In December, GQ called 2016 Janelle Monae’s “best year ever.” I’ve been a fan since her 2010 album The ArchAndroid so part of me wants to yell at anyone who is just discovering how weird and wonderful Janelle Monae is but even I can’t argue with the breakout year she had.
2016 was the year Janelle went from that cool artist obsessed with aliens and robots who slays red carpets on the regular to a Serious Actress in two of the best films of the year. She starred in Moonlight and Hidden Figures (technically a 2017 release). You already know how I feel about both of those films. Janelle Monae is goddamn brilliant in both. When Janelle Monae is on screen, you can’t look away. She is gorgeous and mesmerizing and just so f-cking talented it’s almost like she isn’t human – which brings me back to GQ.
Janelle is featured in GQ's current issue and I would be pissed that she isn't on the cover but everyone's favourite Good Guy Chance The Rapper took that spot so I can't be mad about it. The feature focuses on Janelle's otherworldly-ness, mainly that she's so flawless she must be an alien. If you were to ask Janelle, I think she’d say that her obsession with androids and aliens is one of her most defining characteristics. She released three concept albums revolving around her alter-ego Cindi Mayweather, an android who falls in love with a human. God, I love how weird she is. GQ describes her signature outfit as a “tailored intergalactic-butler uniform” and says that Janelle responded to a question about her age with, “I’m timeless.” HA. Who else could say that and still sound cool AF? Janelle's obsession with androids goes deeper than a superficial fascination with the future.
“I look at androids as the future Other… I feel a responsibility to speak out for the Other.”
Moonlight and Hidden Figures are very different films but they both highlight the importance of "Other." Janelle Monae has always championed this sentiment so it's fitting that these two films have catapulted her to mainstream success.
“I want to redefine what it means to be young, black, wild, and free in America,”
This redefinition of blackness is the basic fight of representation. Each of Janelle's characters in Moonlight and Hidden Figures are full, complex human beings. In Moonlight, she's nurturing and empathetic. In Hidden Figures, she's hilarious and brave. Blackness can be all of the above and so much more. So maybe Janelle Monae is not an alien or an android, she’s just a badass black woman.
Here's Janelle at Marie Claire's Image Maker Awards and at a screening of Hidden Figures in LA the other night.