VibeVixen_Janelle_Cover2 VibeVixen_Janelle_Cover2

Janelle Monáe: My Fair Lady

VibeVixen_Janelle_Cover1

VibeVixen_Janelle_Cover2

Photos: Erin Patrice O'Brien

Design: Serra Semi


Janelle_kick

My Fair Lady
When it comes to sophistication and conquering R&B, no one knows the game better than Janelle Monáe. This singer-phenom is a force of nature.

WORDS: Deena Campbell | PHOTOS: Erin Patrice O'Brien

When you hear the name “Janelle Monáe,” pleasant descriptors come to mind—drama-free, beautiful, talented—and for the most part, what you see is what you get. But as she sashays into a brightly lit New York studio for our August cover shoot on a warm afternoon, a new set of adjectives arise—feline, intriguing, powerful.

Navigating the chaos surrounding the stark-white studio, she embodies the muse for her upcoming fourth album, The Electric Lady, which drops September 10th. “An electric lady,” says the 27-year-old, Kansas City-bred singer, “is quirky, unafraid, epic and ‘nicety’—that’s when you’re being nice and nasty, noble and naughty, all at the same damn time.”

 

Janelle_create

 

Her new album is a hodgepodge of electric heavy-hitters, including Prince, Esperanza Spalding, Miquel, and Solange, and delves further into the exploits of Cindi Mayweather, the android heroine of her first EP MetropolisThe Electric Lady serves as Suite IV and V of her sci-fi saga and where Cindi learns more about herself. Much like her cosmic counterpart, Janelle, too, has ripened over time.

That might have something to do with her upbringing. Janelle comes from a working-class family that was backboned by her grandmother, a former Mississippi sharecropper and a mother who worked as a janitor. Her father was a garbage truck driver who struggled with drug addiction, and after years of seeing its negative effects, Janelle moved to Atlanta where she self-produced her demo, Janelle Monáe: The Audition. Grinding is in her genes.

Janelle_shock_mini

“I’ve evolved,” says an excited Janelle. “When you realize it’s your responsibility to be a leader and create the world that you want to see, you have to do it. It’s my responsibility to create music and come up with ideas that keep my community first.” Her personal community includes almost a half million Twitter and Instagram followers—all of whom are waiting with bated breath for The Electric Lady to surface.

I ask a question from @EssKayGA: “Have you considered releasing an all-rap mixtape?” Janelle seems excited at the prospect. “I’m flattered that people wonder that,” she says, smiling. “I love rap music, and I love hip-hop. I use rap as a way to communicate [and tell a story]. Yes, I will keep that in my thoughts.”

While her philosophy is grounded in innovation, style-wise, Janelle hasn’t achieved a myriad of transformations. Her popular tuxedo uniform pays homage to the working-class woman; but she did morph into a rocker chick for her recent “Dance Apocalyptic” video—a total 180 degrees from her norm. Our Instagram follower @christalbaybee noticed her makeover and asked, “Janelle! Your look in the “Dance Apocalyptic” video is SO different from your usual look. What inspired the change?”

Janelle_controlbody

Without hesitation Janelle replies, “I was inspired to create a female rock star. I think an electric lady isn’t to be marginalized. As the narrator and creator of these characters, I have lived by not making myself a slave to my own interpretations of who I am or a slave to your interpretations or anybody’s interpretations of who I am.”

No one knows Janelle’s style better than her stylist, Maeve Reilly who crafted looks for all of Janelle’s recent red carpet appearances, including the all-white Dolce & Gabbana suit she wore to the 2013 BET awards. “Janelle isn’t trendy,” says Maeve. “Tailoring is most important for her. She knows what she likes and she knows what fits. She’s just a classy lady with a great sense of style.”

Her look on set is a fashionista’s wet dream. She steps out of the dressing room in a sparkled Catherine Malandrino jacket that’s complimented with black TopShop pants and Chanel fingerless gloves. Later on, she punctuates her style with snakeskin Christian Louboutins and exquisite broaches. Could she be anymore stunning? A true CoverGirl, Janelle wore the beauty brands lipsticks (Hot 305 and Spellbound 325) and bronzer (Ebony) to mimic a look inspired by the late Dorothy Dandridge.

