Monáe, 34, spoke at length in a recent interview with Shape magazine, while promoting her new film Antebellum, a horror movie set during the era of American slavery. For Monáe, the time has come for society to face difficult questions.
“I’ve made it a thing to face discomfort,” Monáe says. “I think discomfort is part of everyone’s reality right now. White people are feeling discomfort in one way, Black people are feeling discomfort in one way, and I didn’t want to shy away from that.”
“It’s time for us to get uncomfortable,” she adds, “because the real change requires an upsetting and a rerouting and a real commitment to look at ourselves. In this instance, I hope that more white people see this film and fix the systems that their ancestors created that continue to oppress.”
Monáe also opened up about her own reaction to the ongoing racial unrest in the nation.
“Being Black, especially during this time, for me, is heavy,” Monáe admitted. “It’s traumatic, and all I want to do is figure out how I can be of help to my community. So I’ve been spending a lot of time organizing behind the scenes with peers, with my Wondaland Arts Society family. We hosted a Zoom where everybody had an opportunity to get on and just vent and cry and talk about how we’re feeling. These were white folks, Asian folks, Black folks, straight, gay – like a full spectrum of people and perspectives.”
For Monáe, the emotional toll of the current cultural moment also invited her to reflect on her own issues of abandonment and childhood pain.
“I started to write these things down, and I remember just crying like a baby,” she admits. “I will say that it is so freeing when you can identify your trauma. Knowing why you feel a certain way or why these feelings of being upset or angry or sad—why they’re happening, what the root of it is. It’s just so empowering.”
Antebellum lands on streaming services September 18.