Extreme Egotism

Singer Janelle Monáe may be five feet tall, but everything else—the look, the hair, the talent—is larger than life.

By Mark Holgate. Photographed by Steven Klein.

Somewhere in Atlanta, in a mid-century bungalow on a leafy lane, Janelle Monáe has only one thing on her mind: What should the well-dressed twenty-eighth-century Alpha Platinum 9000 android be wearing these days? The 24-year-old singer with the soulful voice that has the sweet tone of an earlier era needs to know because this android is her futuristic avatar Cindi Mayweather, the inspiration (and cover star) for Monáe’s debut album, The Arch Android. It’s not as if Monáe can just drive on over to Jeffrey at Phipps Plaza on Peachtree Road and find something that says, “This is so 2710.” Which is why she is visiting two costumer friends of hers, Jeff Gillies and Randie Saxxon, to discuss the crucial question of the Look. Usually she doesn’t have to give much thought to her own look, because she adheres to it with a fierce commitment. Monáe, who stands five feet tall from the tip of her elaborate quiff updo—”You might call it a pompadour, but I call it a Monáe”—to the toes of her size 7 George Esquivel spectators, is nearly always, onstage or off-, in a James Brown-ian “Get Up Offa That Thing” tux. “I want to look timeless,” she says, rationalizing her rigorous dress code. “I want to be able to look at images of myself over the years and not be able to date them. Plus,” she adds, “you can get in anywhere wearing a tuxedo.”

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