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KOKOnista Of The Day: Multitalented Janelle Monáe Is Bold, Beautiful And Badass Quirky

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Janelle Monae wears many hats, including singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer. She’s bold, beautiful and quirky.

Janelle Monáe Robinson was in Kansas City, Kansas and was raised in a working-class community of Kansas City, Quindaro. Her mother, Janet, worked as a janitor and a hotel maid. Her father, Michael Robinson Summers, was a truck driver.
Monáe’s parents separated when Monáe was a toddler and her mother later married a postal worker. Monáe has a younger sister, Kimmy, from their mother’s remarriage.
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Monáe was raised Baptist and learned to sing at a local church. Her family members were musicians and performers at the local AME church, the Baptist church, and the Church of God in Christ. Monáe dreamed of being a singer and a performer from a very young age, and has cited the fictional character of Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz as a musical influence. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which Monáe bought two copies of with her first check, was another source of inspiration.
As a teenager, Monáe was enrolled in the Coterie Theater’s Young Playwrights’ Round Table, which began writing musicals. One musical, completed when she was around the age of 12, was inspired by the 1979 Stevie Wonder album Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants”.

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Monáe attended F. L. Schlagle High School, and after high school, moved to New York City to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where she was the only black woman in her class. Monáe enjoyed the experience, but feared that she might lose her edge and “sound, or look or feel like anybody else”. In a 2010 interview Monáe explained, “I felt like that was a home but I wanted to write my own musicals. I didn’t want to have to live vicariously through a character that had been played thousands of times – in a line with everybody wanting to play the same person.”


After a year and a half, Monáe dropped out of the academy and relocated to Atlanta, enrolling in Perimeter College at Georgia State University. She began writing her own music and performing around the campus. In 2003, Monáe self-released a demo album titled The Audition, which she sold out of the trunk of a Mitsubishi Galant. During this period she worked at an Office Depot but was fired for answering a fan’s e-mail using a company computer, an incident that inspired the song “Lettin’ Go”, which in turn attracted the attention of Big Boi.


Monáe is signed to Atlantic Records, as well as to her own imprint, the Wondaland Arts Society. Monáe has received eight Grammy Award nominations. Monáe won an MTV Video Music Award and the ASCAP Vanguard Award in 2010. Monáe was also honored with the Billboard Women in Music Rising Star Award in 2015 and the Trailblazer of the Year Award in 2018. In 2012, Monáe became a CoverGirl spokesperson. Boston City Council named October 16, 2013 “Janelle Monáe Day” in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, in recognition of her artistry and social leadership.

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She has starred in major motion pictures, including Hidden Figures and Academy Award Best Picture winner, Moonlight. She has eight Grammy nominations and has been awarded the MTV Music Video Award and the Billboard Women in Music Rising Star Award.

Photo Credit: Getty

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