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.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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