Electric Lady: Janelle Monáe On Starting A Movement


In a world where pop stars can sprout from YouTube or a syndicated singing show, Janelle Monáe is one of a kind.

The 29-year-old Kansas City songstress danced her way to the top of the charts in a suit and bowtie for her first single “Tight Rope” and pushed out her stellar debut ArchAndroid in 2010. Three years later, she followed up with the funkadelic Electric Lady LP featuring Solange, Miguel, Prince and Erykah Badu.

Now, the bouffant-rocking Cover Girl is putting her business acumen to work as the founder of Wondaland Records, an imprint of Sony Music Entertainment’s Epic Records. She recently looped in VIBE over email on her latest venture, her unique bag necessities and her business motto.

The first moment I realized making music was my dream:
According to my Aunt Gloria, it was apparent that making music was my dream after she took me to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” concert in my hometown Kansas City. The next morning I went to church and started beating on the back of a pew, tapping and singing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” extremely loud during my pastor’s sermon! The whole church chuckled, and I believe I was escorted out. That moment gave me great joy and extra confidence.

How I launched Wondaland Records:
In general, I was inspired to start Wondaland Records after seeing there was a big absence of female entrepreneurs in the music industry who understand how to develop and market innovative artists, artists who truly care about community and redefining the creative waters in the music industry. I’ve always been inspired to do more than just be an artist in the industry and treasured businesswomen such as Julie Greenwald and Sylvia Rhone, and admired artists such as Madonna and what she did with Maverick Records. I want to be recognized for not only my innovation musically, but for innovations on the business end.

That said, this specific record label is the result of a joint effort, a joint dream in which a group of artists set out to swim towards a boat all together, and in some ways, I’m a lifeguard, a master facilitator, making sure that everyone has their own water and space to swim in and that nobody is left behind.

Wondaland Records is our boat, our beacon. It’s like home.

The hardest challenge I faced while pursuing my dream because I was a woman:
Honestly, I try not to assume I am being treated a certain way because I am a young woman. I don’t like envisioning myself as a victim. However, being in a male-dominated industry, there have been blatant moments of sexism that I have had to address head on. Sometimes people just don’t know any better, so I give them the benefit of the doubt and use it as an opportunity to educate them on sexism.

Finding the balance of articulating my thoughts and feelings has been a challenge that I am mastering. “I come in peace, but mean business” is my motto. It’s a healthy balance of good, loving and kind energy mixed with healthy debate and criticism. Overall, I believe that women have a unique position in this world. We have the ability to be strong yet compassionate at the same time. We have the ability to be strong and resilient, guiding lights even when we are at our most vulnerable, and I plan on using these superpowers in all my future endeavors.

My bag necessities:
In my bag of life, I carry my peace, compassion, fun, creativity, and strength.

My favorite superhero:
My favorite superhero is being written by a member of The Wondaland Arts Society. She is a bad ass futuristic hero for young girls to aspire to be like and she will help them find their own unique super powers. Stay tuned.

The definition of a boss:
Being a boss means responsibility. I consider myself a Rebelutionary. Although I am just getting started, I have the potential to shape culture and open up more doors for not just women of color but women globally who have big ideas and vision.

Being a boss means I get an opportunity to show a new way to lead. I hope my leadership skills can change the way people see women in business.

Being a boss means young female artists and women now have an alternate path they can be inspired to take. I am constantly looking to hire and work with young dynamic women that want to help change the world around us through music and art.

Being a boss means I am contributing to the change so many women, including myself, want to see.

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