Growing up in Kansas, one of Janelle Monae's idols was a fictional Kansas native: Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) from The Wizard of Oz. Like Dorothy, Janelle dreamed of a place somewhere over the rainbow. "There was a lot of confusion and nonsense where I grew up, so I reacted by creating my own little world," she said in her Atlantic Records bio. "I began to see how music could change lives, and I began to dream about a world where every day was like anime and Broadway, where music fell from the sky and anything could happen."
Janelle's debut studio album, The ArchAndroid, is a concept album that continues the journey of her futuristic alter-ego Cindi Mayweather, who was introduced in her EP Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase). She told MTV: "Cindi is an android and I love speaking about the android because they are the new 'other.' People are afraid of the other and I believe we're going to live in a world with androids because of technology and the way it advances. The first album she was running because she had fallen in love with a human and she was being disassembled for that."
- released through P. Diddy's Bad Boy Records and her own Indie label, The Wondaland Arts Society - was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album in 2010 but lost to Usher's Raymond vs. Raymond
. Her single "Tightrope
" was also nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance and lost to Cee Lo Green's "F--k You."
With her polished pompadour and fitted tuxedo, Janelle is known for her impeccable but quirky style. When she became a spokesmodel for CoverGirl in 2010, she shared her views on female beauty:
"I believe it's time that women truly owned their superpowers and used their beauty and strength to change the world around me," she said in a press release. "Becoming a CoverGirl is truly and honor and a gift: it opens up a new platform for me to inspire women to feel stronger, braver and more beautiful inside and out."
Janelle's signature tux has become more of a lifestyle choice than a wardrobe choice. "I bathe in it, I swim in it, and I could be buried in it," she told Honey magazine. "A tux is such a standard uniform, it's so classy and it's a lifestyle I enjoy. The tux keeps me balanced. I look at myself as a canvas. I don't want to cloud myself with too many colors or I'll go crazy. It's an experiment I'm doing. I think I want to be in the Guinness Book of World Records."
Janelle credits Star Wars creator George Lucas as a major inspiration for The Electric Lady, her 2013 album about the earlier life of her Cindi Mayweather character (George does like prequels). She even performed at his wedding reception and met some high-profile guests. "I met him and I got a chance to speak with Steven Spielberg, and these are people whose ideas, you know, if they weren't able to make their movies, I don't think that I would have been able to articulate my thoughts on Cindi...They kind of showed me how to do that, I just wanted to do it with music," she told the Miami Herald.
Janelle claims she's been talking to therapists since she said her first words as a 1 year old. "They might have not been certified," she told the Miami Herald, "but I've always talked and been very open about where I am in my life."
Before she became famous, Janelle worked at an Office Depot and used the store's computers to update her MySpace page.
For many years, Janelle Monáe dodged questions about her sexuality but dropped hints about her interest in both men and women in her music. On the 2013 The Electric Lady
," she referenced a character named Mary as an object of affection, while the 2018 single " Make Me Feel
" was accompanied by a video in which she dances seductively with both actress Tessa Thompson and a male. Monáe eventually came out in a 2018 Rolling Stone interview
in which she said she identified as pansexual - an attraction towards someone regardless of their biological sex or gender identity.
Janelle Monáe has also branched out into acting. She made her big screen filming debut in the 2016 movie Moonlight and also had a prominent role in the motion picture Hidden Figures as NASA engineer Mary Jackson.