Them, Condé Nast’s LGBTQ+ brand, unveiled its first cover, featuring Janelle Monáe. For the story, Monáe is interviewed by Lizzo, discussing coming out, freedom, and living and loving out loud.
Lizzo: Do you have any words for those who are struggling with their sexuality or coming out? At any age, but especially for young people.
“Don’t allow yourself to feel any pressure other than the pressure you put on you. And I think there’s so much power in not labeling yourself. That said, there’s also power in saying “This is how I identify,” and having community with the folks you identify with. Everyone is on a journey of self-discovery, and those of us who may not understand others’ journeys should be more empathetic and tolerant and supportive. A big thing for me is just being patient with myself, and not allowing myself to make decisions based in fear, or a fear of people not understanding me. And it’s hard. You go through experiences where you feel fearful, and you end up being depressed, or having anxiety, and not taking care of you. But that fear should not get in the way of how you love or who you love.”
How do you feel about the state of queer acceptance in 2019?
“To be young, queer, and black in America means that you can be misunderstood. You can be hated. It also means that you can be celebrated and loved. And I think there’s a lot at stake when you’re living out loud in that way. One thing I’ve realized even more was that when you walk in your truth, you can inspire and encourage people to walk in theirs.”
I think representation is so important. I wanna see drag queens at the Oscars. I wanna see a drag queen host the Oscars. Can that happen?
“I think the entertainment industry has not caught up. We’re making some waves, but we can do better. And again, it’s about normalizing and telling more stories, and inviting more LGBTQIA+ folks into the conversation on the front end, and giving us a seat at the table early on. Because we can’t afford to see things in a binary way. That’s not how the world works.”
Can you walk me through your character arc from The ArchAndroid all the way to Dirty Computer, and all of the things you’ve learned about yourself through your music?
“The beauty of art is that it reveals itself over time, even to the artists who create it.
With ArchAndroid, I knew what I wanted the content to be, and I used the tools that I knew how to use at that time to create it. In my projects, I always challenge myself to grow and learn my voice and how to stretch beyond what I can comfortably do. So I started to engineer myself more, which meant I got to spend more time with me. I produced as well. And I’m a writer, and a storyteller. So as I grow and as I’m taking in information and growing at this exponential rate, I try my best to create music and albums that support that, that allow me to completely be all of me.
With Dirty Computer, I made a bigger declaration to myself — that I’m not putting out an album if I can’t be all of me. You’re gonna take the blackness, you’re gonna take the fact that I love science fiction. You’re gonna take the fact that I am a free ass motherfucker. You’re gonna take that all in and because that is what you’re gonna get.
When you think about the state of this country, when you think about who’s in office, when you think about having a Vice President who believes in conversion therapy, and you think about how 77 percent of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed in 2018 report feeling depressed or down over the past week — I didn’t think that this album could wait.
I read from the Trevor Project that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24. And that LGB youth contemplate suicide at at least three times the rate of a heterosexual youth. When you think about our trans brothers and sisters, our trans sisters being murdered, and when you just look at the state of the world, and when I’m working on an album like Dirty Computer that is centered around uplifting marginalized groups and those who feel isolated and outcast from our society, this album couldn’t wait. I had to get really focused.
And I also didn’t wanna filter myself. I wanted to say it how I felt it. If I was upset, if I was feeling sexually liberated, if I was feeling afraid and vulnerable, whatever feelings I had, I laid it all out on the table. Once I finished, that was how I measured success. That’s how I measured if I was gonna be proud of this work — did I show up? Did I show up?”
Cover: Aisling Camps Top | Versace Skirt | Alighieri Earrings | Alighieri Earrings Worn Over Nipples
First Image: Ioannes Dress, Gloves, and Boots | Khiry Earrings
Second Image: Peter Do Blazer and Trousers | Khiry Earrings
[Photo Credit: Justin French/Them Magazine]