Wherever she goes, whatever cover she appears on, Janelle Monáe is a consistently commanding presence. The Moonlight and Hidden Figures actress, 34, graced the cover of Shape Magazine‘s September issue and looked no less stunning than she always does. Among the photos the towering talent posed for was one selection where she recreated The Birth of Venus painting by 15th-century artist Sandro Botticelli.In the image, captured by Dana Scruggs, Janelle looked like a true goddess. Her body was simply and thoughtfully draped with a gorgeous white fabric, as her long tresses cascaded past her shoulders. Parts of her body were covered with gold props and accessories, while she stood stoically in front of a giant scallop shell. The image is not unlike Botticelli’s painting, which dates back to the 1480s. The celebrated and often recreated painting features the goddess Venus standing in a scallop shell on water, flanked by a the god of wind, Zephyr, and a woman, noted by art historians as Horae, in a long dress preparing to clothe Venus as she walks onto land. A revered work of art, the piece captures Venus arriving to the shore after her birth. Janelle and Shape‘s stunning recreation puts a beautiful, contemporary twist on the painting, and speaks completely to Janelle’s artistry, something that has meant the world to her ever since she was little. “Early on, I realized that I had something to write,” Janelle shared with the outlet. “I had my own musical instead of trying to be in musical theater or on Broadway. There was an artist in me that was looking to be developed. And only I could develop that artist.” Over the course of her impressive career, the Grammy-nominated singer has seamlessly transitioned from music, to film, and even done both at the same time. But while her work as an entertainer has always been vital to her purpose in life, she’s also found that her efforts in activism offer her the same fulfillment.
“Being Black, especially during this time, for me, is heavy,” Janelle confessed. “It’s traumatic, and all I want to do is figure out how I can be of help to my community.” For her part, Janelle has been hosting Zoom meetings through her company, Wondaland Arts Society, and inviting constructive conversations from “white folks, Asian folks, Black folks, straight, gay—like a full spectrum of people and perspectives.”
As if she wasn’t already busy enough, Janelle’s next project, the psychological horror film Antebellum, is slated for release next month. The film follows a successful author, played by Janelle, who finds herself trapped in a horrifying time warp where she is thrust into Antebellum America. “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,” Janelle says of being apart of the film. “It’s time for us to get uncomfortable, 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.”