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IdeaFestival 2016: Janelle Monáe On Taking Risks And Embracing Uniqueness

Janelle Monáe at the 21c Museum Hotel
Janelle Monáe at the 21c Museum Hotel

Award-winning singer and actress Janelle Monáe is featured in the film "Hidden Figures," about a group of black female mathematicians who helped America win the space race. Known for her futuristic and dynamic sound, she founded the record label Wondaland Arts Society.

Monáe presented this week at Thrivals 9.0 as part of the 2016 IdeaFestival. We caught up with her at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. She talked about developing a sense of self in a mainstream world, how Wondaland is similar to a startup, and how to fund your dreams, whether it’s in the art world or business.

Listen to our conversation in the audio player above.

On developing a sense of self:

"I think a lot of it has to do with environment and community and making sure that I’m constantly stimulating my creative side. Constantly stimulating my empathetic side and ability to connect with other human beings who may not necessarily be like myself. And people who just remind me of why I decided to do this whenever I forget. I think family and tribe; your first tribe is your family. So reconnecting with them as often as possible whenever I feel like I’m losing my balance and never getting too high and never getting too low; always tipping on the tightrope."

On marketing Wondaland:

"One of the things we live by is embracing the things that make us unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. We’re constantly just accepting ourselves for who we are and allowing love to be our guide. And so there’s really no marketing behind that. It’s pure, everything that we do, we want it to be as pure as possible. I guess that’s the marketing; just be as authentic to yourself as you possibly can. And being unafraid to make mistakes and remembering that perfection is often the enemy of greatness."

On making ideas into something:

"We don’t want our ideas to just stay in one place. We want them to go out in the world and be successful children grown into even more successful adults. So, it’s never a moment when we are not constantly thinking about who’s a great partner, who is a champion of Wondaland and our core values. So don't feel like just because you haven't met that partner that that partner won't come. We honestly had to take a leap of faith and quit our own jobs and invest in our own companies before anybody else invested in us. So it’s going to take a lot of risk-taking, it’s gonna take a lot of failing, trial and error and it’s either you want it or you don’t."

More information about the 2016 IdeaFestival can be found here

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.