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“I honestly feel like I’m just getting started,” says Janelle Monáe, the singer, songwriter, actress, producer, fashion icon and social activist, as we record The Hollywood Reporter‘s Awards Chatter podcast and discuss the momentous past few years of her career.
The 34-year-old, whose music blends pop, funk, soul and R&B, is already an eight-time Grammy nominee. Her third and most recent album, 2018’s Dirty Computer, was Grammy-nominated for album of the year and video of the year in 2019. It had considerable personal significance, as well: It was her first album in which she performed not as her alter ego Cindi Mayweather, an Afrofuturist android freedom fighter who Monáe says “represents marginalized voices,” but instead was herself, a young Black woman who is, as she acknowledged in an interview published the day before the album’s release, pansexual.
Meanwhile, Monáe’s acting career, which launched in 2016 with key parts in Moonlight and Hidden Figures — earning a best picture Academy Award win and a best ensemble SAG Award win, respectively — reached new heights in 2020 with her first leading role. On the second season of Amazon’s drama series Homecoming, she plays a military veteran who wakes up one day in a canoe in the middle of a lake with no memory of her past and has to piece her life back together — and the performance is attracting Emmy buzz.
However, it was clear from our conversation that what is most important to Monáe at the moment is her activism. In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, she is, as she has been for years, at the forefront of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, calling for an end to police brutality and white supremacy as, well, vocally as anyone. “When you heal yourself from things,” she says, “you just feel lighter, you feel like you can do so much. And I feel even more free, I feel even more radical — radical and rebellious is the spirit that I have right now — and that’s in art, that’s in activism and that’s in just my life right now.”
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LISTEN: You can hear the entire interview below.
Past guests include Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Lorne Michaels, Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Gal Gadot, Warren Beatty, Angelina Jolie, Snoop Dogg, Jessica Chastain, Stephen Colbert, Reese Witherspoon, Aaron Sorkin, Margot Robbie, Ryan Reynolds, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Jimmy Kimmel, Natalie Portman, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John, Judi Dench, Quincy Jones, Jane Fonda, Tom Hanks, Amy Schumer, Justin Timberlake, Elisabeth Moss, RuPaul, Rachel Brosnahan, Jimmy Fallon, Kris Jenner, Michael Moore, Emilia Clarke, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Helen Mirren, Tyler Perry, Sally Field, Spike Lee, Lady Gaga, J.J. Abrams, Emma Stone, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Dolly Parton, Will Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Carol Burnett and Norman Lear.
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