Cuba has been on my “must see before I die" list for about ten years now. Something about the impossibility of it made it more appealing to me. I wanted to experience a country that wasn't dominated by consumerism, a place where new trends rarely reached, and most of all, I wanted to experience what it meant to live a Cuban life. And now, since Obama took a trip to start mending the not-so-stable relations between both countries, I knew it was my last chance to visit before McDonalds and Starbucks began plopping their consumerist claws on the island. But wasn't that everyone's thoughts in the summer of 2016?
In May 2016, I took a 20-day trip to do a little research, embedding myself as a Cuban look-alike with an American thought process. What I didn't know at the time, was that this trip would put my travel booking skills to the test. Of course, because I'm cheap and refuse to pay for a travel agent to book my trip from start to finish when I have a brain and Google at my fingertips.
Then I fell flat on my face when I learned that Cuba has extremely limited access to internet, creating a predicament for someone like me who likes to research details about a country before diving in head first.
Due to the lack of information available about Americans going to Cuba, I figured I would make a research trip out of it all to write this blog that I was needing all along. Here are all the things Americans need to know before going to Cuba.
Plan How You'll Book Your Ticket to Cuba
Six airlines were approved to fly direct flights from cities in the USA to Havana, but let's not disregard that you'll probably have to pay big bucks to get the comfort of a 45 minute trip from Miami.
I did it the old fashioned, cheap way, which meant a lot of risk taking and hitting up Mexico before heading on to Cuba. I found my flight on Skyscanner from LAX to MEX – the largest airport I've ever seen, and from there booked a flight to Havana. The entire trip time was about 10 hours with a four-hour layover, and cost me no more than $750 round-trip. On the way back, I booked from Havana to Cancun, and Cancun back to the USA. I've heard Cancun's airport is significantly better to enter Cuba, because unlike Mexico City, you won't feel like you forgot the memo to pack your track pants and running shoes.
Buy International Health Insurance
Again, this information wasn't BOLD or outlined anywhere, but while I was researching, I came across a few articles that stated all foreign travelers booking a trip to Cuba must have international health insurance to enter the country. Imma be real; I've never bought travel insurance or international health insurance before, which is probably careless.
After closing several tabs that quoted about $200 for unnecessary insurance policies, I came across the company Roam Right that gave me basic insurance for a month of coverage for only $15. The bonus with this was that they didn't only cover health incidents, the policy also had trip coverage listed and $300 of reimbursement if any luggage was lost, among other things that gave me more peace of mind when planning such a stressful trip.
I entered and left the country fine without having to show anyone my insurance policy, but it was still comforting to have spent the extra $15 for a tiny bit of ease.
Buy a Tourist Card
Wow, what can I say about this step? Months before I even took the trip, I found myself mumbling things in Spanish over the phone to the Cuban embassy in the USA, and to the workers of the Mexico City airport all in an effort to get the answers I needed.
I've taken trips abroad in which you need to go to the country's embassy ahead of time and pay to apply for a visa, and anxiously await a response. I've also gone to other countries like Egypt, where you simply get off the plane and buy a visa when you're already in the country.
Cuba uses neither of the two systems that I've experienced, and it seemed like no one could explain how I could get a freaking visa/tourist card to go to Cuba before getting to the airport.
What You Need to Know Before You Travel to Cuba
Some flight and tour companies sell you the tourist card with your flight – make sure that it's included if you're buying a direct flight from the USA to Cuba. Since I was a cheapo, clearly that wasn't my case.
If you book with a travel agent, they'll most likely handle this for you as well.
OR if you're going the old school way, you'll need to buy it right next to the check-in counter of the Mexico City airport. There will be a tiny podium with some janky signs posted about fine print policies – don't expect an easy “BUY TOURIST CARD HERE" sign, because that'd be way too easy. There will most likely be an airport worker taking passports and scribbling on pieces of paper. That's exactly where you need to go to ask about your “tourist card." After you find the podium, it's all simple and straightforward (finally, jeez). You pay $25 USD for a visa that lets you stay in Cuba for 30 days. You have the option to renew for an additional 30 days once in Cuba.
