“When I started my music career, I was a maid. I used to clean houses. My mother was a proud janitor. My stepfather, who raised me like his very own, worked at the post office and my father was a trashman. They all wore uniforms and that’s why I stand here today, in my black and white, and I wear my uniform to honor them.
This is a reminder that I have work to do. I have people to uplift. I have people to inspire. And today, I wear my uniform proudly as a Cover Girl. I want to be clear, young girls, I didn’t have to change who I was to become a Cover Girl. I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness.”
“Janelle Monáe is a decidedly political artist. She’s the kind of creative voice we need. Someone whose work helps you make sense of yourself and the times. What sets her apart is not a willingness to speak but an ability to deliver multilayered analysis of complicated social issues. Since her mixtape days, she has, sonically, lyrically, and aesthetically articulated a vision for liberation.
Monáe harnesses the power of marrying popular art and Black feminism. Pop culture and mass media are prime avenues for this exploration, and Monáe continues a long tradition of Black women who have used their platforms to advance a freedom agenda. Her aesthetic harkens back to the zenith of Black feminist creative works: the 1970s.
Her visage is a highly influential one. While the revolutionary potential of women’s aesthetics are often downplayed, Monáe sends messages via how she adorns her body. Her choice to wear black and white, for example, is a nod to her working class parents and low wage workers. And her hair, hair having long been a site of political expression for Black women, remains unstraightened nearly all the time.
We are witnessing the possibilities of Heroic Black female leadership wherein women are in front and not consumed with ego because the mission extends beyond self-interest. Wondaland builds upon it as Janelle Monáe and her squad partake in varied forms of activism that serve as an an ode to the cultural moment and larger movement that made her leadership possible. There is a direct line from the Black woman-led organizing of Black Lives Matter and Wondaland.”