Janelle Monáe nailed why it's so vital that women be in control of their choices.

How did Janelle Monáe go from being a poor young girl in Kansas City to one of Hollywood's breakout stars of 2016?

According to the music artist and actor, harnessing creativity, finding her confidence, and embracing the power of control were a few key factors.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for TNT​.


In Marie Claire's "2017 Fresh Faces" issue, Monáe opened up on a lot of different issues, like being a black woman in Hollywood — "We have to realize our power and our magic," she noted — and how poverty became her unlikely "superpower" as a kid — "Being poor helped me be more creative," she explained.

One of the more telling tidbits from the interview was Monáe's take on the importance of women having the control to be themselves in a world that's relentlessly trying to mold them into something different.

As she explained:

"It is important for women to be [in control], especially when gender norms and conformity are pushed upon us. Women automatically are told that this is how you should look. This is how you should get a man. This is how you should get a woman. You need to fit into all these boxes to be accepted. I don't subscribe to that way of thinking. ... I believe in embracing what makes you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. I have learned there is power in saying no. I have agency. I get to decide."

So far, Monáe's decisions have shown she's a creative force to be reckoned with.

Monae, already a Grammy-nominated R&B, soul, and pop music artist, made waves on the big screen last year for her performances in "Hidden Figures" and "Moonlight," which were both nominated for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars ("Moonlight," in spectacular fashion, won).

The star, who'd garnered few acting accolades prior to 2016, was celebrated as a force on screen in the two films, which, each in their own way, addressed race, sexuality, gender, and class in America's past and present.

Monáe portrayed Mary Jackson, who'd been a standout engineer at NASA, in "Hidden Figures." Photo by Hopper Stone.

Some music fans may have been pleasantly surprised at Monáe's seamless transition into a Hollywood star. But following her own unconventional path seems to be what Monáe does best: "I don't think we all have to take the same coordinates to reach the same destination," she told Marie Claire.

Spoken like a true trailblazer.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.