Prepare To Have Limited To No Connection
As of now, there's absolutely no way to get cell phone service with American telecom companies in Cuba. Don't even bother buying international texting or some sort of “global" cell phone plan, because it won't work. You will also experience the least amount of WiFi you've ever experienced; which is great in the long run. It's one of the few places left in the world where you can actually enjoy your time in the country without posting about it every two minutes.
In order to plan for this lack of connectivity, download all the entertainment you'll want for your duration abroad. Take screenshots of your flight bookings and documents as back up. Write down important addresses you'll need when you arrive in Cuba. Become best friends with a notebook and pen. And lastly, notify your family that you'll truly have limited connection when you arrive. If they're worried, give them your flight information so they can check when you land in Cuba.
Once you're settled, you'll be able to pay $2-$10 for Nauta WiFi cards that will give you one to five hours worth of internet that can only be accessed in public parks (nothing beats tweeting and sweating), on random corners, and inside hotels. If you see a group of people standing around outside, it's because they're updating their Facebook statuses.
You'll be able to buy the best cards at an actual ETECSA Telepunto store (where Cubans go to buy their phone minutes and internet cards), or go to any public park and buy a slightly over priced “tarjeta" from guys sketchily selling them on the street.
Try to get as close to these prices as possible:
1 hour – $2CUC
5 hours $10CUC
Accommodation: Booking a Casa Particular
Since Cuba is pretty new to the tourist game, options for accommodations are a little bit different. There are basically no hostels and pretty few luxury hotels, that I clearly won't be staying in.
The only other option is staying in a Casa Particular. Think of a Casa Particular of a temporary homestay, almost like an Airbnb (which also exists in Cuba, with a twist, see below). Here's the basic idea behind a “Casa Particular": if Cubans have extra rooms in their homes that they'd like to rent, or entirely vacant apartments, they'll put a sign on their door with the iconic blue anchor to show their vacancy and that they're a legal Casa. Sidenote: blue signs are for tourists, red signs are for Cubans only.
I found my first Casa through a friend, it was on the pricier end of the spectrum ($45/night for two people) for a private apartment with a balcony facing the Malecón and the ocean. It was definitely worth every dollar, if you'd like this casa's contact information, email me: email@example.com with subject line “Casa in Cuba."
Casas can be as cheap as $15/night for up to two people, but cheap rooms usually don't have windows, which is a personal deal breaker; traveling ain't so good when you can't see anything.
Most Casas have the same amenities as you would a hotel; usually private bathroom, clean towels, sheets, etc, don't count on ever having WiFi though!
Also, it's important to know that you can book listings on Airbnb.com only BEFORE getting to Cuba. Once in Cuba, you'll be blocked from actually booking rooms through the site. Book your accommodation in advance to avoid the stress of knocking on doors like I had to once my accommodation ran out.
Prepare Your Money
While joining the dozens of gringos waiting in line to exchange money at a Cadeca, or a “Casa de Cambio (House of Exchange), I overheard some Americans behind me speaking to a local, who was clearly trying to scam them for an inflated exchange rate.
What they didn't know, like most other Americans, is that while relations between the US and Cuba is slowly getting better, there are still fees for using the USD.
Any Cadeca will charge a 10% commission fee for converting USD into CUC, or Cuban Convertible dollars, aka “Tourist Currency," not to be confused with the CUP, or “Moneda Nacional" for the locals. The smart technique is to exchange Euros in advance and use that to exchange into local currencies while abroad.
Here's some info to give you an idea:
This is CUC or tourist money:
Any bill with a face on it is Moneda Nacional, or CUP mostly used by locals:
$1 USD should = $1 CUC, but costs $.87 after the commission is taken out
$1 CUC = $24 CUP
Oh, and the most important part about planning your finances is that you CANNOT withdraw money from any ATM in Cuba, nor can you use any of your credit cards, so you need to bring enough cash money to last the entirety of your trip.
