If you’re a longtime fan of Janelle Monáe — who’s nonbinary and uses both she and they pronouns — you’re probably familiar with the black and white tuxedos and suits they’ve worn for years. Wearing their “uniform” was a way of honoring working class people, like their parents, who often wear uniforms.
And if you’ve been keeping up with her, you might’ve noticed that — in addition to the praise — she’s gotten some confusion and even criticism of late for shedding her uniform. Last month, the singer flashed her breasts during a performance, and she shows them off in the music video for “Lipstick Lover” and the artwork for her new album, The Age of Pleasure.
Well, Janelle opened up about this evolution in a new interview with StyleLikeU for the What’s Underneath series.
The actor shared that when she consistently wore her uniform, people came up to her with comments like, “I’m so happy you’re covered up, not like those women.” Janelle never took that as a compliment and was quick to shut the shaming down. “No, no, no. We will not do that.”
On the flip side, they recalled stylists pressuring them to wear dresses, saying, “You’re a new artist — you’re hot.” Janelle refused, explaining, “I’m honoring me, and also, I wanna bring a new perspective. I wanna show that whether I show skin or I don’t, I’m sexy.”
It wasn’t until she realized that people were trying to take away her autonomy, in a society where patriarchy and misogyny encourages folks to fight among themselves, that everything fell into place for her. Now, she’s honoring all parts of herself — despite the people who haven’t followed her evolution and are saying she just wants attention.
When asked about the biggest insecurity she’s overcome, she sang, “My boobies.”
The singer explained that when she first started wearing her uniform, her breasts were smaller. As she became more curvy, she started to feel uncomfortable.
“It took me years to get comfortable with my boobs. It’s probably why I’m like, ‘Wooo freedom,'” they said with a shimmy. “I can only imagine the horror stories that happened to my ancestors, but I was always taught, ‘Do not do anything that will make men be attracted to you.’ It took me a long time to realize that it’s not my responsibility to adjust my freedom in order to make you comfortable, in order to make you not try to rape or molest me.”
“I’m having an earth experience where I’m expressing myself, I’m trying to honor my body, honor my fullness. I’m not asking for your attention. I should not be made to feel bad or be shamed because you cannot control your own urges,” they concluded.