards aside, the movie is particularly important as it is the first film to have an all-black cast, and for the particular attention and profundity that is given to LGBTQ people and their experiences. The other film where Monáe took part to, “Hidden Figures”, is based on the biography of the Afro-American scientist and physicist Katherine Johnson, who collaborated with NASA, challenging sexism and racism.
Before Janelle Monáe would be signed for a record label, she would perform for much smaller crowds, and often for much less recognition. In fact, after high school, she moved to New York to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, but she was broke and she couldn’t afford to live in a campus. It was exactly around her campus, in dorm rooms or at school events where she would perform, or she would sell her CDs on the streets.
Now, Janelle Monáe has achieved important acknowledgements. It’s worth bringing attention to the Harvard College Women’s Center Award for Achievement in Arts and Media for her artistic contributions in regards to feminism and the title of Woman of the Year at the Celebration of Black Women by the university of Harvard.
We are so inspired by Monáe’s activism and how it takes form in her art!
Written by WAVE intern: Fabiola Adamo
The Guardian: www.theguardian.com
The New York Times Magazine: www.nytimes.com