Since her debut in 2007, Janelle Monae has made it her mission to be a voice for the voiceless in the most unapologetic way.
Her latest project, Dirty Computer, was a three-part project that offered her audience a breath of fresh air from her mysteriously elusive character that she so adamantly maintained in the past. Her latest work gave us a glimpse into her brilliantly masterminded vision of the future, which is of course doused in afrofuturism and flooded in vaginas.
Janelle Monae is black, queer, and here to stay.
The 32-year-old icon recently opened up about her fight against fear and her social obligation as a black woman with a platform in Trump's America. She told Allure that she made the decision to drop her mask and offer in her audience full transparency not for her own freedom, but for the freedom of the voiceless. She said:
"It's about all of us, all the people that at least I feel a responsibility to. I had to pick who I was comfortable pissing off and who I wanted to celebrate."
She said that the album was a direct response to our current leadership and the changes that we've seen under Trump's administration. Initially, Janelle had trouble channeling her emotions because the only thing she could really feel was anger.
"I will say that after this election, I dealt with a lot of anger. I dealt with a lot of frustrations, like many of us, when it came to the nonleader of the free world and that particular regime."
This anger manifested into feelings of animosity and fury because Janelle, like the rest of the black girl sorcery coalition, was tired of living in a society that subscribes to the idea that women are inferior.
"I felt it was a direct attack on us, on black women, on women, on women's rights, on the LGBTQIA community, on poor folks. I felt like it was a direct attack saying, 'You're not important. You're not valuable and we're going to make laws and regulations that make it official and make it legal for us to devalue you and treat you like second-class citizens or worse.' I got to the point where I stopped recording because I was just like, 'I'm going to make an angry album.'"
Her anger comes from a place of hurt, a narrative that is familiar among black American women. We live in a society that expects us to master each facet our identity with grace, and our strength is usually measured by how much abuse we can endure without breaking. Monae says that her celebrity does not exclude her from the injustices and crimes that black women face against our humanity every day.
"This is real-life shit that I'm having to deal with. You strip away the makeup, the costumes, and everything you know about Janelle Monáe the artist, and I'm still the African-American, queer woman who grew up with poor, working-class parents. When I walk off a stage, I have to deal with these confrontations. I have to deal with being afraid for my family."
Upon exploring her feelings with a therapist and having a heart-to-heart with Stevie Wonder, she found that the only way to win a war with hate, is to use love as your ammunition. She practiced this theology, and channeled it into her art.
"I was challenged. It's easy for me to just stay angry, but it's harder for me to choose love."
She realized then that her fight was not with government officials, but with fear.
She mastered her challenge in three parts, each detailing the phases from which she evolved to become the afro-futuristic badass that she is today. The three movements compose an "emotion picture" that realistically portray the hopes and fears of the American people today.
Although she understands that she doesn't have the capacity to speak for every member of the black or LGBTQ community, she will fight for the opportunity to support them no matter the cost.
"There's lots of fears that I have about just living openly and freely and criticizing those who are in the position of power. You just never know. You never know what could happen when you are outspoken. It's a risk. It's a risk that I've prayed on and I'm willing to take."
Her consistent advocacy for women is proof that none of us are free until we all are. It's celebrities like Janelle Monae who use their platform to speak about real issues affecting black women that have the power to change the culture, and she isn't done yet.
Janelle made it clear that as long as women of color are under oppression, she will be on the front lines fighting with a powerful weapon in her holster.
"I'm not running to Canada. I'm not leaving. I'm standing here, and I am gonna fight for love."
To read the full interview, click here.
Featured image by Camila Falquez/Allure