Janelle Monáe Comes Out As Nonbinary: ‘But I Will Always, Always Stand with Women’
During most of her career, Janelle Monáe has been plagued with talks about her sexuality. She was rumored to be dating actress Tessa Thompson and in 2018, the Grammy-nominated artist revealed in a Rolling Stoneinterview that she identified as pansexual after thinking she was bisexual for so long. She has been on a quest to learn more about who she is and is taking us on the journey with her. In the season five premiere of Red Table Talk with hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, the Hidden Figures star opened up about her identity once more.
“I’m nonbinary, so I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely,” she said. “I feel all of my energy. I feel like God is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she.’ And if I am from God, I am everything. I am everything. But I will always, always stand with women. I will always stand with Black women. But I just see everything that I am—beyond the binary.”
She continued, “When I see people, I see your energy first. I don’t see how you identify. And I feel like that opens you up to fall in love with any beautiful spirit.”
Prior to Janelle, other celebrities like Amandla Stenberg and Demi Lovato announced that they identified as nonbinary. The “I Like It” singer explained what made her share the news publicly.
“Well, you know, somebody said, ‘If you don’t work out the things that you need to work out first before you share with the world, then you’ll be working it out with the world,’” she explained. “That’s what I didn’t want to do. So I thought I needed to have all my answers correct. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, and also, I hadn’t had the necessary conversations with my family. I wasn’t ready to have my family question my personal life.”
The 36-year-old singer/actress comes from a big religious family and grew up in Kansas City. When she finally shared her sexuality and identity with her family, she said her mother had a lot of questions, but her dad was “great” and her sister already knew.
“My whole family is church, church, church and I’m just like well what does it mean to go against your whole family on this thing? But I was ready. I was like, ‘You know what? If they don’t love me, don’t call me asking me for no money,’” she said. “‘You will not get my LGBTQIA+ money.’” She joked that some of her family members may have a problem with who she is but opt to stay quiet because they “may need something.”
While her journey may not be over, she is taking full accountability for who she is and who she wants to become.
“I know who I am,” she said. “I’ve been playing a version of some parts of me, but now I’m owning all of me. I had to own all of me to really be able to talk about it publicly.”
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Featured image by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI
10 Black LGBTQ Leaders And Advocates Making Big Moves In Business
It's Pride Month, and what better time to highlight amazing Black LGBTQ leaders and advocates killing it in business? Yep, now is the perfect occasion. These entrepreneurs and executives are providing spaces for inclusion, disrupting and innovating in fashion, tech, entertainment, and finance, and giving voice to the struggles, issues, and vibrancy of LGBTQ communities. They are exemplary examples of brilliance we all can admire and take a nod from in our own lives both professionally and personally.
Check them out below:
Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of National LGBTQ Task Force
This power woman and mother is the first openly queer-identified Black woman to hold the position at the long-standing organization, and she's tasked with leading strategy to ensure equality and justice for LGBTQ people across the nation. The National LGBTQ Task Force works to fight against discrimination in housing, retirement, employment, healthcare, and more.
Kelsey Davis, CEO & Founder of CLLCTVE
Kelsey Davis was a creative professional who worked for major companies including Conde Nast and created content for brands including Coca-Cola before launching her own firm that provides services for matching freelance creatives with Generation Z brands. It's the creating real opportunities for other young creatives to get to the bag for us.
Lena Waithe, Co-founder of Hillman Grad Productions
If series like The Chi, Boomerang, Them, and Twenties, or films like Queen & Slim don't ring a bell, sis, you need to go ahead and pop from under that rock, subscribe to somebody's streaming service, and get caught up. Lena Waithe not only includes diverse depictions of LGBQT stories within her scripts, but she takes the advocacy further via the hiring practices and opportunities of Hillman Grad Productions.
Kiyanna Stewart and Jannah Handy, Co-founders of BLK MKT Village
This fab couple offers super-cool items that show just how rich and beautiful Black culture truly is, and they do it so stylishly. Together, Kiyanna Stewart and Jannah Handy lead their Brooklyn shop and online community of more than 280,000 followers, offering a well-edited selection of collectibles, apparel, and heirlooms that would put any museum curator to shame.
