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Janelle Monáe Teaches Lessons of Pleasure, Creativity, and Self Love

Janelle Monáe Teaches Lessons of Pleasure, Creativity, and Self Love

<p>Janelle Monáe Teaches Lessons of Pleasure, Creativity, and Self Love</p>
Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

The nonbinary musician and actor unapologetically centered queer Black femme sexuality in her 2023 album, Age of Pleasure.

Janelle Monáe’s journey as an artist and human over the last several years has been a privilege and pleasure to witness. In addition to achieving wild success as a musician with hit-filled albums like The Electric Lady and Dirty Computer, Monáe has proven that their talent doesn’t end there. She’s received much attention and critical acclaim for her acting over the last decade (Antebellum, Hidden Figures), most recently for her fascinating dual role in 2022’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Monáe, who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns, has been very open about many of their personal evolutions as well. They came out as pansexual in 2018, then revealed that they identified as nonbinary in 2022.

In addition to the 37-year-old singer-songwriter, performer, and actor being crazy talented, they’re also undeniably aesthetically pleasing. Monáe’s eclectic, ever-evolving sense of style brings to mind icons like Josephine Baker, Grace Jones, Prince, Madonna, and David Bowie. They can shift from bright-eyed, tuxedo-clad ingenue to sultry, barefoot sex goddess in a bikini with enviable ease.

And sultry, barefoot sex goddess is certainly the vibe Monáe is giving with her fourth full-length studio album, Age of Pleasure, which released in June. If the cover art (Monáe swimming nude underwater through a “tunnel” of legs) doesn’t let you know what you’re in for, her super-hot, Sapphic-themed video for the track “Lipstick Lover” will. The video, and aptly named album, boldly celebrate female sexuality in a refreshingly fun and joyous way. Age of Pleasure’s message is clear — it’s all about unapologetic, Black, queer femme sexual liberation.

“I knew I was queer a long, long time ago,” Monáe recently told W when asked if she had any famous crushes. “Well, I will say I was obsessed with Nia Long. I thought Nia Long was just so hot, so attractive…. She just like, got me hot and bothered.”

“I was always attracted to Bowie,” they added, “but I didn’t know if I wanted to be Bowie or be with Bowie, it was one of those things. It was more of an energy. Oh, and I love Tupac! I just swore he was gonna be my boyfriend.”

It seems as though Monáe’s Age of Pleasure is not just the name of their album, but also their new mantra in life. She appears to be embracing life’s pleasures with both hands and enjoying every minute of it without apology — a message that historically is not often directed toward women.

“Anytime I’m able to do experiences just for fun — not for work, not selling anything, no makeup [or] dressing up — getting in touch with like, my child-like self,” she also told W. “Just reminding me that I can reimagine myself, any way that I want to.”

And Monáe is paying all that pleasure and positivity forward, often using their platform to support a variety of worthy causes. They have a particular interest in helping LGBTQ+ youth. In 2022, they were named Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year by The Trevor Project, and received an Outfest Trailblazer Award.

Monáe also founded a nonprofit called Fem the Future in 2021. Its mission is “to build a fem-forward future through creating opportunities for young women and girls in music, arts, and education.” Earlier this year, the organization announced a major expansion via a new partnership with Warner Music Group/Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund. It was initiated with $150,000 grant, which serves as a pilot for a more long-term collaboration.

“In partnership with the Social Justice Fund, we’re giving girls the chance to own their power —and change the world,” Monáe stated in a press release. “The SJF grant will support Fem the Future as it develops programming for girls and non-binary youth and shines light on their talent — helping them build confidence, expand educational opportunities, and make informed decisions about their bodies, their lives, and their futures. A beautiful future begins with uplifting the next generation of artists, activists, and freedom fighters.”

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