Janelle Monae has been on the scene for some time now. She did an inteview with 944 Magazine discussing working with Diddy, her personal style, and her music. Get to know her…
Janelle Monáe lives in a world of her own creation. It’s called Wondaland. Forget any correlation to the famous tale involving Alice and her motley crew of fantastical allies, enemies and misfits. Instead, Monáe’s Wondaland is an Atlanta-based collective of artistic individuals, including producers Nate “Rocket” Wonder, Chuck Lightning and Roman GianArthur, the ArchOrchestra and a recording label armed with a mission to change the world.
“We believe in the imagination,” says the toy soldier-sized entertainer. She’s sitting perfectly erect while a makeup artist readies her for the next look of what is turning out to be an all-day shoot at Atlanta’s Chastain Horse Park. Her naturally watertight and downy smooth mug is a wonder in its own right. Though clearly aware of her beauty, and, more importantly, her image (she has a Lopez-length rider for what she won’t wear in photo shoots), Monáe is focused on the Wondaland charge. “We stand up and fight for the individual, we want people to embrace the things that make them unique and use them as superpowers for change,” she says without a note of performance in her voice.
Oh, she’s serious. “Our mission is to push out the message of The ArchAndroid.”
The ArchAndroid (Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy/Atlantic) is not only the title of Monáe’s first full-length album; it’s also the result of years of dreaming, studying, auditioning, crying, accepting and growing. Five years ago, I met a then 19-year-old Monáe, pre-media and critical darling, who was on the verge of releasing her now Grammy-nominated EP, Metropolis, Suite I: The Chase inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film, Metropolis. ArchAndroid is a continuation of the sci-fi morality saga and contains Suites II and III. “I have grown exponentially as a person and as an artist since then,” she says. “When I met you, I was just testing my feet in the water and now I am doing back flips and handstands. I am unafraid of making mistakes.”
The journey to bold and undaunted, which began in Kansas City, Kan., took her to New York (with Broadway ambitions) and then finally to Atlanta. A chance encounter with OutKast’s Big Boi at an open mic night put her on the fast track to fame. However, her beginnings were a far cry from the jet-set locales she frequents now (the album was written all over the world, including Moscow, Istanbul, Prague and Turkey) and the A-list accolades and superstar backers she has collected, including Prince (“A great supporter of me and has a great sense of humor”) and Sean “Diddy” Combs (“He is very smart. He’s a campaign endorser, a project champion”).
As referenced on The ArchAndroid’s first release, “Tightrope” (a retrograde James Brown-inspired sonic bomb) is this 24-year-old’s saving grace in the push-pull parallel worlds she inhabits. “My mother was a janitor, my father [who struggled with drug addiction] drove trash trucks and my stepfather still works at the post office. I am very connected to the everyday person who goes through obstacles,” Monáe says. “I have not had to check myself yet. My motto is, ‘Don’t get too high or low.’ Meaning, don’t get too high over the praises and accolades or too low over opinions or critiques.”
Janelle Monáe exists and thrives in a much insulated world (“Wondaland is my family and these are the people that I choose to be around”), but she’s determined to spread her gospel of individuality around the globe. “I want people to know [it’s fine] to experiment and go outside [your] comfort zone.”
So, does she ever feel pressured to depart from her decidedly-masculine, almost androgynous guise? “No, not at all,” she says swiftly. “There are so many ways we can be sexy and confident. I am not faithful to any of the clothes that the world says I have to wear to be more feminine. Strength and femininity come from me, not my clothes.”
Different. Love it!!!