Janelle Monae On Finding Your Passion: “Don’t Compromise Your Convictions”

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Anyone who is a fan of Janelle Monae knows there is something unique about her. She has her own style, doesn’t cover the page of every tabloid magazine, and isn’t recognized for controversy in the pop world. In fact, by pop music standards, she could be considered “boring” because she is an outspoken advocate of hard work, honoring your parents, and honoring your body.

Because of these traits she was featured in Marie Claire magazine’s “At Work” pullout section, where she talks about the secret to her success being uncompromised passion. She is often seen in her signature tuxedo, which has great significance to her and her family. Marie Claire’s Jada Yuan acknowledges that Monae prefers catchy hooks and and awesome on-stage performances rather than objectifying her body to get attention.

Before the slut-shame police start wailing their sirens, this is not about railing against other pop stars who do the opposite. The message is much deeper than just about physical appearance, so please do us the courtesy of reading on, and if you still have a problem, then perhaps you ought to tweet Monae.

ANYWAY! Janelle Monae wears a suit not in defiance to scantily clad women in music, but to honor her parents. Her mom got pregnant as a teen and worked as a janitor to make ends meet. Her father was a trash collector and an ex-con who was known in prison for singing in exchange for soap and food. Creativity and hard work comes in many forms! The suit, Janelle said in an interview in September 2013, is a reminder that she too has “work to do” and wants to carry out that message to her fans.

During high school, Kansas-born Janelle made the most of her free time creating music, and making ends meet, when she could’ve easily been a typical teen and rebelled. She worked as a maid which enabled her to save up to go to a performing arts school in Manhattan. During college in Atlanta, she worked at an Office Depot at night and used their computers to start her social media following as she had also started performing at various colleges at this point.

Soon after she was spotted by Big Boi from Outkast who heard a demo tape she made, and sent it to P Diddy who signed her to his Bad Boy records. She tells Marie Claire that her signature style is more important than ever, as it makes a loud statement against the sexualization of women in the media and music especially.

“There were no women who performed fully clothed—still to this day there aren’t. To me, that was a problem, to say, ‘If you want to be in the music industry, you need to be able to sell sex … I want to be in control of my body. I don’t ever want a man or woman to tell me to dress that way. I think it’s up to me.”

She also says she prefers to spend less time worrying about her appearance, and more on the message she is putting into the world with her music.

“If I have to think about my outfit longer than, like, two minutes, I’ve wasted time,” Monáe says. “Who wants to think about ‘What am I going to wear at this performance?’ I need to be focusing on creating, changing the world.”

For Janelle the uniform look is also a conversation starter, and an opportunity to share the story of her parents, and why hard work is important. Perhaps more pop stars need to be showing their fans the value of hard work, rather than just being outwardly good-looking.

Here are her 3 secrets to finding your passion and taking it from an idea to a career:

1. Devote your free time to your passion.

2. Cultivate a distinct brand.

3. Don’t compromise your convictions.

If going against the grain to stay fully clothed meant your unique road to success, wouldn’t you take it? The message here is that while being beautiful and acknowledging your sexiness can be empowering it should not be the only thing that holds value in your life. Looks fade and people change, but hard work can last through any fad, trend or generations. It never goes out of style.

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10 Comments

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