Ariell Johnson, Founder of Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse
Ariell Johnson's North Philly shop offers an array of comics that put inclusion and representation at the forefront. From books and magazines to toys and figurines, she provides a special selection of items that ensure all lovers of the genre can find something to enjoy and be inspired by, and she unapologetically includes LGBTQ sci-fi "geeks" and comic enthusiasts in the all.
Natalie Patterson, Founder of Natalie Is Poetry
A self-proclaimed "teaching artist," Natalie Patterson fosters growth, compassion, and integrity via workshops, breakout sessions, performances and lectures. Her client roster includes brands like Sephora, Uproxx, and the United Way, and sis will have you deeply moved with her poetry. Trust.
Arlan Hamilton, Founder of Backstage Capital
As if surviving homelessness, living out of an airport and building a venture capital fund isn't impressive enough, Arlan Hamilton has spent the last six years raising millions of dollars to support more than 170 companies founded by female, minority and LGBTQ entrepreneurs. And get into this latest win: A recent crowdfunding effort reached its $5 million goal via more than 7,000 supporters. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Way to get to that coin, sis!
Angelica Ross, Founder of TransTech Social Enterprises
Her company serves as an incubator to economically empower LGBTQ professionals and their allies by providing training for career skills. The platform particularly provides a forum for tools to fight against employment discrimination, and Angelica Ross, a self-taught programmer and actress known for her role on Pose as well as her work as a transgender rights activist, partners with brands and companies to foster training and employment opportunities.
Corianna and Brianna Dotson, Founders of Coco & Breezy
These savvy businesswomen have been giving twin-rock star-Black girl magic energy since 2009 with their eyewear brand, worn by celebrities including Beyonce, Prince, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, and Lady Gaga. As a brand, Coco & Breezy has since expanded into a luxury retreat venture, DJing, and visual art projects. They're also huge in LGBQT activism, lending their voices, art, and platform of more than 170,000 followers and supporters to issues of advocacy and rights protections.
Janelle Monae, CEO of Wondaland Arts Society
She's the soulful, ecclectic, tuxedo-wearing, boundary-pushing singer, producer and actress known for her roles in Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and Antebellum. Janelle Monae is also a fierce artist mentor, record label exec, and LGBTQ rights activist who has identified as pansexual and rides for equal rights and freedom of expression for all. Word to Django Jane.
Featured image via Coco and Breezy/Instagram
Many things come to mind when I think of October. Mean Girls (October 3rd, anyone?), Halloween, and most of all Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to say, "In October, we wear pink." For the cause, of course. This is a cause near and dear to our hearts as women but also because we all know and love someone who has been impacted by breast cancer. Not only is the month dedicated to them but it's also dedicated to creating awareness and funding around preventative measures.
Why Breast Self-Exams Are Important
Unfortunately, for Black women, we're already overlooked in the healthcare system which likely has a lot to do with why the mortality rate associated with breast cancer is higher for us despite being diagnosed at similar rates as our white counterparts. In addition to having a trusted physician on your side (ahem, one that looks like you), this means we have to take extra care and remember to do our regular lump checks outside of office visits. Furthermore, thorough screening for breast cancer isn't offered as a recommendation for those under the age of 40. Thing is, "11 percent of all new cases in the United States are found in women under the age of 45," according to the CDC. So in this instance, knowledge is our friend!
And we know you know that a lump can mean breast cancer, but this time we want to spend time going over the other things that lumps may indicate—causes that may have nothing to do with breast cancer in the least bit. To get answers, I reached out to some doctors of color to see what other lumps we might come across while doing our at home checkups.
The Different Kinds Of Benign Breast Lumps
"Not all breast lumps are created equal. There can be many reasons why a woman may feel a lump in their breasts or see one on imaging, such as a mammogram or ultrasound. While we are always concerned that these may be cancerous, there can be benign reasons to have a lump. Cysts are another common cause and are fluid-filled round lesions within a 'sac' or lining. They can change in size on their own or can change with your menstruation. Lumps during your menstrual cycle, in general, are common as well and are referred to as fibrocystic changes. This is one of the main reasons why it's important to regularly do self-breast exams so you are familiar with how your normal breast feels.
