By Cheyanne Mandeville
Janelle Monae has been one of 2017’s most influential women for her roles in Golden Globe Picture of the Year, Moonlight, critically acclaimed Hidden Figures, and her inspirational speech at the Women’s March on Washington.
“Continue to embrace the things that make you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. And whenever you want to give up, you must remember to choose freedom over fear.” – Janelle Monae, Women’s March on Washington
Janelle Monàe Robinson, known as “Janelle Monàe,” was born on December 1, 1985 in Kansas City, Kansas. From an early age Janelle dreamed of being a singer. She moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 2001 where she met Outkast’s Big Boi who helped produce her first EP The Audition in 2003. Through Big Boi, word spread to P. Diddy about the new young talent and by 2006 she was signed to Bad Boy Records. Monàe released her first solo album Metropolis in 2007 earning her a Grammy nomination for “Best Urban/Alternative Performance.”
While Monàes musical career continued to gain success, she had other interests in mind: using her voice to make a difference. She openly supported Barrack Obama and performed at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina during his 2012 campaign. Her support would later pay off when First Lady Michelle Obama honored her at the Grammy Museum, giving a heartfelt speech crediting art education to why many young people stay in school.
In 2016, Monàe made her big screen debut in the heart wrenching coming-of-age film Moonlight. Monàe plays the role of Teresa, a mother-figure for Chiron, a young boy whose real mother couldn’t always be there because of her struggle with drug abuse. Moonlight became the first all black cast to win a Best Picture Golden Globe. That same year Monàe played the role of Mary Jackson, an African-American mathematician and aerospace engineer for NASA in the true story Hidden Figures of the three African-American women who played a vital role in the U.S. Space Race. The film was nominated for three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a cast in a Motion Picture. Not too bad for a first time actress!
“Two compelling important stories around humanity, about empathy, around the love and the celebration of those who are often times uncelebrated. It’s the narrative I wanted to be associated with.” –Janelle Monàe on why she chose to work on Moonlight and Hidden Figures
This year Monàe has been an essential human rights activist for the groups afraid of losing rights under the new administration. Alongside the mothers of slain black boys in the United States, Monàe gave her speech at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington honoring her mother, a janitor, and her grandmother, a sharecropper from Mississippi.
If you didn’t watch the Women’s March on Washington, the video below was such a powerful moment. Monae leads a chant, accompanied by an all-female percussionist group and asks the group to “Say her/his name!” for those who have suffered injustice or whose voice has gone unnoticed.