Janelle Monae

2013 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Janelle Monae Portrait

F.L Schlagle High School, 2001

Janelle Monae is an award-winning singer, songwriter, performer and producer who is a rising star in contemporary R&B.

She has received many awards and accolades for her work, including a Vanguard Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a Black Women in Music Award at the Essence Awards, an NME Award for best musical track, and a BET “Young, Gifted and Black” Award. She has been nominated for six Grammys.

After graduating from F.L. Schlagle High School in 2001, she received a scholarship to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. But she left soon thereafter because she felt stifled, and wanted to write her own musicals. She moved to Atlanta, where she lived in a boarding house with five other women, and took a job at an Office Depot. She self-produced a demo CD titled, “Janelle Monae: The Audition” and toured college campuses to perform and promote her own music.

Her big break came in 2005 when she performed Roberta Flack’s, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” at an open mic night. She caught the attention of Hip-Hop singer Big Boi, of the duo OutKast, who was in the audience. He featured her on two tracks on his new album released later that year, and two more in 2006. Impressed with her work, famous producer Sean “Puffy” Combs signed her to his Bad Boy Records label.

“I feel like I do have a responsibility to the community. The music that we create is to help free their minds and, whenever they feel oppressed, to keep them uplifted,” she said.

She has never forgotten her roots. She pays homage to her parents with a signature black-and-white tuxedo she wears for every performance. “I call it my uniform,” she said. “My mother was a janitor and my father collected trash, so I wear a uniform, too.”

In August 2012, Monae was chosen as CoverGirl’s newest spokesperson.