For more information on money tips: http://www.visitcuba.com/travel-guide/travel-tips/
Prep Your Tummy
To put it simply, cuisine in Cuba is an overall pretty crappy experience because of their many years of isolation, and the fact that all rich restaurant owners fled to different countries when the revolution wiped out the rich (hospitality savvy) class. Aside from the political reasons that cultivates crummy food, the water quality produces limp fruits and veggies. I swore I ate a watermelon that was so dry it had the texture of a cookie. Be sure you understand that this will not be the best culinary experience of your life. Privately-owned restaurants are still learning how to cater to the Western world's standard of service. Here are tips to survive the stomach pains:
Beware of the Water
Water in Cuba might will give your stomach a poopy time, literally. Some good advice would be to pack enough probiotics to last your entire trip, and to take a few days before you even leave. Bring Immodium AD and Pepto Bismol for if and when things get bad; these medications are nearly impossible to find there. While Cubans are immune to the terrible water, tourists will not withstand its wrath. Even if you're not chugging glasses of tap water, you'll most likely drink a mojito with ice cubes made from tap water – watch yourself.
My first few days, I was craving chocolate like never before. It seemed like there were no stores that sold cookies, chocolate, or anything in general, because there were barely any stores. At this point in time, Cuba is the furthest thing from having a consumerist culture, things are extremely difficult to get, stock, sell, and buy.
The few grocery stores that there are sometimes require you to wait in four lines; one to check your bag, another line to get inside of the store, another to order basic things from behind the counter (i.e. hair products, cookies, basically anything that you'll really need), and another line to check out. It's a struggle, so I suggest you bring extra snacks that you know you'll miss to avoid major chocolate withdrawals like I did.
Going out to Eat
You might see windows on the street, or “cafeterias" selling pizza, spaghetti, or simple sandwiches, which I've eaten in, and never had any major problems. If you have a sensitive stomach, you might want to stay away from “street meat." You'll also see Paladares, which are privately-owned restaurants inside locals' homes. The name comes from a Brazilian novella about a poor woman turned millionaire after opening her own small restaurant in her home called “Paladar."
The service in these privately-owned restaurants is usually way better than at government-owned restaurants, which make you feel like your middle school cafeteria, served at five star standards. How do you know if it's a government-owned restaurant? If the servers all look the same and greet you with a less than impressed gaze or boredom, you're at a government-owned restaurant.
Pack Extra Clothes and Toiletries
This one is the opposite of advice I'd normally give for long trips, but here's why you need to pack a little extra to go to Cuba. Most Cubans have challenges affording basic things like hygiene products, clothes, shoes, etc. There is also a shortage of things like paper goods; paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. Things that we take for granted every single day in The States is a reason to celebrate in Cuba. When the average salary of a Cuban is equivalent to $20 USD a month, there's no way every Cuban can achieve a standard of living beyond simply surviving.
You'll notice that the airport check-in for baggage to Havana will be bigger than any you'll ever see; family members returning to home will bring back massive flat screen TVs and duffle bags filled with lotions, Ziplock bags, and clothes.
Even if you're a backpacker, you can probably pack a few extra shirts that you've only worn once, that will make all the difference to a Cuban.
On our first day, we met a Cuban man named Frank who passed the sketch-o-meter test. All he asked was for clothes he could give to his sisters in exchange for local information. Fast forward and we had a full day of Havana sightseeing and paid him back in four tank tops and shorts that I've worn in videos 324908 times that I didn't really need.
And so, while Cuba is still difficult to get to as an American, I can confidently say that it's been one of the most gratifying, profound, and eye-opening trips I've taken. I highly recommend you experience it all for yourself through a local lens. Be prepared to strip yourself out of your comfort zone, put your gadgets and gizmos away, and get lost in time for the very first time.
Is Cuba on your travel bucket list? What places are you trying to travel to before you die? Let us know in the comments below!
*Article Originally Published On Shut Up And Go
Damon and Jo are two travel YouTubers who are changing the face of the travel industry with a backpack, multiple languages under their belt, and only a few dollars to their name. Check out their travel and day-to-day adventures by subscribing to their YouTube channel and by keeping up with their Shut Up And Go travel blog.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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