Janelle Monae on 2016 Election: 'By Not Voting for Hillary, You're Voting for Trump'

Alexandra Gavillet
Janelle Monae photographed Oct. 4 at Tijuana Picnic in New York.

Ahead of her film debut in Moonlight (out Oct. 21), Janelle Monae spoke to Billboard at length about her own politics and activism. Below is an edited and condensed version of her comments on what the current presidential election means to her, and how her political views impact her art.

Her Experience With Racism & Sexism

"I want to be active in bringing about change. I’m tired of the racism, the sexism -- the constant judgment that we have to deal with. I want to do all I can with my art and my platform to speak out against any injustice, because I strongly believe that an injustice done to my fellow brother or sister is an injustice done to me.

"As a black woman who has experienced sexism and racism, and as an ally of the LGBTQ community, I feel obligated to say something. I have to say something. I started my career writing protest songs, writing political songs, writing songs that would help spark the revolution. Brands understand what they’re getting into when they work with me — this is so much bigger than a check. My goal is to spark change, light a fire and encourage millennials to fight for more. We can do better. We can be better. We’re designed to be better than the last generation.  

"When I think about artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Prince, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston … You have all these black intellectual creatives who used their art to bring awareness to the injustices of the world. If they hadn’t contributed, we would not be given the opportunities that we have today as millennials. They helped kicked down doors for us, and I don’t want their hard work and sacrifices to be in vain. I feel a personal responsibility to pay back those who have helped fight for my rights."

Who She's Voting For

"I’m not voting for Trump. I’m voting for Hillary. No politician is perfect, but the values Trump is running on are just evil to me. Hillary Clinton is smart, she’s resilient, she’s a woman who has had to endure sexism. I think it’s great that she’s running for president. If she gets in the White House, it won’t be as hard for another female to enter the room — it won’t be such an odd or rare thing. Do I think she’s perfect? No, but we didn’t ask every previous president to be perfect either.  

"Right now America is spoiled. President Obama has worked his ass off, and he would’ve done even more had he had the support of Congress. There are some people that just don’t want him to succeed. He’s already done a remarkable job. We can look at the facts -- we have the receipts.

"Trump will undo everything that this president has worked hard to achieve. Barack Obama has changed people’s minds about what it means to be black and lead. He’s a feminist -- he even wrote an essay about it, and has encouraged other men to speak out against sexism.

"Then you have Trump, who is one of the most sexist pigs known to man, and he’s completely unapologetic about it. I don’t want to see Trump come in and undo all of the great structural building that Barack Obama has done. Barack Obama has united us. Trump will divide us. Trump is talking about bringing stop and frisk back. They’ve already ruled it unconstitutional  and he wants to bring it back.

"This man doesn’t care about blacks, Mexicans or any minorities. He cares about money. But our lives are more valuable than money. He’s trying to make the American dream a white male American dream and I’m not standing for that shit at all. This is America. This is supposed to be the land of the free. You should be able to come here and make a way for yourself."

The Dangerous Politics of Not Voting

"People need to understand that by not voting or not voting for Hillary, you’re voting for Trump. Yes, she has made some comments and choices that were not her finest moments. But she also gets blamed for things her husband has done. The stuff she said about black people being super predators wasn’t one of her finest moments. We associate her with criminal justice reform.  She’s made some choices that she’s apologized for and I’m hopeful that she doesn’t make those same mistakes again -- and at least she’s willing to apologize.

"We have to think about the world we want to leave for our kids. If we vote for Trump, we are voting for someone who wants this country to be divided, who wants to lead by using fear, who wants to help the rich get richer and the poor poorer. You’re going to live in a dystopian world. Everything he is saying is based in negativity and fear.

"Watching the debates, I was upset that Trump was even standing next to Hillary. It made him look as if he was qualified for the job and he’s not at all qualified to be president of the United States. Trump has absolutely no experience. It’s the difference between voting for a woman who is qualified for the job versus someone whose entire campaign is based on fear, has no experience and will undo everything that President Obama has done to help move this country forward. It’s a no brainer to me."

A version of this article originally appeared in the Oct. 29 issue of Billboard.