There is an untrue notion that HBCUs somehow don't measure up when it comes to their PWI counterparts. Where this ridiculous notion came from, I'm not sure. But what I do know is that mainstream media is very often guilty of perpetuating this dangerous conception, which in turn has caused both black people as well other races to view them as less than. But considering that some view our entire race as less than, I guess it's not really all that surprising. The reality is, it should not take Beyonce'sHomecoming at Coachella or Vice President Kamala Harris to propel the world to give HBCUs the respect that they so rightly deserve. Yes, it's true that HBCUs were created to give black people an opportunity at higher education that they may not have otherwise had in the 1830s, but that does not make them any less amazing both back then or now.
While I personally did not attend an HBCU, I began to hear about the dope experience that only an HBCU can bring at an early age by my parents who both attended North Carolina A&T University. Aggie Pride! And while I could be found at HBCU parties and homecomings when I myself was in undergrad at a PWI, I could never speak to the true HBCU experience and what it means to attend one. That's where the eight amazingly talented women you'll soon meet come into play. They all are HBCU alumni and will share how attending a historically black college or university helped shape their lives and why they have always and will always reign supreme.
Rachelle Townsend, Vice President Internal Audit Manager
Courtesy of Rachelle Townsend
North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC
"During my first two years of high school, I attended a predominately black school, however, I moved at the end of my sophomore year and ended up at a majority-white high school. I remember how empowered I felt at my first high school when I walked in honors or AP classes and all the students looked like me. It was quite the opposite when I attended my second high school, as I was often one of a handful of non-white students in the honor or AP classes. I felt as though I had to prove I deserved to be there, while also shouldering the burden of speaking on behalf of my entire race. I complained to my dad about it and, being an HBCU grad himself, he immediately suggested that I attend an HBCU. He reminded me that while I'd initially set my sights on a PWI, I had my whole life to be a minority.
"Attending an HBCU provided the reassurance that I not only belonged at any table or boardroom I walked into, but it taught me how to own my place at said table or boardroom. This shaped my life because it taught me not to downplay my contributions or minimize my worth just so people would accept my presence."
Chevita Phifer Stewart, Director - Legal Advertising Review at Assurant
Courtesy of Chevita Phifer Stewart
Southern University Law Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
"A family friend recommended that I apply and I felt like I was 'home' when I visited the campus. I attended a PWI for undergrad and I only felt 'at home' when I was with my sorority sisters (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated). Southern [University] changed my life. I was able to learn and feel comfortable making mistakes (I was terrible in Moot Court but I loved International Law).
"Oftentimes black students are treated as a monolith, we aren't, and Southern understood that which gave us the space we needed to matriculate through law school. Southern taught me to feel comfortable going after all of my dreams but more importantly, I was surrounded by extremely smart black people - black excellence."
J. Desiree Rodriguez, B.S., M.A., Author, Entrepreneur, and Educator
Courtesy of J. Desiree Rodriguez
Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA
"Originally I chose an HBCU because, at the time, that was the only institution that accepted my application. I got denied because of my SATs. I had over 120 hours of community service, an advanced diploma, a 3.0 GPA, recommendation letters, played sports, and was captain in AFJROTC, and it was not enough to get me into my first school of choice. Attending Norfolk State University was the best decision I ever made. It helped me discover, understand, and value the African-American history that is engraved in this country and the world. NSU helped me to discover who I am as an Afro-Latina and to understand the biases in education and jobs.
"To think an HBCU was not on my top list of schools, versus it being the inspiration and thread that is embedded in who I am as a woman. I am forever grateful for the experiences I had. I have been an active member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated for nearly ten years and am entering into my third year of Doctoral School. Without NSU, I believe my path and passions would be different. Thank you Norfolk State!"
Erica R. Jones, Family Physician, Podcaster, Author
Courtesy of Erica R. Jones
Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN
"I chose to attend Meharry because I understood the value of learning medicine in an environment that is dedicated to nurturing its students along the arduous journey. As an applicant with natural hair, my mother feared that I would be rejected after my interviews at various medical schools and even offered me one of her wigs! However, as soon as I walked into the interview room at Meharry, my locs were celebrated. The welcoming and warm spirit of the staff at Meharry propelled me into my current career."
Catch up with Erica on Instagram at @drericajones and @theartoftransitionpodcast.
Teronda Seymore, Writer
Courtesy of Teronda Seymore
Hampton University, Hampton, VA
"Spike Lee's School Daze was released when I was in high school. I don't want to say that watching that movie solely influenced me to attend an HBCU, but I did want the unique experiences that I could only get from a Historically Black College like Homecoming and Battle of the Bands! However, my decision was based more on the idea of attending a school where all of my classmates were intellectuals who looked just like me. I grew up in a rural area where black people generally aren't afforded the same opportunities as white folks. That can take a toll on both your body and your mind because it affects a number of things from where you work, to how much money you can make, to where you live.
"Attending an HBCU showed me a different perspective of life outside of fields, factories, and farms and taught me that the color of my skin doesn't preclude me from another life."
