Last night, Belvedere Vodka threw a party at The Shed to celebrate its collaboration with Janelle Monáe. The Grammy-nominated musician, actor, and activist designed a limited-edition bottle for the brand. Titled “Beautiful Future,” the partnership is a nod to when Monáe and Belvedere teamed up last year for Fem the Future — a movement dedicated to advancing awareness and opportunities for those who identify as women through music, arts, mentorship, and education.
Guests — including Chrisitan Siriano and Dascha Polanco — were treated to Belvedere cocktails, and an interactive experience in which they could record their visions for a beautiful future into microphones suspended from the ceiling, and then listed to what others said through listening pods. Just before the festivities started, Monáe sat down with The Daily and talked about her vision for a beautiful future, and the importance of Pride month.
How has Pride month been treating you?
Amazing! I went to my first Pride event and parade in New Orleans this month. It was incredible just seeing all the faces smiling and hugging. The most beautiful thing was seeing so many moms and parents with their kids. They came me up to me and asked me for photos. One of the moms there said, “Thank you for your album, for walking your truth. My daughter doesn’t feel so alone.” It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. It was a beautiful experience. I encourage folks who may not even be of the community to go to a Pride parade and experience it. It is so pure.
What made you feel less alone growing up?
Music and Prince made me feel less alone. Stevie Wonder, Lauren Hill, musical theatre, art — the arts in general saved my life. I probably would have ended up just a pretty bad child. Meaning probably in lots of fights and frustrated if I did not have an outlet like music, acting, singing, just performing and creating visual art. All of that helped stopped my anxiety about what my future held. You grow up in communities around churches and folks who can make you feel that if you’re not living your life in one way then you’re not going to be accepted. When you grow up like that, you can become dead inside. Music and art have always kept me alive.
Are you going to the Pride parade in New York?
I’ll be in Europe. I am starting my European tour, so I’ll be in Glastonbury or somewhere like that when it’s happening. I’m upset. I really wanted to go, so go in my honor if you’re reading this.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride means giving thanks for the shoulders we stand on: Marsha P. Johnson, all of the trans women, black women, human beings who were a part of the Stonewall riots. Knowing that I’m here because they helped fight for my rights and my existence in a community that means a lot to me. I owe them a lot. That is part of the reason I like having the conversations around the future and what it looks like to me and what it looks like to you and inclusion of us in the LGBTQIA+ community. It creates more opportunities to thrive and to live and to feel more complete and not feeling like we’re being silenced or we’re getting only 50 percent of opportunities. We deserve to have happiness while we are here on earth.
You mentioned that you’re going on tour. What are some ways you make your space feel like home when traveling?
Well, I actually like the people I’m touring with, so I hang out with them. I try to keep pictures of my family, like my mom and my dad and my nieces and nephews. I have my grandparent’s pictures with me. I also try and listen to music outside of my own to comfort me. I take music with me. I also welcome adventure and new opportunities. I use this as time not to cling to the old things, but to embrace the new.
You named your Belvedere bottle “Beautiful Future” — what would be in your beautiful future?
More opportunities for women. In front of and behind the camera in film and TV, music production. More opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ community in politics. A beautiful future should also come equipped with more music and more art. I believe that music is a universal language that can pull people together. No matter what your religious beliefs are, where you come from, we can all nod our heads and snap our fingers to our favorite song. Those are the moments that connect us and remind us that we are more alike than we are different.