Date of Birth: December 1, 1985
Six-time Grammy-nominee Janelle Monáe burst onto the music scene in 2010 when she released her first full-length album The ArchAndroid, and has since branched out to modeling and acting, appearing in various ad campaigns and films such as the critically acclaimed drama Moonlight (2016).
Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Janelle always wanted to be an artist, and began performing when she was just a child. She attended an arts camp called Freedom Theatre, then went on to study drama at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. In 2001, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she met Outkast frontman Big Boi, who would help launch her career. During this time, she formed the Wondaland Arts Society and released her debut album, The Audition (2003). While the record failed to chart, it did showcase her impressive vocals and garnered her attention from other artists.
Janelle got her big break in 2005 when she was asked to appear on a few tracks on Outkast's Idlewild. Then, in 2007, she released her first solo album Metropolis, which was later renamed Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition) after she signed to Sean "Puffy" Comb's label, Bad Boy Records. The album's single "Many Moons" earned a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
Despite critical success from her first release, it wasn't until her second release that Janelle would grab the full attention of the masses. In 2010, she released her first full-length, major label album The ArchAndroid, which peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard charts, and was nominated for the Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2011. The EP included the single "Tightrope," which was an instant hit and put her on the map as a singular new artist of her generation.
With its mix of funk, soul, and rock, The ArchAndroid’s unique concept was actually borne out of Janelle's long-time alter-ego Cindi Mayweather, whom she spoke of to MTV in 2009: "Cindi is an android and I love speaking about the android because they are the new 'other.' People are afraid of the other and I believe we’re going to live in a world with androids because of technology and the way it advances. The first album she was running because she had fallen in love with a human and she was being disassembled for that."
That same year, Janelle appeared in fun.'s smash hit, Grammy-winning single "We Are Young," which was featured on their Grammy-nominated album Some Nights. The song shot all the way to number one on the Top 40 Billboard chart, and catapulted Janelle even higher into musical superstardom. Her success allowed her to capitalize on her newfound fame — in 2002, she became a spokeswoman for CoverGirl cosmetics.
In September 2013, Janelle released her sophomore studio album The Electric Lady, which produced the hit single "Q.U.E.E.N." and featured a guest appearance by Prince. The following year, she deviated from her music roots and made her feature film debut in the animated adventure sequel Rio 2 (2014), lending her voice to the character of Dr. Monáe. She continued this standout year by earning a Harvard College Women's Center Award for Achievement in Arts and Media.
February 2015 found Janelle collaborating with Epic Records and its CEO, L.A. Reid, to form an independent label called Wondaland Records. Through their partnership with Epic, Janelle and Wondaland released The Eephus, which reached the top five on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart.
Although Janelle had only appeared (in cartoon form) in one film up until that point, the multi-talented performer continued to pursue acting and landed the highly sought-after role of Teresa in the critically acclaimed drama Moonlight (2016) alongside Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, and Mahershala Ali. The film follows a young man as he grows up and attempts to come to terms with his sexuality while living in a dangerous part of Miami. She then starred opposite Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer in the biopic Hidden Figures (2017), which tells the true story of three African American female scientists who helped John Glenn become the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of the Earth.
In an interview with Billboard in 2016, Janelle said both of the films mirror her psychedelic yet futuristic R&B style, which often addresses issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, and the idea of "the other." "The themes that we tackle in Moonlight and Hidden Figures are in my music," she said. "To me, feeling like the other as a woman or as a member of the LGBTQ community is parallel to what it will be like for androids in the future."
Janelle has long faced rumors that she is gay, and in an interview on the radio talk show Sway in the Morning, she responded with, “Women are amazing... and so are guys. There’s nothing wrong with being bisexual, there’s nothing wrong with being lesbian or gay. I am an advocate. I have friends who are in same sex relationships and I feel love has no sexual orientation. Love has no religious belief. Love is the purest and most important thing we can possess for ourselves and for others.”
Janelle can currently be seen starring on the second season of Amazon Prime Video's popular series, Homecoming.
Hidden Figures (2017)
Rio 2 (2014)