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Janelle Monáe Wants Us To Stop Telling Women They Should Be More Ladylike

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Women should be seen and not heard, speak only when spoken to, and mind their manners in the presence of others. A "well-bred" woman will refrain from using foul language, wear only clothing that is deemed socially acceptable, and be discreet about her sexuality.

If you were raised in the church or any old heads in the South, you know that historically, this way of thinking was dominant in the black community and pretty much the entire world. Oh, the hoops women have to jump through to be considered "ladylike"; it should be a paid position in and of itself. Luckily, we now live in a world where I can proudly say "f*ck that," wear whatever the hell I want to and know that it doesn't make me any less of a woman.

Prince prodigy and sci-fi superbabe Janelle Monae agreed with my way of thinking in a recent interview with ESSENCE. The 33-year-old star of the upcoming feature film, Ugly Dolls, told the publication that how you gauge her womanhood is not and never has been a reflection of the woman that she actually is.

Rich Fury/Getty Images

"There's always this constant idea of what's ladylike and what a woman should do. Let's stop listening to what people tell us we should do and just do what's in our hearts and what's in our spirit."

In the past, the androgynous star has been transparent about her sexuality and her refusal to conform to societal norms has made her one of the hottest entertainers in the industry. After coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community last year on the cover of Rolling Stone, she's made an effort to shift the narrative in the black community of what it means to be a queer, Black woman one boss move at a time. In an intimate conversation with fellow songwriter, Lizzo, she had this to say:

"With 'Dirty Computer', I made a bigger declaration to myself — that I'm not putting out an album if I can't be all of me. You're gonna take the blackness, you're gonna take the fact that I love science fiction. You're gonna take the fact that I am a free ass motherf*cker. You're gonna take that all in and because that is what you're gonna get."

She told ESSENCE that her confidence to be the pro-black, non-conformist badass that she was by learning to take the advice of others with a grain of salt. Janelle explained that she knows what it's like to have both your body and sexuality policed by people that don't even know you; even the people we love can sometimes try to push us into being someone that we're not.

The singer emphasized the importance of letting the people around you know that your body is your own, they don't own you. This is why the previously somewhat conservative artist says she's grown comfortable with showing more skin on stage:

"I've always been clear that it's important for me to remind myself and remind others that I have agency over my body. I get to decide when, where, how, and not live by anybody else's interpretation of what they thought I was. The message has always been very clear."

According to Janelle, being honest with others starts with gaining the ability to be real with yourself. Walking in your truth also means learning to love and accept your eccentricities and know that they are what makes you truly unique. She told POPSUGAR:

"We are one living, breathing organism — humanity. We depend on each other to survive. What makes us one is the many unique things about us. A puzzle piece is not the same, but when you come together, you create a beautiful puzzle that was put together and everyone can marvel at. That's what humanity represents. We each are a piece of that puzzle, and we're designed uniquely to do a specific thing."
"Self-love starts inward. If you don't love you, I don't think you could ever really love anybody else."

The Hidden Figures actress explained that after being bullied in her childhood, she had to learn that she may never be ladylike enough for other people, so she just had to be good enough for herself. Once she did, she learned:

"Once you start walking in your truth, you'll start finding your tribe of folks who are walking in their truths. And then you guys can take down the patriarchy and abusers of power."

Power to the people, Ms. Monae.

Read the full ESSENCE interview here and check out the trailer for her new film, Ugly Dolls below!

UglyDolls Trailer #1 (2019) | Movieclips Trailerswww.youtube.com

Featured image by Rich Fury/Getty Images

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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