For them.‘s debut cover story, Janelle Monáe discusses coming out, freedom, and living out loud, in a sit down with Lizzo.
See excerpts of the interview:
On Her Sexuality Journey
For me, sexuality and sexual identity and fluidity is a journey. It’s not a destination. I’ve discovered so much about myself over the years as I’ve evolved and grown and spent time with myself and loved ones. That’s the exciting thing — always finding out new things about who you are. And that’s what I love about life. It takes us on journeys that not even we ourselves sometimes are prepared for. You just adapt to where you are and how you’ve evolved as a free thinking person.
Words for Those Struggling With Their Sexuality
Don’t allow yourself to feel any pressure other than the pressure you put on you. And I think there’s so much power in not labeling yourself. That said, there’s also power in saying “This is how I identify,” and having community with the folks you identify with. Everyone is on a journey of self-discovery, and those of us who may not understand others’ journeys should be more empathetic and tolerant and supportive.
A big thing for me is just being patient with myself, and not allowing myself to make decisions based in fear, or a fear of people not understanding me. And it’s hard. You go through experiences where you feel fearful, and you end up being depressed, or having anxiety, and not taking care of you. But that fear should not get in the way of how you love or who you love.
On How She Feels About the State of Queer Acceptance in 2019
How do I feel about it? I mean, to be young, queer, and black in America means that you can be misunderstood. You can be hated. It also means that you can be celebrated and loved. And I think there’s a lot at stake when you’re living out loud in that way. One thing I’ve realized even more was that when you walk in your truth, you can inspire and encourage people to walk in theirs’.
On Her Music Journey
I like to think that I know everything that a project is gonna do and be when I go into it — “I’m gonna go in and write this song, and it’s gonna mean this.” But you know like I know, once you put something out and you sit with it, you find out new things that you weren’t even paying attention to. People will come up to you and say, “This is what this means to me.” And you’re like, “Wow, I had no clue that that’s what I was saying, and that you would feel that way after you heard it.” The beauty of art is that it reveals itself over time, even to the artists who create it.
I think I do have strong visions; I always have strong visions. With ArchAndroid, I knew what I wanted the content to be, and I used the tools that I knew how to use at that time to create it. In my projects, I always challenge myself to grow and learn my voice and how to stretch beyond what I can comfortably do. So I started to engineer myself more, which meant I got to spend more time with me. I produced as well. And I’m a writer, and a storyteller. So as I grow and as I’m taking in information and growing at this exponential rate, I try my best to create music and albums that support that, that allow me to completely be all of me.
With Dirty Computer, I made a bigger declaration to myself — that I’m not putting out an album if I can’t be all of me. You’re gonna take the blackness, you’re gonna take the fact that I love science fiction. You’re gonna take the fact that I am a free ass motherfucker. You’re gonna take that all in and because that is what you’re gonna get.
Read the full interview on them.’s website
Photographer: Justin French
Stylist: Solange Franklin
Hair Stylist: Nikki Nelms
Makeup Artist: Jessica Smalles
Set Designer: Kate Stein
Manicurist: Anjaneth Aguirre
Video: Julia Pitch