janelle monae: “i come in peace, but i mean business“

November 15, 2018
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The genius, compassion and talent of Janelle Monae is a mix of attributes that is immediately evident when one interacts with her and her art. She is an enigma of the best kind, instilling wonder in the minds of those that only ever imagined a Black, queer popstar like herself. That wonder is not oversold, as Glamour magazine just named her one of the Woman Of The Year (WOTY) for her groundbreaking presence in music, film and LGBTQ+ activism.

Monae emphasizes the importance of community wherever she goes. As one of 50 cousins, her sense of shared accountability seeps its way into her art-driven activism, as described by her WOTY awards speech. “Growing up in that big family taught me responsibility. Community. And to protect each other. I had no choice: I had to wash dishes, babysit my cousins. My grandmother was raising all of us. I had to contribute.” She went on to say, “I’ve taken that same mentality with me in the entertainment industry: I feel a huge responsibility to protect my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQIA+ community, to protect women, to protect Black folks, to protect immigrants, to protect lower class folks like my parents who put on uniforms to protect me and my sister.”

Simply put, Monae is about it. She’s not afraid to speak out against that disaster in the White House because she is the product of an upbringing shaped by people that the Trump administration seeks to disenfranchise. That being said, she didn’t know whether she would release Dirty Computer after starting it during Obama’s tenure, but she did it because her fans needed it. “I feel a responsibility to protect all the dirty computers around the world: We’re pushed to the margins of society. This year is for you. This album is for you. Everything that I am doing right now is bigger than me—it is for all of us.”

Monae occupies a space in the industry that few can emulate or recreate. That being said, the singer/actress/activist still finds inspiration in her newfound “tribe” of glamorous women, going so far as to begin her speech by stating, “I remember a few years ago coming to this event and being so overwhelmed by the stories these women were telling. I was like, ‘Man, I have so much work to do. I wonder if I’ll ever be here.’ And to be here is a dream.”

Monae is the dream. A Black, queer woman, making commanding art and living in a manner that is its own brand of activism. She is a living tapestry, displaying the expansive qualities that reside within each and every Black women, and she does it all with unmatched style and grace. She is a compelling mixture of tranquility and power. In her words, “I come in peace, but I mean business.” A Queen.