Who is Janelle Monae?
Janelle Monae is an American budding songwriter, singer and actress best known for her signature black and white outfits and her studio album ‘The ArchAndroid’. Her EP ‘Metropolis: Suit I (The Chase)’ hit top of the charts in the US. She established ‘Wondaland Records’ to promote likeminded artists that have become a sensation in the US. Janelle has also acted in the movie ‘Moonlight’ and appeared as herself in a number of television serials. She won the ‘Rising Star Award’ at the Billboard’s Women Music Awards and ‘Outstanding Breakthrough Performance: Female’ at the Black Reel Awards. She has been a brand ambassador for America’s leading cosmetic brand, ‘Cover Girl’ and has appeared in a number of commercials. Her upbringing in Kansas City has had a deep impact on her outlook to life and is reflected in her music. She is a supporter of the LGBTQ community but has not yet revealed her sexual orientation. She refers to herself as a ‘funkstress’.
Childhood & Early Life
Janelle Monae was born on 1 December 1985, in Kansas City, USA. Her father was a truck driver and her mother worked as a janitor. Her initial days spent in Kansas City were difficult due to the poor financial condition and drug addiction of her father.
Janelle wanted to get out of the rut she was born in and dreamt of becoming a singer. As a child she built a make belief world around her and started believing in her dream. She was inspired by the fictional character from the musical ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and pursued her ambition of becoming a musician.
She was part of the choir in the local Baptist church and started song writing as well as story writing at a young age. She wrote the script for a play at the age of 12.
Janelle moved to New York City to join the American Musical and Dramatics Academy and attended a performing arts camp at America’s oldest African-American theatre in Philadelphia - Freedom Theatre.
In 2001, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she met Big Boi from the American hip hop group called ‘Outkast’ and joined the ‘Wondaland Arts Society’ consisting of young likeminded artists. She went on to release her debut EP titled ‘The Audition’ in 2003 that was a limited edition CD.
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Janelle Monae got her first break in 2006 when she performed with ‘OutKast’ in their album titled ‘Idlewild’ where she appeared in the numbers ‘Call the Law’ and ‘In Your Dreams’. Her talent was recognised by Big Boi and his friend Sean Combs who helped her build her profile as a singer.
She released her first solo titled ‘Metropolis’ in 2007 which was again released in 2008 with some additional tracks and called ‘Metropolis: The Chase Suit’. The EP got her a nomination for Best Urban / Alternate Performance at the Grammy Awards.
Her single ‘Many Moons’ hit the top of the charts and her number ‘Open Happiness’ was featured in the final season of American Idol in 2009. This was followed by her single ‘Tightrope’ that featured in the American Idols LIVE! Tour of 2011.
Her studio album ‘The Electric Lady’ was a hit with jazz fans and was featured at the Toronto Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2012. Her single ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ from the album premiered on SoundCloud and iTunes making over 31,000 digital sales.
She was selected as a spokesperson for America’s cosmetic brand, ‘Cover Girl’ and performed in the festival in support of President Obama. She has appeared in a number of commercials including the campaign for Sonos Wireless HiFi home audio systems.
Janelle has made a number of live performances that include her appearance at the Global Citizens Festival in Central Park with stars like Stevie Wonder. She also made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live with host Edward Norton.
In 2014, she was honoured with the award for Achievement in Arts and Media at the Harvard College Women’s Centre which was a high in her career as a singer.
By 2015, she established and independent label, Wondaland Records. Her celebrity status grew and she started patronising various fashion events, including the London Fashion Week, 2015.
In 2016, she made her debut appearance in the movie ‘Moonight’ with Andre Holland and Naomie Harris. This was followed by a role in the film ‘Hidden Figures’ with Octavia Spencer the same year.
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During this period she remained active on the music scene with the release of the number ‘Venus Fly’ and the soundtrack for the series ‘The Get Down’ on Netflix. She was also part of the soundtrack for her film ‘Hidden Figures’. She is presently working on her role in the upcoming movie ‘The Women of Marwen’.
Janelle has released 3 albums, 13 music videos, 3 EPs and 17 singles.
Her studio albums include ‘The Audition’ (2003), ‘The ArchAndroid’ (2010) and ‘The Electric Lady’ (2013).
Her EPs are ‘Metropolis: Suit I (The Chase)’, ‘iTunes Festival: London 2013’, and ‘Wondaland Presents: The Eephus’.
She has also acted in the films ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘Moonlight’ in 2016.
Janelle has appeared as herself in the television serials ‘Stargate Universe’ (2009), ‘Dancing With The Stars’ (2010) and ‘Saturday Night Live’ (2013).
Awards & Achievements
Janelle Monae has received several nominations and won numerous awards at various award ceremonies that include Best R&B / Pop Album of 2010 for her album ‘The ArchAndroid’, Rising Star Award at the Billboard’s Women Music Awards, Black Women in Music Award and Best Art Director at the MTV Awards.
She has also won several awards for acting that include Outstanding Breakthrough Performance: Female at the 2017 Black Reel Awards and Best Ensemble at the African – American Film Critics Association Awards.
Personal Life & Legacy
Janelle presently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She is a supporter of the LGBTQ community and maintains that she only dates androids, who are people she can identify with. She has not yet revealed her sexual orientation but has admitted that she likes it when members of both sexes admire her.
Some critics have referred to her as a science fiction nerd. Her music style has been described as mysterious, with a touch of the pop and jazz from the sixties. She has been influenced by the music of Michael Jackson, James Brown and Stevie Wonder.
She has often been described as a mediator between the haves and have-nots and a champion of the oppressed. Her upbringing in Kansas City has had a deep impact on her outlook to life and is reflected in her music. She refers to herself as a ‘funkstress’.
She has made her tuxedo wardrobe her trademark and maintains that she is not bothered about what others think about her looks and dress sense, as long as she is comfortable. Her black and white colour code is her signature style with which she relates to her early years when she worked as a maid.
Both her movies, ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
She supports stricter gun laws and is against police brutalities while dealing while black people.