LGBTQ+ Rewind: Janelle Monae
For this segment of Rewind, let’s talk about a highly underrated queer artist who has inspired a generation of people to unapologetically be themselves and spread kindness in the world: beloved singer and actor Janelle Monae.
A small backstory
Janelle Monae Robinson was born on December 1st, 1985, in the town of Kansas City, Kansas. Her mother worked as a janitor and her father worked as a garbage truck driver. Janelle’s father struggled with drug addiction throughout Janelle’s childhood, teaching her the dangers of drugs from an early age. Janelle also understood the importance of hard work and staying true to herself thanks to her parents, who she cites as the inspiration to work hard towards her dreams in life. From an early age, Janelle was greatly talented in the arts, specifically singing and performing. Janelle carried this standard of musicality throughout her academia days too, choosing to drop out of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in order to pursue a sound of her own. She ended up in Atlanta, Georgia, where she began performing on open mics and producing her own music every chance she got. This led to catching the eye of Big Boi, one half of the musical duo, OutKast. One thing leading to another, Janelle was featured on multiple high-profile discographies, including OutKast F.U.N., and P. Diddy.
Stepping into the spotlight
Throughout her early days in music, Janelle developed a persona to her music called Cindi Mayweather. Cindi was introduced on Janelle’s debut full-length album entitled The ArchAndroid. According to Cindi Mayweather’s lore, she is a robot alien to human society. Cindi eventually falls in love with a human who ultimately breaks her heart. After this heartbreak, Cindi makes it her mission to uplift other robots and together they will make their own space in the universe. The album is noted as being a heavy allegory to African-American history and LGBTQ+ issues. The album is now well-renowned for being a staple in queer music, Janelle herself being known for producing countless queer anthems such as This Is for My Girls, Pynk, Electric Computer, Make Me Feel, and more!
Movies and more
Music is not the only thing Janelle Monae has brought to the table. In 2016, Janelle debuted as an actress in a feature-length film in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. Janelle played Teresa, a stern yet kind parental figure for the movie’s main character, Chiron. The movie discusses the brutal realities of growing up as a queer Black person and brings up issues of toxic masculinity and what it means to truly be yourself. She went on to star in several other movies and TV shows that depicted powerful, Black women on screen. Some of these included Hidden Figures, Homecoming, and The Glorias. Janelle Monae is a person who knew what she wanted from the beginning: to make something out of nothing. Instead, she became an iconic member and voice of the LGBTQ+ community. A big thanks to Janelle Monae for continuing to uplift LGBTQ+ voices through her music and performances.