An Open Letter to “Electric Lady” Janelle Monáe [VIDEO]
In light of all of the negativity that has been thrown around in open letters recently, I – a black man and father of three – thought it was time to highlight a woman who is clearly a positive and empowering example for black women and girls. The “Electric Lady” Janelle Monáe more than fits the bill.
Dear Janelle Monáe,
I know that you already have an incredibly vast legion of fans who have been supporting you since before your first commercial release in 2007. You are a Cover Girl (and you never had to change your hair color, body shape, skin tone, or curl pattern to become one). You have been consistently critically-acclaimed. You rock your black and white to honor your hard working parents. And you, generally, kill every stage your feet walk on.
On behalf of my wife and 2-year old daughter, I just say thank you.
Why just the thank you? Well, the entertainment landscape is a minefield of misogyny, negative stereotyping, and shaming of women for simply being whom they are. And raising a beautiful black girl in the midst of it all is no easy task. Even at two, she has started consuming messages here and there from the media and is forming nascent levels of self-esteem, identity, and pride. So as she rapidly grows her understanding of language and has begun to memorize and sing back songs that play on the radio, I constantly find myself having to shield her from what has become ubiquitous in the mainstream.
But you are not like many of your contemporaries. Your music is positive, inspiring, and fun. It doesn’t placate bubblegum notions of good music nor does it compromise on genuine lyricism. And when I saw the debut of your new music video for “Electric Lady”, I saw a vision of someone I wouldn’t mind my own daughter emulating if she so chose. That just cannot be said about many of today’s musical artists and entertainers.
The highly infectious title track from your sophomore album The Electric Lady was sorely overdue for a visual treatment, and you more than delivered with a Historically Black Fraternity and Sorority themed dance party. The cameos from sorority emeritus members T-Boz, Estelle, Esperanza Spalding, Monica, and Kimbra were unconventional but apt, highlighting others who walk that same path of individuality and authenticity that you do. In one simple stroke, you honored African American legacies, portrayed strength and grace, and showed that having agency over your body and sexuality looks different for everyone. While it is perfectly within one’s right to appeal to a more mature audience, your messages and images are diverse, eclectic, and empowered in a way that helps young girls figure out what their bodies mean to them and them alone. Thank you for that.
When my daughter saw your video, she danced. She bobbed her head. She smiled. She even tried to mouth the words with my wife even though it was her first time hearing it.
Some part of me hopes that seeing you take such joy in being yourself will encourage my daughter to do the same. While she has plenty of positive women role models, I am glad she also has one in you. So, thank you. Thank you for being you and showing little black girls across the nation and world that you do not have to compromise your true self for success or happiness. And, thank you for being unapologetic about the fullness that black girlhood and subsequent womanhood can become.
PS. I don’t need you to follow me on Twitter. You doing you is enough.
Check out the video below and get some “feel good” for the week.
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