"Breast imaging such as mammograms, ultrasounds, or an MRI are likely to differentiate between these various lumps. In certain instances, your doctor may recommend a biopsy or fine-needle aspiration to obtain a definitive diagnosis or may discuss removal of the mass completely."
—Smita R. Ramanadham, M.D., F.A.C.S.
2. Fat Necrosis:
"Fat necrosis is benign breast lump that usually happens after trauma to the breast, surgery, or injection of foreign material. In this case, the part of the fat in the breast dies and becomes calcified and hard and feels like a tumor. These are noncancerous and usually need surgery to rule out if they are painful or to differentiate from cancer."
3. Breast Abscess:
"An infection, categorized by pus in the breast tissue. Associated with pain and sometimes a fever, it's usually a complication of an infection of the skin. There's usually redness on the breast and antibiotics may fail. Your physician may feel a lump that is tender. It is easily diagnosed by ultrasound. And it's treatable."
—Lamia Kadir, MD
4. Intraductal Papilloma:
"Intraductal papilloma is a small growth within the milk ducts in a female breast. These may be associated with bloody nipple drainage and can sometimes result in a mass or lump. A blocked milk duct is another cause of a bump or mass to form in the female breast. Typically, this occurs during breastfeeding."
—Smita R. Ramanadham, M.D., F.A.C.S.
"Generally, about 20% of breast lumps are cancer. Fibroadenomas - these are the most common benign lumps. If you push on them, they are solid, round, rubbery lumps that move freely. They're usually painless. Women between 20 and 30 get them most often. They're also more common in African-American women. Fibroadenomas can be surgically removed. There are other types of non-cancerous breast conditions as well."
Every doctor presented here stressed the significance of making sure we're checking for lumps on the regular, so I want to echo their sentiments here as well.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the best time to examine your breasts is "7-10 days after their menstrual period starts which is also when their breasts are the least tender and lumpy."
Featured Image by Shutterstock
Summer Watch List: 10 Of The Latest Must-See Black Films & Shows
You gotta love a good show or movie with a strong black lead and story you can get lost in. Since we're no longer obligated to stay at home, you might find yourself ready to indulge in a little big-screen escapism---social distancing guidelines in place, of course. Even if you might be among those still putting a pause on sitting in a theater or joining a watch party, we've got something for you. (Hey, we don't blame you sis.)
Check out these 10 must-see films and shows featuring black leads, from horror, to comedy, to thrillers and beyond.
HORROR: Lovecraft Country
Jordan Peele (Get Out) is one of the executive producers of this HBO series set to debut in August. Based on a novel by Matt Ruff, it follows a man's journey through 1950s Jim Crow South in search of his missing father. If you're thinking, 'Well, where's the quirky, thought-provoking twist Peele is known for?' you can find it in the inclusion of forest monsters and strange zombie-like characters. The star-studded cast includes Courtney B. Vance (Cork'd, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Underground, True Blood) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Empire).
DRAMA: Greenleaf, Season 5
We can't get enough of this Memphis megachurch drama, slated to see its final season on OWN this summer. The bishiop (Keith David) and his wife (the never-aging Lynn Whitfield) return with other mainstays Deborah Joy Winans, LeToya Luckett, Lamman Rucker, Merle Dandridge, and Kim Hawthorne. Oprah's also set to make an appearance, and there are reports of Patti LaBelle and Rick Fox showing up as well. (A spin-off is also reportedly in the works.) If you haven't caught up to all the drama, scandals, and secrets, all four previous seasons are available on Netflix, so go ahead and get your binge on if you haven't already. Be sure to catch the latest episodes of the final season airing on OWN Tuesdays at 9pm.
Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Need I write more? OK, well, if she didn't already wow you in Hidden Figures, at least intrigue in in Homecoming, or have you enjoying the luscious fabulousity of a being a black woman via her 2018 album Dirty Computer, I almost don't know what else to tell you. This psychological mystery, which will be available in theaters if all is back to normal by August 21, centers on an author who is transported into an alternate reality of Get Out vibes and Roots travesties. The thought of being placed back into slavery as a woke woman of the 2000s is already horrific within itself, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
An espionage agent who can bend time, wear the hell out of a tailored suit, survive beatings and near car crashes and doesn't have the name Bond? Yep, that's this film. (We love James Bond by the way, so that wasn't a dig.) John David Washington stars in this flick, set to hit theaters July 17. I'll go ahead and leave out the comparisons to the Original Mo' Betta Blues-giving, Equalizer-fighting, Malcolm X-swagged Zaddy out of this. (I mean, Denzel is his daddy, sis.)
NOLLYWOOD: Merry Men 2
If you like films like Ocean's 11, or Takers, you'll like this action-comedy available for streaming on Netflix. It showcases the glitz and glam of the Nigerian elite in an international adventure to fight corruption, steal from the rich, and give to the poor. Nigerian host and comedian Ayo Makun and musican-actor Falz star in this film along with other Nollywood vets including Ramsey Nouah, Ireti Doyle, and Jim Iyeke. This sequel takes things to the next level with a fierce female mercenary crew who give the four leading men a run for their money. This isn't your typical three-DVD soap opera drama you'd typically enjoy while getting those Marley twists redone at the braid shop, sis. (Though we love those, too.)
COMEDY: The High Note
Tracee Ellis Ross stars as a Hollywood superstar singer (a great nod to her real-life mom Diana Ross) and faces a career and life dilemma when her manager (played by Ice Cube) presents her with an interesting opportunity. If not for the fashion and endearing goofiness of Ross, you'll want to check it out just to see if the (musical) apple doesn't fall far from the entertainment royalty tree.
DRAMA: The Chi, Season 3
This Lena Waithe hit returns with the inclusion of new faces including RHOA's Kandi Burress, who plays the love interest of the show's gangsta lead Douda (played by Curtiss Cook). Actors from the previous season including Common (who plays Selma), Jacob Latimore (who plays Emmett), Yolanda Ross (who plays Jada), and Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (who plays Ronnie). Waithe makes cameo appearances, along with Luke James and La La. It looks like there will be a quite a few plot twists but one is no surprise since Tiffany Boone (who played Jerrika) and Jason Mitchell (who played her chef bae Brandon) won't be returning this season. Tune in July 5 via Showtime.
DARK COMEDY: I May Destroy You
British actress Michaela Coel is back with an eyebrow-raising depiction of how a woman deals with the aftermath of being slipped a date-rape drug. The series explores sexual consent, contemporary dating, and reevaluating life choices as a woman in London, and if you liked her quirky Netflix series Chewing Gum, you might be able to give this HBO series a chance.
DRAMA: Miss Juneteenth
This film, which was a Sundance Film Festival selection and a hit at SXSW, centers around Turquoise Jones (played by Nicole Beharie of Sleepy Hollow fame), a single mother and former beauty queen. She goes on a journey in getting her rebellious daughter to follow in her footsteps and how she navigates love, parenthood, forgiveness and redemption in the madness. The film is debuted June 19, the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, via multiple streaming platforms. You'll see a familiar face in Insecure's Kendrick Sampson (Issa's halfway-boo Nathan) who plays Jones' love in this film.
COMIC ACTION: Falcon & The Winter Soldier
Disney+ is debuting this series, starring Anthony Mackie as Marvel Comics' Sam Wilson AKA "Falcon". He's joined by actress Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) for this classic interpretation of the comic, and stars alongside Sebastian Stan (who plays Bucky Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier). Samuel L. Jackson is also rumored to return as Nick Fury in the six-part series set to debut in August. Each show will be released weekly versus all at once, so you'll get to hold on in suspense to see what will happen with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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Janelle Monae Says Masturbation Is One Of The Greatest Joys In Life
Every time I meet a man who gets me all hot and bothered, before I have sex with him, I ask myself one question: did I masturbate first?
