We’re happy Janelle Monáe is “much happier” when she’s showing skin, but she sparked some outrage when she flashed the crowd during her performance at the Essence Music Festival on Friday night.
The free-spirited singer broke the internet with her barely-there outfits to usher in the Age of Pleasure with her new album. After the “Lipstick Lover” music video, Janelle continued the topless tour on the cover of Rolling Stone. In that issue, the formerly formal star explained her new au naturale aesthetic, saying she’s “much happier when my t**ties are out.”
Unfortunately, viewers didn’t feel the same way after nearly freeing the nip during her Essence Fest performance. The Glass Onion star took the stage in an oversized floral cape and matching crown.
janelle look like she’s on midsommar lmao pic.twitter.com/dfHXSIDJlQ
— old soul (@shannonmichele_) July 1, 2023
It’s not exactly a shock that she quickly stripped down after a few minutes of performing in the NOLA heat and humidity. After all, the singer only wore a hat in the flyer for her performance.
Janelle echoed her tux era with a black and white string bikini top, shorts, and hat for most of the set. During “Yoga,” she defiantly flashed her breast again.
“You cannot police me, so get off my areola!” she sang, before standing ten toes down about that particular lyric.
Did Janelle Monáe go too far? Check out the moment that had fans and critics clashing after the flip!
Janelle Monáe’s Breat-Baring Performance At Essence Fest Sparks Controversy
The comments were conflicted about the skin-baring baddie. Some love that Janelle is pushing boundaries about sexuality and expression as she explores both in her art. “Strut that stuff, Janelle!”
Everyone mad at Janelle monae for being more sexually liberated now but 1. They late .. she ain’t wore suits since 2019 and 2. They just hating cause she didn’t have to lay on an OP table to have goods to flash.. strut that stuff Janelle
— MACC MULSANE 🛫🪡 (@Vinnymacc_) June 9, 2023
— Flash: its lonely at the top ⚡️ (@glynderella_) July 1, 2023
Many fans already knew what time it was before Janelle even took the stage.
I just said, “Watch Janelle Monae flash the crowd at Essence,” and literally she flashed her boob within 10 seconds.
— Michael Chancley, MSW (@KingPiscean504) July 1, 2023
Even those who didn’t explicitly want to “police” the 37-year-old, still accused her of doing too much.
“That was NOT necessary,” said an Instagram comment.
“I just don’t get the point,” said another confused comment.
Why Janelle flash her tit tonight at essence fest like my parents wasn’t in the crowd!!! 😂😂
— Nandi (@itsnandibby) July 1, 2023
Others, who clearly haven’t paid attention to Janelle’s radical music and sex-positive messages, claim the nudity takes away from her talent and art. Several bashed the moment as “trashy, tasteless, or disgraceful.
“Do what you do but when you bring to the public expect to be critiqued. She has lost her mind this is not freedom,” one critic wrote in the replies.
“They are trying to take away our power. If Janelle could have ever been a voice for our people they would use this video to discredit her,” another claimed.
It seems like those most concerned about what “they” think are doing all the discrediting. Meanwhile, Janelle is already an outspoken voice for our people. Everything from her looks to her lyrics preaches liberation. She always went hard for Black queer people and Black women who are often marginalized within their own communities.
Fans came to Janelle’s defense, calling out the close-minded thinking that she’s deliberately challenging.
“Janelle Monae is still incredibly talented. The idea that she is somehow less talented because she decided to move as a more liberated human, is ridiculous,” a reply explained.
“As a man, I grew up seeing images of women sexualized in rap videos and movies, all of which were produced by men in the entertainment industry who wanted us to see women as objects. We are now seeing a fully grown Black femme expressing her freedom by her own terms and don’t know how to handle it so we default to the respectability politics/misogynoir that raised us.”
Another response pointed out that this is just as deliberate and authentic as the suited and booted Janelle from her “Tightrope” days.
“Janelle monet was 22 when she hit the music scene. She was very conscious and aware of her image being a new female artist. So, she wore suits, she wanted ppl to pay attention to the music. Janelle is now 40, comfortable in her skin and sexulaity and she’s being expressive about it! Yes she has changed from when she was 22, and isn’t as suppressed now,” they wrote, adding that “classy” and “tasteful” are subjective.
The ride-or-dies who get it continued to sound off about the larger issues than consensually seeing skin.
“They literally say “get off my areola” and what do y’all do? 🤡 it wasn’t sexual, it’s just a body. We’ve all seen a breast in many contexts. You mad about indecent exposure? Go yell about a real issue like the exploitation of the female body in the film industry. Stop policing other people’s bodies.”
For those truly concerned about what Janelle wears (or doesn’t) and the message it sends, check out her explaining the philosophy in her own words.
“It’s about the spirit. Sometimes the spirit is dresed up like this,” she said about style and her throwback black and white suit for StyleLikeU’s What’s Underneath Project series. “Sometimes the spirit is no clothes.”
“It’s sort of like a mirror. I’m mirroring back what you think about yourself. I’m mirroring back your discomforts. I’m mirroring back where you are in your freedom journey, where you are in your identity journey.
Age of Pleasure Janelle is clearly for an older audience, like her after-midnight time slot. The entire show, which included a legendary performance from Juvenile and Mannie Fresh, was not about role models for children who should’ve been in bed by then.
Watch the multi-talented star in the full interview below, sharing that “it’s not my responsibility to adjust my freedom in order to make you comfortable.”
Do you think Janelle Monáe’s Essence Music Festival performance was just doing her or doing too much?