The Glorious Return of Afrobella of the Month — Janelle Monae

One of my resolutions for 2009 is to take Afrobella to the next level.

I started hot and heavy in 2006, but I found myself becoming overwhelmed, which resulted in a feeling of inability. I had a vision of a YouTube Channel where I could upload concert videos, beauty tips, and especially, especially awesome interviews with celebrity bellas who inspire me through their style, their music, their hair, and their personalities. Like my Esperanza Spalding interview, but better. Seriously, that one YouTube clip took me forever to complete, and I still see SO much room for improvement. So anyway, I kept getting these opportunities to interview people, and I didn’t know what to do with them, and…you get the picture.

I had a project in mind, but I knew I couldn’t undertake it alone. So I put out a Help Wanted blog post back in November, and that, bellas, is how I discovered Gisele Parson, a video editor and motion graphics designer in NYC who reached out and wanted to bring my vision to life. Check out her demo reel and her portfolio page, and you’ll see why I went with her. Gisele is crazy talented! And I knew with talent like hers, she could help to realize my dreams. I am so happy to be working with Gisele!

I am honored and thrilled to kick off the new year by bringing back the Afrobella of the Month series, by honoring a previously celebrated bella. I’m talking about the lovely and talented Miss Janelle Monae!

To me, Janelle is one of the ultimate symbols of what Afrobella is all about. She loves her all-natural pompadour, she is unafraid to speak her mind or express her personal style, and she most certainly marches to her own funky beat. Fiercely creative, bold, and beautiful. You can either get with Miss Monae, or make way for her. I interviewed her right around my second anniversary, and finally, finally I can share that interview with you all!

We chatted for over 40 minutes, and with Gisele’s editorial eye, we whittled the interview down to three video clips. In part one, we got the hair questions out of the way. Everything Janelle does, she does with purpose — her hair is an important part of who she is.

In part two, Janelle puts the smackdown on dudes yelling in the studio while she’s doing an interview (LOL!). She doesn’t skip a beat while addressing questions about her role in the music industry. Janelle explains Wondaland Arts and her relationship with Big Boi, Diddy, and Bad Boy Records.

In part three, we talk about her look, and the fact that she’s frequently compared to male musicians as versus females. Janelle cites some of her female influences (hello, Grace Jones!) and her goals.

“I’m trying to help redefine the way a woman can perform, the way a woman can wear her hair, the way a woman can dress. I’m so tired of the stereotypes that women have.”

I cannot tell you all how wonderful it was to speak with Janelle, to hear her express admiration and respect for Afrobella, and to find out what inspires her, and to hear about her plans for the future. Keep an eye on her news page to see what she’s up to next — and if you haven’t yet copped Metropolis: The Chase Suite, what are you waiting for?

So bellas, what’d you think? Gisele and I will be working on more exciting videos in the months to come, so keep your eyes on the Afrobella channel!

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Comments

  1. Wonderful – I’ve subscribed to your channel :o)

  2. I will have to watch the videos on my lunch break but I have been waiting for this interview, Bella! I finally stopped procrastinating and hit up Imeem last week to listen to some of her tracks and see her video (Many Moons).

    Man, she is amazing! That voice, her lyrics, her style, everything is so fresh and unique. I am glad she got Grammy recognition and I hope she wins, to get her artistry recognized on a bigger stage. She is truly awesome.

  3. I’m a big fan of Janelle Monae and her music. It’s important that more artists — especially female — come out and do something against the grain. Great interview!

  4. Bella,

    You are really hitting every nerve this year. I created a wall of fame in my work cube for 2009 and Janelle Monae is the lone star – so far. She is a personal style icon who keeps me oh so motivated. Thanks for the videos, which I will be checking out when I get home.

    Oh and congrats with this new creative push with Afrobella!

  5. Fabulous interview. I absolutely adore Janelle Monae.

  6. Finally! I’ve been waiting for this for so long. I’ve been listening to “The Audition” for most of this past fall (“Lettin Go” is afterwork commute jam) and going to cop her latest album right quick. Diddy, please, don’t screw this up! She’s a diamond, just let her shine.

    Also, nice collab with your editrix! Looking forward to more vids!

  7. There is absolutely nothing original about Monae. Her music is yet another trite throwback and her personal style and marketing is ripped off from Bjork.

  8. I absolutely love Janelle Monae! She’s a breath of fresh air and her sound is infectious.

    Just wondering, Ripoff, what makes Monae a clone of Bjork? I can’t really see the comparison other than them both being eclectic personalities with interesting artistic viewpoints (such as Monae’s depiction as an android on her CD cover.) Bjork to me seems far more conceptual and abstract. Personal style wise – Monae seems to favor well tailored clothes, in a menswear-esque style, which doesn’t remind me much of Bjork at all.

  9. I’m glad your taking Afrobella to the next level. I understand completely why you chose Gisele. I look forward to all the new videos and great things coming this year for Afrobella. Rock on, girl.

  10. Ripoff, I can’t disagree more, and this is coming from someone who’s been a Bjork fan since Human Behavior and Venus as a Boy. Janelle’s concept and execution are truly unique. Does she find inspiration from previous artists? Sure – show me a musician who doesn’t. But you can’t come on here calling her a ripoff.. The only ONLY similarity I can come up with is because she’s taken some android-esque photos that may remind you of Bjork’s All is Full of Love video. But there’s more to her than that. Give her (and me, by extension), some credit for having done research.

