Grammy-award winning Janelle Monáe is known for her fierce style replete with dapper tuxedos (what she's called her "uniform"); angelic face haloed by a naturally textured, chic updo; and music that explodes with uplifting, radical self-acceptance and creativity. Following hits such as "Tightrope" (which has drawn more than 11 million views on YouTube), Monáe's sophomore studio album, "The Electric Lady," launched in September and she's scheduled to perform in L.A. on Nov. 2 at Club Nokia. We talk with the 27-year-old, who has been a CoverGirl celebrity face since 2012, about embracing individuality and unique beauty.
I've read you want to expand what R&B can be. Along the lines of getting away from being stereotyped and not being boxed into one particular category, how does that relate to your style?
I think there are many different stories. There's no one black experience to sum up the overall black experience in the world. I think as many of them that can get told would be great, and that's what I wanted to do on my new album and I want to do in fashion, is to give a different perspective … I wanted to tell these universal stories in unforgettable ways.
What do you think is the biggest challenge young women have holding on to their individual beauty, and what is your advice on how to maintain it?
I believe the pressure we put on ourselves is the pressure we feel. Everyone has opinions about what you should look like or dress like and some may line up with your own and some may not. When we're being ourselves and are comfortable in our own skin and embracing our individuality — even if it makes others uncomfortable — we are freeing so many people. You never know who's watching you and who's fighting internally about whether they'll love themselves for being a lesbian, love their nose, love their hair or love their size. I think the more comfortable we are as people, the happier we are, then we'll have a healthier, happier world.
In the moment when a woman's challenged to look a different way, is there something she can say in her mind to stay strong similar to 'Wait a second, I feel beautiful and am beautiful the way I am'?
Absolutely … it is our mind we're in control of. Understanding there's constant consumerism and constant marketing being done to us daily that is false. There is absolutely no right way to be exteriorly beautiful.
Where does your inner confidence come from?
Inner confidence is built. It's an accumulation of experiences. I grew up in a very strong-willed family. My mom had eight sisters … and they encouraged us to love ourselves and speak up if something was bothering us. Also, some of it is part of my DNA.
Did you have any beauty or style role models growing up?
I admired Dorothy Dandridge. I have a song on the album [called] "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes". … She was an activist. I think she's just gorgeous, not only on the outside.
Do you feel any pressure being a beauty role model?
No. No. No. No. No. I've been able to collaborate with CoverGirl, which was really cool because I didn't have to change who I was to become a CoverGirl. I also know I may not necessarily be attractive to every person, and that's fine. Those are not my goals. My goal is to bring a message. When you see my face, what am I saying? What do I have to say to young girls? Being a CoverGirl and standing alongside people like Queen Latifah and Sofia [Vergara], I represent diversity … I hope it says [girls] can embrace their uniqueness … We have to be the change we want to see, and I have to let people know ... individuality is what's in. That's the cool thing.