Janelle_beauty

“What’s it like to be one of the hottest CoverGirl models ever?” I quote our Facebook fan, Kirista Sellers. Honored, Janelle replies, “Thank you! I feel privileged to stand alongside strong women like Ellen DeGeneres, Pink, Sophia Vergara, and Queen Latifah. We come in many shapes and sizes, colors. CoverGirl inspires young girls to dream big and say ‘I can be a CoverGirl too.’”

Her beauty may be blown up on billboards, but her love life is one thing that is definitely not on display. She admits she only dates passionate androids who are smart, idealistic, and funny; however, most of her love life is protected by a well-oiled privacy machine. "An android is my preference," Janelle says coyly. "Two androids and a cyborg. I’m someone who sees your spirit and soul. I love passionate androids; one that knows exactly what it’s going to do in life. I like an android who knows how to handle and support an electric lady's dreams and wings when it's time to fly."

@brialovesmj  bravely questioned, “When are you going to have kids?” After a quick pause, she replies. “When the time is right, everything is about timing. But, right now I’m giving birth to this album.”

Janelle_androidAnd she is—complete with midwife Erykah Badu who is not only featured on “Q.U.E.E.N,” but is also one of her best friends. “‘Q.U.E.E.N’ really developed from a deep conversation Erykah and I were having about a woman’s place in the world. And how we were expected to be freaks and muses and virgin goddesses all at the same time by patriarchal cultures and religions.”

Unfortunately, not all female artists remain relevant while steering clear of sexually-laced lyrics in the midst of a violent society. Janelle’s explanation? She uses her voice as a weapon, and empowers us to use her art as a medicinal treatment. An electric lady indeed.

Stay tuned for behind the scenes footage from our August cover shoot with Janelle!

Styling by Maeve Reilly
Hair by Caprice Green
Makeup by Jessica Smalls
Photography by Erin Patrice O'Brien

From the Web

More on Vibe

Courtesy of Inayah Lamis

Premiere: Inayah Lamis Busts The Windows Out Of Toxic Love In Visuals For "Best Thing"

Breakups are never easy but let Inayah Lamis heal your heart with her cheeky video for "Best Thing." Inspired by true events, the Houston native sings about bitter feelings about love gone astray.

The emotional ballad is simple in production thanks to the presence of an acoustic guitar, allowing Lamis to show off her vocal chops. Reminiscent of 2000s R&B gems like "I Wished You Loved Me" by Tynisha Keli and recent classics like Tink's "Treat Me Like Somebody," Lamis finds the right words that almost anyone can relate to.

"The track “Best Thing” was birthed from a realtime heartbreak," she tells VIBE. "I went into the lab and wrote it while I was ending a relationship that had a strong hold over me. I literally cried in the booth as I was singing it. My hopes are that every woman or man that has been emotionally broken and taken for granted by a lover will feel comfort in knowing that leaving was the best thing they ever did for themselves."

Thanks to her around the way aura, the video plays off her personality with the presence of "Smakie Lamis" taking Lamis out of her sad girl feels over her deceitful partner, allowing her to hop in the whip and bust out some car windows–even if it's not her beau's car. Directed by Michelle Parker, the video also plays up Lamis' Houston swag as she rides around town in a candy green whip.

The budding singer knows how important her songwriting plays a role in her relationship with fans. Lamis previously shared a bit of her writing style with Refinery29, while opening up about the importance of body positivity.

"Anytime something impacts my life, I write it down and make a song out of it," she said. In her previous visuals for "Suga Daddy," the singer turned up the sexy for a good reason. "I've displayed my confidence as a chunky girl in this video. So many people have things to say about curvy, bigger girls. I feel like we're in a space now where we're able to finally have a voice and be free, and still be sexy. Particularly with the wardrobe, I wanted to show some skin, to show those curves, those back rolls, those fat little pockets I got underneath my chin and shit. I wanted to make sure I displayed that and rocked the hell out of it, confidently."

Lamis is gearing up to release her debut EP S.O.L.A.R. (Storytelling Over Lyrics and Rhymes) on Dec. 13. The singer hopes to share more stories her fans will appreciate and the masses will adore. Her come-up is a digital grassroots movement thanks to her remake of Ella Mai's "Boo'd Up" in 2018 leading to her debut studio single  "N.A.S.," an acronym for "Ni**as ain't S**t."

