Janelle Monáe Talks Her Female-Directed Film Series

Janelle Monáe Talks Her Female-Directed Film Series

She's teamed up with Belvedere to turn the entertainment biz into an all-inclusive feminist utopia.

She's teamed up with Belvedere to turn the entertainment biz into an all-inclusive feminist utopia.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

Belvedere Vodka may have a special place in pop music history as an oft-name dropped status symbol, but these days, the brand is redefining the term "aspirational" by working toward positive change in the entertainment industry. Earlier this year, they joined forces with Janelle Monáe for the "A Beautiful Future" campaign, which aims to amplify women's voices in the industry by providing women directors with financial backing to produce their visions of a more perfect future.

As a major player in both the music and film industries, Monáe is uniquely suited to address the issues surrounding representation in entertainment; in addition to starring in breakout feminist manifestos like Hidden Figures, Monáe, who recently came out as pansexual, is the head of her own record label, Wondaland. She is also the founder of the grassroots organization Fem the Future, which works in tandem with “A Beautiful Future” campaign’s mission to support women in arts.

Today, the series's first feature film launched on Belvedere Vodka’s YouTube page. Directed by Megan Park, the film follows a woman who uses technology to stay in contact with her late mother. Here, we talk with Monáe about the differences between the film and music industries, feminism and the future (which, we can only hope, includes more pink pussy pants.)

Janelle: Hi, this is Miss Monáe. How are you?

V: Hi Janelle. What stuck out to you about the film Goodnight?

Janelle: Belvedere and I both selected her specifically because of her unique way of storytelling. I was moved, I was touched. Just the concept of living forever and never saying goodbye, which is her definition of a beautiful future, I think resonated with me. As the years go and as time goes by, our loved ones, especially our parents, just keep them close to us.

So I was really touched, I cried. I teared up a lot because I just saw myself in Francia, who I love. I saw myself in her and I always wanted to be connected to my mom and I always want to be connected to my loved ones. It made me feel hopeful.

V: So how did you and Belvedere link up in the first place?

Janelle: Belvedere approached me and it was just clear that we had a shared vision about uplifting people. So many stories of women go unnoticed and the light hasn’t been shown on this talent in the way that I feel it should, in the way Belvedere feels it should.

V: What was the inspiration behind Fem the Future, and how did it become a part of the initiative with Belvedere?

Janelle: Fem The Future is my organization, so yes it was founded before I had a sit down with Belvedere. My vision for Fem the Future was in line with this initiative and both of us wanted to put women’s voices in music and film, so it just felt natural for us to collaborate. The focus of what I’m working on now is making sure that the women’s voices are at the forefront of the conversation. It’s not that we don’t have the capabilities to produce amazing content and tell amazing stories, it just means different opportunities.

V: Why did you want to focus on the entertainment specifically?

Janelle: It’s a natural area for me to roam in, because I am in the entertainment industry, and I see things first hand. I see when I walk in the room, the number of women who are in the room, making decisions. On the music side, and the opportunities are not being given behind the scenes, whether it be engineering, or running a record label. As a person that runs her record label, and as a person that is actually in the business, I can see the lack of women voices and storytelling in the behind the scenes. We can make a change. Well, I want to help be the change that I want to see.

V: Are there differences between the music and the movie industries in terms of opportunities or representation or women?

Janelle: There is an extremely [small] number of women behind the scenes who are making decisions; who are calling the shots, in a way, that we aren’t. And I think that both industries are very male dominated and so I am able to see that not only are women not represented in large numbers on the music side, but they’re also not represented in the film side. And I think there are more similarities than differences in that area. There should be more opportunities given on [both sides].

V: How do you feel that A Beautiful Future is working to create a future that is more female focused?

Janelle: Well, right now, we’re focused on this collective of young women. Each of these women come from different walks of life and they’re creating art that reflects their perspective and I think that is important and that’s what they’re focusing on. I think this campaign will continue to include storytellers from around the world. It will give them an opportunity to speak from their roots. Hopefully we can bridge that gap and start conversations and for humanity to unite and realize that we are stronger together.

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