Janelle Monáe Robinson were born December 1, 1985 and are an American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and record producer.

They were born in Kansas City, Kansas and were raised in a working-class community of Kansas City, Quindaro. Their mother, Janet, worked as a janitor and a hotel maid. Their father, Michael Robinson Summers, was a truck driver. Monáe’s parents separated when Monáe were a toddler and their mother later married a postal worker. Monáe have a younger sister, Kimmy, from their mother’s remarriage.

Monáe were raised Baptist and learned to sing at a local church. Their family members were musicians and performers at the local AME church, the Baptist church, and the Church of God in Christ. They dreamed of being a singer and a performer from a very young age, and have cited the fictional character of Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz as a musical influence. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which Monáe bought two copies of with their first check, was another source of their inspiration. They performed songs from the album on Juneteenth talent shows, winning three years in a row.

As a teenager, Monáe were enrolled in the Coterie Theater’s Young Playwrights’ Round Table.

Monáe attended F. L. Schlagle High School. After high school, they moved to New York City to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where they were the only black woman in their class. 

After a year and a half, Monáe dropped out of the academy and relocated to Atlanta, enrolling in Perimeter College at Georgia State University. They began writing their own music and performing around the campus. In 2003, Monáe self-released a demo album titled The Audition, which they sold out of the trunk of their Mitsubishi Galant. During this period, Monáe became acquainted with songwriters and producers Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder. The three would eventually form the Wondaland Arts Collective. They worked at an Office Depot but were fired for answering a fan’s e-mail using a company computer, an incident that inspired the song “Lettin’ Go”, which in turn attracted the attention of Big Boi.

Big Boi told his friend Sean Combs about Monáe, whom at the time Combs had not yet heard. Combs soon visited Monáe’s MySpace page and according to an interview with Bad Boy Records A&R person Daniel ‘Skid’ Mitchell, Combs loved it right away: he loved her look, loved that you couldn’t see their body, loved the way they were dancing, and just loved the vibe. He felt like they had something that was different–something new and fresh. 

Monáe signed to Bad Boy in 2006. The label’s chief role was in facilitating her exposure on a much broader scale rather than developing the artist and their music. Combs and Big Boi wanted to take their time and build their profile organically and allow the music to grow rather than put out a hot single which everyone jumps on, and then they fade because it’s just something of the moment.

In August 2012, Monáe were chosen as CoverGirl’s newest spokesperson. In September 2012, Monáe performed at CarolinaFest in support of President Obama, just before the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. In October 2012, Monáe starred in a commercial for the Sonos Wireless HiFi home audio system, and appeared in a Sonos commercial in 2012 with Deep Cotton. Boston City Council named October 16, 2013 “Janelle Monáe Day” in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, in recognition of their artistry and social leadership.

Monáe’s voice is heard as veterinarian Dr. Monáe in the movie Rio 2, released in the U.S. on April 11, 2014, and their song “What Is Love” was featured on the soundtrack. In April 2014, Monáe were invited to perform along with Tessanne Chin, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Ariana Grande, and Melissa Etheridge at the White House as a part of their PBS-broadcast “Women of Soul” event, which celebrated American women artists whose work has left an indelible and profound impact on American national musical culture. 

On April 14, 2014, Monáe were the recipient of the inaugural Harvard College Women’s Center Award for Achievement in Arts and Media for their achievements as an artist, advocate and feminist. They were also recognized as the 2014 Woman of the Year by the Harvard College Black Men’s Forum at their annual Celebration of Black Women gala. 

In February 2015, Monáe along with Epic Records and its CEO and chairman L.A. Reid announced that Monáe’s independent label Wondaland Arts Society had signed a joint venture partnership to revamp the label, now known as Wondaland Records, and to promote the artists on the label. With this move, Monáe have become one of the few black women who run their own independent record label in conjunction with a major record label.

On August 14, 2015, Monáe, alongside the body of their Atlanta-based Wondaland Arts Society collective, performed their protest song “Hell You Talmbout”, which raised awareness of the many black lives that were taken as a result of police brutality. She also gave a speech about police brutality after their performance on NBC’s Today Show.

By March 15, 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama proclaimed that she had assembled a collaborative track featuring vocals from Monáe, Kelly Clarkson, Zendaya and Missy Elliott, alongside production credit from pop songwriter Diane Warren and Elliott, titled “This Is for My Girls”. The iTunes-exclusive record was used to both coincide with Obama’s Texan SXSW speech and to promote the First Lady’s third-world educational initiative Let Girls Learn.

In October 2016, Monáe made her big screen acting debut in the critically acclaimed film Moonlight, alongside Naomie Harris, André Holland, and Mahershala Ali. Monáe also starred in the film Hidden Figures, alongside actors Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer; the film was released in December 2016.

They replaced Julia Roberts in the second season of the Amazon Prime Video series, Homecoming. Also in 2019, they co-starred in the film Harriet, about abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Monáe will return to the big screen twice in 2020, with their first lead role coming in August 2020 with horror film Antebellum, and another supporting role later in the year with biopic The Glorias.

Monáe has a mezzo-soprano voice.

Monáe has said they have an alter-ego named Cindi Mayweather who according to Monáe is from the year 2719. They explained that Cindi is the mediator between the mind and the hand. The mediator between the haves and the have-nots, the oppressed and the oppressor. She’s like the Archangel in the Bible, and what Neo represents to the Matrix.

Funk music of 1960s through 1980s is a prevalent music style influencing Monáe. Monáe has also referred to theirselves as a “funkstress”.

Monáe’s signature style is her tuxedo wardrobe. They said that the tux keeps them balanced. They look at theirselves as a canvas. They don’t want to cloud theirselves with too many colors or they’ll go crazy. Monáe’s signature look harkens back to dandyism. Citing Grace Jones and Josephine Baker as role models, Monáe take the classical 18th-century look in the classical white and black pattern. Monáe’s signature look can also be attributed to the early days in their career, when they were employed as a maid. They mentioned this in their acceptance speech for the “Young, Gifted, and Black” award at the 2012 Black Girls Rock! ceremony.

Monáe has been known to distribute their Ten Droid Commandments which encourage their fans to be individuals.

They describe tuxedos as being a uniform for their career and wanting to redefine how women dress.

Monáe have said they identify with both bisexuality and pansexuality.