 

View this post on Instagram

 

BEST THING CHALLENGE 🔥 -Stream/Download my new song BEST THING -DM me your videos -No instruments -No music -Just you & your voice -#Bestthingchallenge

A post shared by Aʅʅ I Nҽҽԃ Iʂ Oɳҽ Mιƈ... 🎤 (@inayah_lamis) on Nov 18, 2019 at 12:05am PST

Taking things up a notch, Lamis announced the #BestThingChallenge to welcome fellow sangers to show off their vocals.

Before diving into the challenge, enjoy the visuals for "Best Thing" below.

Continue Reading
Singer Whitney Houston is seen performing on stage during the 2004 World Music Awards at the Thomas and Mack Center on September 15, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Whitney Houston's Close Friend Robyn Crawford Details Romantic Relationship In New Memoir

Whitney Houston's personal life has been explored ten times over since her untimely passing in 2012 but one of her closest friends wants to share with the world the Whitney she knew and ultimately fell in love with.

In excerpts to People Wednesday (Nov. 6), Robyn Crawford presents a strong bond between the two in her new memoir, A Song For You: My Life With Whitney Houston. The singer and Crawford met in their youth while working at a summer camp in East Orange, New Jersey. From there, their friendship blossomed into something more romantic. With homophobia running rampant in the 80s, Crawford says they never looked at labels but enjoyed the experiences they shared together.

“We never talked about labels, like lesbian or gay,” writes Crawford. “We just lived our lives and I hoped it could go on that way forever.”

As their journey continued, Whitney's star began to rise which put allegedly put their romance on ice. “She said we shouldn’t be physical anymore,” writes Crawford. "Because it would make our journey even more difficult. She said if people find out about us, they would use this against us....and back in the ’80s, that’s how it felt. I kept it safe. I found comfort in my silence.”

Whitney's relationship with Crawford was mentioned in the 2018 documentary Whitney. Created by the singer's estate, the film focused on the singer's legacy and didn't include first-hand accounts from Crawford. Family members were weary of their special friendship.

"I’ve never seen them do anything but I know that she was something that I didn’t want my sister to be involved with," Whitney's brother Gary stated in the documentary.

But Crawford is finally ready to tell her own story while "lifting" Houston's legacy.

“I wanted to lift her legacy, give her respect and share the story of who she was before the fame, and in that, to embrace our friendship,” she tells People. "I'd come to the point where I felt the need to stand up for our friendship. And I felt an urgency to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent."

A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston is expected to hit bookshelves this fall.

Continue Reading
Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Black Music Honors

Keke Wyatt Announces That She's Pregnant With Her Tenth Child

Keke Wyatt has news to share that concerns expanding her family tree. On Monday (Oct. 14), the "If Only You Knew" singer revealed that she's pregnant with her tenth child.

"My husband Zackariah Darring and I are so happy to announce that we are expecting our new bundle of joy!" she wrote on Instagram. "We are excited to welcome the 10th addition to our beautiful family."

The vocalist continued to state that fans can follow her pregnancy journey on her YouTube series The Keke Show where she gives an intimate look at how she balances her career and motherhood.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

My husband Zackariah Darring and I are so happy to announce that we are expecting our new bundle of joy! We are excited to welcome the 10th addition to our beautiful family. Stay tuned for the release date & information for my new YouTube Series “The Keke Show” where you will see me balancing Wife, Mommy and Artist!!! Trust me.. it’s never a dull moment with my family. Love ya sugars💋💋💋 photo credit: @keever_west Styled/Designed by: @keever_west Asst: @freddyoart

A post shared by Keke Wyatt (@keke_wyatt) on Oct 14, 2019 at 4:43pm PDT

In an interview with The Christian Post, Wyatt said she believes she has "an anointing with motherhood" and looks at her children as fuel to keep striving in her career.

"I just don't believe in shutting down. I believe in that's what the Lord had for me," she said. "Babies don't get in the way of careers, we get in the way of careers. If that's what the Lord had for me from the very beginning, there's nothing nobody can do and nobody can say."

Continue Reading

Top Stories