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It takes a certain type of woman to keep the whole world afloat—and Janelle Monáe is that type. Women around the world felt seen the moment she stepped onto the world’s main stage. She’s not only a black woman but an openly queer advocate with one hell of a wardrobe. And her badassery doesn’t stop there; we could spend days talking about her career. From starring in some of Hollywood's most daring movies such as Moonlight and Hidden Figures to creating some true billboard bops, this is a woman of many hats, quite literally. This is why, in an effort to save time, we decided to focus on one part of what makes Monáe iconic: her style.
Her looks over the years have always been the perfect mix of camp and androgyny done right. You don’t have to take my word for it. Ahead, you’ll find some of Janelle Monáe’s best looks, starting from the past to the present. You won’t be disappointed.
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It wouldn’t be an outfit roundup without a little throwback, and Monáe’s look for the Ralph Lauren Fashion's Night Out party back in 2010 is quite the flashback. Since emerging onto the scene, this woman has been the purveyor of a good suit paired with a statement hat. Is it just me, or is André Leon Talley is giving all the auntie vibes?
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I might have screamed when I found this image of Beyoncé and Monáe at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards back in 2011 in matching sequin jackets. Seeing these ladies in formation is a feminist’s dream come true.
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While Monáe is typically a bit more camp-inspired when it comes to her looks, I found her 2012 Met Gala look for the theme Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations to be quite refreshing. It was a simpler time when platform heels were as socially acceptable as showing up to the Met Gala in a black jumpsuit.
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Let me set the scene: You’re in your car, and you turn on the radio, which playing is a song called “We Are Young.” You, my friend, are in 2013, and Janelle Monáe has been nominated for a Grammy for this record. But she’s not a regular artist; she’s the type of artist who shows up in a sleek tuxedo. Oh, we were so young indeed.
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It is not possible to fully describe all that encompasses Black Girl Magic, but if you tried, it would be the moment Monáe and Erykah Badu took the award for the record "Q.u.e.e.n." at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards. This Prince-inspired look on Monáe is magic in and of itself.
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Monáe’s most iconic style moments are not solely reserved for the red carpet. In fact, her street style is, dare I say, even better. Don’t believe me? Consider the look above, Frankly, wearing head-to-toe Chanel to Chanel’s S/S 16 show is all the proof you need.
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Did you just gasp? You should have because Monáe is one of the only people who can truly pull off a head-to-toe black sequin look from Christian Sirano, as seen at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. At this point, no one should even try, because Monáe will always wear it better.
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If Monáe’s crown was up for debate, the murmurs of a coup were shut all the way down the moment she showed up to the Met Gala in 2017 in this fairytale-like Ralph & Russo dress. This is the type of look that would have Marie Antoinette in her feelings.
Yes, another pantsuit, but honestly, can you blame me? This Prabal Gurung suit that she wore with Stuart Weitzman shoes to the Hidden Figures screening in 2016 was out of this world. NASA, please make the next space suits this chic.
Please bury me in the Jenny Packham cage gown Monáe wore to the 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala—kidding. But not really, because yet again Monáe proves that a black-and-white color palette is anything but boring.
Monáe needs to pay for my hospital bill because my heart stopped when she stepped onto the in this fresh-off-the-runway Elie Saab couture dress. While it deviates slightly from her signature black-and-white color pallette, gold on this queen is very fitting.
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Photo:Taylor Jewell/Getty Images for Vogue
Unpopular opinion ahead: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination was the best damn Met Gala theme yet. Not only were we served the iconic images of Rihanna as the pope, Zendaya as Joan of Arc, Solange in a do-rag (should I go on?), but also added to this holiness was Monáe in a stunning Marc Jacobs dress and custom hat. Hello, thank you for answering all my style prayers.
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When the history books catalog the most iconic style moments for the LGBTIQA+ community, you best believe that Monáe in a tiered Nicolas Jebran rainbow gown will be in it. Honestly, there is no better way to deviate from your signature color, not to mention celebrate Pride Month, than showing up to the 2018 BET Awards dripping in all the colors of the rainbow.
Very few women can pull off tulle, but Monáe doesn't struggle when it comes to wearing this voluminous fabric. In fact, being the vision that she is, she casually rolled up to receive her award for the visionary category of the Glamour’s 2018 Woman of the Year Awards in a Jean Paul Gaultier tulle dress. And while her dress alone deserved an award, her acceptance speech cemented my love for her.
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You could say that 2018 belonged to Monáe. She released one of the hottest albums of the year and racked up award nominations for Dirty Computer. She was feeling herself so much, in fact, that she wore these chaps at the Billboard Women in Music Gala. And while chaps are quite the controversial choice, you have to admit this woman deserves an award for the sheer fact she pulled them off with such ease.
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While 2018 was a great year for Monáe, it is possible that 2019 was even better. After all, she started the year off strong by showing up to the Grammys in this look. Jean Paul Gaultier and Janelle Monáe do it again.
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While most people look to street stars during Fashion Week for inspiration, I look to Janelle Monáe. I found myself feeling the need to copy this head-to-toe Thom Browne look, in particular, which she wore to the F/W 20 shows. BRB, going to go put my hair into two buns.
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If one stunning Paris Fashion Week look wasn’t enough, how about two in a single day? After Monáe blessed us with her Thom Browne outfit, she was spotted on the way to Valentino’s F/W 20 show in a head-to-toe red monochrome look. She could literally step on me in those red patent-leather Mary Jane shoes any day, and I wouldn’t even be mad.
Monáe showed up to Chanel’s Paris Fashion Week show like the goddess she is. At this point, we should just dedicate a whole story to her in head-to-toe Chanel looks.
Photo:Mike Coppola/MG19/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
If you’ve scrolled this far, then that means you understand that Monáe is the steward of avant-garde style—which is why she did not play with her 2019 Met Gala look. The star showed up in this high-camp Christian Siriano dress and hats, on hats, on hats. We can never unsee this look.
Photo:Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella
Monáe performed on the Coachella main stage for the first time in 2019. And while performing alongside Childish Gambino and Lizzo was legendary in and of itself, it wouldn’t be a true spectacle without some serious looks. In line with her iconic look from the music video “Pynk,” she wore her vagina-inspired pants, and honestly, Coachella hasn’t seen such a look since.
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While my fellow editors were in a tizzy over Ralph Lauren’s New York Fashion Week presentation this past S/S 20, I was deceased from Monáe’s performance at the show. If hearing her belt out the jams weren’t enough, she casually rolled up in this Ralph Lauren blue sequin number. In my humble opinion, this woman wins fashion week every time.
It should be noted that the same amount of time dedicated to Monáe’s style should also be allocated to her hair. Yes, sure, the Alexandre Vauthier couture minidress that she wore to the annual Harper's Bazaar Icons Party is fabulous. But it’s not as jaw-dropping as the bedazzled barrettes interwoven through her braids. We’ll keep that in mind for a future story, but for now, let me just add this to my list of hairstyles to try.
And finally, her most recent best look: the stunning Honayda gown she wore to the premiere of the film Harriet. Like all of Monáe’s looks and work, she never ceases to dazzle. More than that, whether it be honoring the heroic Harriet Thuman in her most recent film or sharing her story as a queer woman on the red carpet, in her songs, and everywhere she goes, Monáe shows that caring is always in style.