Flicking your bean. Spanking your monkey. Diddling Miss Daisy. Whatever fun euphemism you use as a term for masturbation, I'm here for all of it, sis. While having some alone time with your vagina may be an awkward topic for some women, Janelle Monae has no shame in having a girl's night in. When asked about the many things in life that bring her joy, Janelle basically said what we were all thinking.
lev radin / Shutterstock.com
Many of us, including Janelle, grew up in a religious household where we were shamed for our sexuality and are often shunned for expressing the need to have an orgasm. But to Janelle, walking in her truth means being real about the fact that one of the best parts of the day is usually spent exploring her own lady parts. In her recent interview with InStyle, the singer said:
"I have to talk about my sexuality. I have to talk about my blackness. I have to talk about my womanness. I have to talk about these things. This is who I am as a person."
Although Janelle may be secure AF with her sexuality today, things haven't always been this way, and according to this 30-year-old superstar, having a full understanding of her pleasure zone early-on may have saved her from a number of unsavory situations.
"I have been in situations where, as a young girl, you have compromised your morals and your values and you feel used."
These days, most kids receive a lot of their information about sex from the Internet or uninformed peers, and some form of sex education is usually made accessible by the age of six years old, so it only seems right that we start asking: how young is too young to start talking to your little one about the birds and the bees?
To Janelle, her parents allowing her access to more information could have made a world of difference when it came to defining her sexual identity. She continued:
"And I'm like, 'If my mother had let me have a vibrator at a young age to be in touch with my body more, I could have saved myself from so many poor decisions.' You know what I'm saying?"
Take it from Janelle, girls need love too; even if that means you have to show it to yourself.
Read Janelle's full interview here!
Featured image by lev radin / Shutterstock.com
Janelle Monae Won't Succumb To Society's Expectations To Be A Wife & Mother By Age 30
At my age, my older sister was married with a baby, a stepson and a conventional 9 to 5 making more than 40 racks a year. At 26, I couldn't be further from that truth, and I'm cool with that. While some may disagree, as a single, childless, work from home creative professional, I'm unapologetically living my best life. While at my age she may have sought stability and security, right now, I'm more interested in adventure and according to our favorite afrofuturistic songstress, ain't nothing wrong with that.
Society teaches women that we need accolades to be whole. Both our talent and our tenacity are often overshadowed by our ability to meet a man at the altar and birth some babies, but in a recent interview with ESSENCE, Janelle Monae says f*ck that.
As a openly pansexual Black woman in the entertainment industry, Janelle is constantly bombarded with questions of who, what, where, and why when it comes to her sexuality, but according to the 33-year-old Dirty Computer singer, she's found wholeness all by herself:
"I should…always be proud to be all of me. My sexuality is just a part of me. I'm also a Black woman. I'm also an artist. I'm also a daughter. I'm also a future mother, hopefully, and so I am a complete person and I'm not ashamed of any part of who I am."
According to Janelle, she's just as sick of the "when are you going to settle down and have some kids" question as we are. Your biological clock will run your life if you let it, but Janelle says she's on her own time.
"That is what I am and when the time is right it shall happen and I will have an incredible partner. I'm not concerned with that at all."
It's 2019, honey, and women no longer give any f*cks about societal deadlines and expectations. Tracee Ellis Ross said her career went into overdrive after she hit age 40. Tamron Hall gave birth to her miracle baby at 48. Halle Berry is still putting our summer bodies to shame at 52. Let's be real, is there anything black women can't do? And according to the list of some of the most legendary queens of all time, age ain't nothing but a number, sis.
Whether you get married at 25 or 52, Janelle is living proof that we are the authors of own lives. The award-winning entertainer shared that the expectation to make our stories look like everyone else's can ultimately be deadly. She explained:
"We are living in a world where folks who are deciding to live out loud are being persecuted. They're being ostracized from communities. Some are even committing suicide because they don't feel socially accepted and they die out of loneliness."
Take a page out of Janelle's book sis, and move in your own time. It doesn't matter how fast you go if you're heading in the wrong direction.
Read Janelle's full interview here!
Featured image by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI