Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe was never a typical R&B singer. She based her music around a science fiction concept of a dystopian world called "Metropolis," and developed the alter ego of an android, Cindi Mayweather, living in the year 2719. For all the visionary trappings of her music, Monáe was also a straightforward pop singer who fully engaged with the 21st-century pop mainstream, starring in makeup commercials for a major international brand and finding success in the animated cartoon feature "Rio 2" (2014) and period drama "Hidden Figures" (2016). Janelle Monáe Robinson was born on December 1, 1985 in Kansas City, Kansas. As a child, Monáe often lived in her own imaginary world, which would later inspire her music. Monáe moved to New York to study drama at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and also went to a performing arts school called Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia. Monáe moved to Atlanta in 2001, where she met her early mentor, rapper and producer Big Boi from OutKast. Founding her own arts collective and record label, Wondaland Arts Society, Monáe self-released her first EP, The Audition. Although The Audition didn't get much exposure, it did bring Monáe to the attention of Sean "Puffy" Combs, who signed her to his Bad Boy label in 2006. There, Monáe began plotting out an ambitious series of concept recordings collectively known as "Metropolis," the story of a runaway android named Cindi Mayweather in the year 2719. First came the EP Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase), a critically-acclaimed released that earned Monáe an opening slot for No Doubt in 2009. Monáe kept forging ahead with the Metropolis concept, releasing her full-length debut The ArchAndroid in 2010. Featuring the hit singles "Tightrope" and "Cold War," the acclaimed album was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards. Monáe also won the ASCAP Vanguard Award at the Billboard Music Awards in 2010. In keeping the multimedia reality of modern pop stardom, Monáe then became a spokeswoman for an extensive TV and print ad campaign for CoverGirl, and also appeared in commercials for Sonos Wireless HiFi. Monáe became a bona fide pop star when her guest performance on the song "We Are Young" by the New York alt-rock act Fun. became a number-one hit in 2012. Monáe's second solo album, The Electric Lady, came out in September 2013, continuing the Metropolis storyline and featuring the hit single "Q.U.E.E.N.," with a guest spot by Queen Latifah. She then performed at a "Women of Soul" concert at the White House along with legends Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, and more. In addition to her successful music career, Monáe provided the voice of Dr. Monáe in the animated hit "Rio 2" (2014), and also wrote and performed a song for the soundtrack, "What Is Love." Monae's acting career took a major stride forward with her starring role alongside Octavia Spencer in the '60s-set NASA-based drama "Hidden Figures" (2016). Following a five-year break from music, which she attributed partly to the death of her idol and latter-day mentor Prince, Monáe returned with the album Dirty Computer in April 2018. While doing press for the album, Monáe addressed her sexuality for the first time, declaring herself "pansexual" in an interview with Rolling Stone.