  11. sincerely says:

    I have been a fan of Janelle’s for a while and I love her voice, songwriting, lyrics she is fabulous! However I do think she should change her style, I get how she’s trying to be different, but it would be nice to see her do something different image wise. I also think that would make her more appealable to a wider audience.

    I also don’t get why she signed with Badboy, they are the worst label on earth! They invested so much time and money in talentless Cassie, clearly the people over there cannot recognise talent!

    I do hope Janelle switches to another label that will promote her better, I think she’d do great internationally if given the right promotion.

    Talented artists should NEVER sign to Badboy!

  12. How do I subscribe to your blog? I don’t see a button to click anywhere.

    Thanks

  13. Very nice interview, very intelligent woman. I like the format, Gisele is good! I like how Janelle is doing her, and how she wants to help other people feel free to express who they are in various ways.

  14. Nicole… I don’t know either! LOL and I totally should. Any of you regular readers know “how to subscribe?” Then you could teach me and Nicole!

  15. Kwana/OrangeStar says:

    Love JANELLE to death, so FLY FRESH TALENTED and ORiGinal…all artists are influenced by other artists to a degree…..While I always like Bjork, and her and Janelle are two diff artists whose work might flow to the same vein…….

  16. One way to subscribe is to hit the RSS feed square in url box (orange and white). Or, if you use a reader (like Google’s) just add subscription in the reader using the url (afrobella.com)

    Hope that helps.

    And Bella, thanks BUNCHES for introducing us to more interesting artists than we hear on the FM.

    b.

  17. flygyrl72 says:

    I LOVE Janelle! I’ve been wearing her album out for awhile now. Thanks for giving her props again. Keeping her on the radar…

  18. There is a difference between derivative-yet-original, and being a biter. This girl’s PERSONAL style is non-existent. And her music sucks.

    Derivative-yet-original – Santogold, Stina Nordestam, MIA

    Biter – Janelle Monae

  19. It’s too bad Janelle is signed with Diddy, I don’t think he knows how to market her.

    Sincerely Jane is my favorite song by her.

  20. nice interview bella! can’t wait for more! and to ripoff, monae and biter should never be in the same sentence. i can not think of any artist who she sounds like or has her style. and to be like bjork would mean that she wouldn’t really have a career, so ur description is false.

  21. Ripoff, we know you’re really Santogold. I’ve been reading about how you follow Janelle Monae’s career and comment on every blog about her.

    Truth is though, that Janelle Monae is about bringing folks together through her music and artistry. So you should not feel so threatened.

    Just jump on the bandwagon and be happy. Just because she got nominated for a Grammy doesn’t make you any less of an artist. We love you too.

    Peace. Spread Love. Like JM says, “Imagination Inspires Nations”

  22. thesouthernlady says:

    wow…thanks for these interviews. It’s nice to know that she comes w/ her hair!

  23. I love Jonelle. What a voice. How happy am I that she keeps on all of her clothes while performing.

    I so happy for the return of Afro bella of the month. Now and I know your very busy and all but if you can ever through in another “lost ones” I will be oh so happy Bella
    Thanks.

  24. i

  25. @nicole- You can subcribe using goggle reader. Open and account with Goggle if you haven’t already and you can have all of the blogs you read listed for you to read daily.

  26. afrobello says:

    Bjork is the LAST person I would compare Ms. Monae to, but I do think her style and music is noticeably derivative. She definitely gives women a new outlook, but she comes off like Andre 3000 in Idlewild. And Santogold must have more to do than post slams about her all over the internet!

  27. *claps* Wow bella! Way to bring Afrobella of the Month back with a bang :) I LOVE JANELLE MONAE. She was a perfect choice. She exemplifies not only the limitless possibilities of our hair but also that we as women simply should not be limited at all. And she is so confident and demands respect. Plus the obvious tons of talent she drips! Thanks Bella

  28. ripoff, clearly you’ve got an ax to grind and I don’t really appreciate it. Everyone’s entitled to their musical opinion, but this ain’t that kind of blog. I keep things positive and drama free around these parts.

  29. Chic Noir – Lost Ones is coming back in 2009 as well! Good looking out =)

  30. I think she’s

  31. ooops! That was me above. I think she’s lovely. Her spirit, music and values are her own and I respect these things tremendously. Here’s to individuality and having the courage to be who you are.

  32. I LOVE Janelle’s style and now I just love her more. Thanks for doing this post!

  33. I don’t know a whole lot about Janelle Monae but since I’m all about supporting black artists (and by “artists” I mean visual artists, writers, musicians, etc.) who do things that push (ideally destroy!) the black envelope, I will definitely check her out.

    I do have a small concern about the videos: The music is competing with the audio interview. It’s okay to open and close with her music but if you’re going to put music in between, the volume needs to be turned down OR find a lyric-free segment and loop it. Ideally I don’t think there should be ANY music during the audio interview.

    I look forward to seeing what you come up with in 2009!

  34. flygyrl72 says:

    Even though I’m LOATHE to give him/her more airtime, clearly RIPOFF is just a troll, whatev…thanks for the laugh & the ridiculous comparisons…WTF does MIA & Santogold have to do w/ Janelle’s style?! Apples & oranges as far as I’m concerned…

  35. I really like that she’s trying to push the boundaries for female performers. She could have been just another chick with a weave and too-tight outfit singing the same old songs. Kudos for doing something different.
    That being said, I’m not really feeling her music.

  36. I think she’s fantastic and the hair is just amazing, also I’m currently transitioning and I’ve heard a lot about essential oils and I was just wondering whether you know which is best to use when transitioning.

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