"However don't get it twisted, that doesn't mean I was oblivious to racism and microaggressions, or that I didn't believe either existed. I knew they did and it's not something that's unspoken at an HBCU. I think Hampton better equipped me with tools to navigate those evils and still succeed. And it gave me permission to dream bigger with the mindset that I can absolutely manifest my dreams."
Aminata J. Ba, Esq, Attorney, currently practicing in contracts, healthcare law and litigation
Courtesy of Aminata J. Ba
Hampton University, Hampton, VA
"I went to Hampton [University] on a visit with one of my friends from high school, and her dad, for an Omega Psi Phi probate on a whim. We met students from different places and backgrounds, but it still felt like we were the same. The high school I attended was extremely diverse, so it was almost like culture shock to be at an educational institution where everyone looked like me. I loved it and it just felt right. That weekend trumped any desire to attend any other schools. I think HBCUs pressure students to do more, be disciplined, and establish a sense of community. It honestly prepares you to be successful in professional environments where white people dominate.
"Students are surrounded by Black people on all parts of the spectrum, with different stories, and create lifetime friendships. The environment elevates black students' confidence and builds character. Also, some of the disorganization of attending an HBCU (ask anyone that's ever had to go to the Registrar or Financial Aid office) really prepares you for the B.S. you will have to deal with in the real world, building tenacity, and patience. One of the biggest bonuses I learned once I finished matriculating was how massive and strong the alumni network was. I think HBCU students carry community fostering skills they learn in college for life. It shows in the strength of our alumni networks."
Aliyyah Bragg, Scientist, Clinical Research
Photo Courtesy of Aliyyah Bragg
North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC
"I chose to attend an HBCU to be a part of history. While growing up, I did not witness or come across many women in science. Although they may have been hidden in books, the reality of women scientists appeared far and out of my reach. The absence of women scientists in my community inspired me to navigate through this intellectual journey to become one. During that journey, I wanted to be the product of the environment I was placed in to in turn show the world what HBCUs had to offer: excellence.
"Attending an HBCU helped shape my life by being able to develop the confidence to go out in the world and make the difference the world so desperately needed and to gain the courage to show the world innovation from fresh new eyes. It also gave me the opportunity to develop leadership skills that are needed to thrive in Corporate America. My contribution as a scientist is based upon my knowledge, skills, and abilities gained during foundational training that was acquired from an HBCU. So if you ever wondered what the future looks like, it's you. And if you wondered what a scientist looks like, well, it's me."
To stay connected with future projects bringing awareness to HBCUs and the STEM Field follow Aliyyah on Instagram: @aliyyah_b and Facebook: @aliyyah_b.
Crystal S. Gaines, M.A., ESQ, Lawyer at The Gaines Firm, LLC
Photo Courtesy of Crystal
Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA
"I grew up in a very small, rural, and conservative town outside of Henrico, Virginia. There were probably 25-30 black people out of the 120 people in my graduating class. Growing up in such a small, conservative town, you see the favoritism and stereotyping of individuals based on race quite often. In my particular situation, I noticed it more as it related to me when it was time for me to explore post-high school options. My counselor only introduced me to PWI schools. When I was not interested, she told me that she noticed how I took pride in my appearance and that I should consider getting a cosmetology license as an alternative. I was seriously deterred and unsure of what was next for me.
"It was not until I started to do my own research that I was introduced to HBCUs. I went on my first HBCU tour and I felt at home immediately. I felt something I had never felt before: I felt seen and that feeling never went away. A large part of my decision to attend an HBCU was due to the diversity of the students and the sense of pride in being a black woman/man that was embodied in the culture, values, and academic experience."
"I had never been surrounded by so much black pride and it did wonders for my confidence and my professional development. I am forever grateful to the family culture of my HBCU, the financial aid staff who became like Aunties, the cafeteria staff who made sure I was well-fed away from my momma's home cooking; my cheer sisters, who became the sisters I never had; my professors, who became like the north star for my goals and ambitions; and my campus, for giving me a safe space to learn, grown, and feel empowered.
"All that I am today, the confidence, the perseverance, the 'I can do and have it all' mentality – I owe to my alma mater. I cannot overstate the impact of having professors and colleagues who looked like me, across various disciplines, serving as role models on a day-to-day basis. That was a game-changer for me."
"My momma sent her little girl to Norfolk State and Norfolk State gave her a woman of character, intelligence, confidence, pride, and ambition. Norfolk State taught me how to square up with a challenge, the importance of legacy, and knowing your worth as a black woman – I would not and could not have received those gems elsewhere. I wish I could pinpoint one experience over the other, but I can't.
"In truth, it was a collective of what the HBCU culture, pride, and expectations embodied and promoted. At the end of the day, this first-generation, HBCU-made lawyer wouldn't have been prepared for the real world absent of my experiences and network at Norfolk State University."
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Featured image courtesy of Chevita Phifer Stewart
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Erica Green is a Clinical Research Associate, blogger, and a sneakerhead. She has a love for all things women and she's pretty sure that women are God's greatest creation. Connect with her on Instagram @ erica_britt_ or www.lovethegspot.com
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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