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.
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.
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.