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Janelle Monae on Prince: 'He's My Musical Hero'

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Janelle Monae Prince

Janelle Monae is truly an electric lady. ESSENCE caught up with the tuxedo-clad chanteusse at the Starwood Preferred Guest’s "Hear the Music, See the World" event in New York City last week. She chatted about the excitement surrounding her upcoming ESSENCE Festival performance as well as what she's learned from Prince over the years.

ESSENCE: You're performing at the ESSENCE Festival and we're very excited about that. Were you ever there as a spectator?

Janelle Monae: No. I’ve always come just to perform and to give.

ESSENCE: Can you share some favorite ESSENCE Festival moments you’ve had over the years?

Janelle Monae: When I first performed, it was on a smaller stage. It was one of the superlounges and I loved it. It was one of the best times I’ve had. I did a main stage the year before last, but I really enjoyed the superlounge the best because it was more intimate. I got to connect with the people. Nobody was sitting down, everyone was standing up. We had a real party and it was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

ESENCE: Dare I ask, do you have a preference? Do you prefer the intimate settings or the big festivals?

Janelle Monae: I love festivals when they’re really big, but I love switching it up and when I’m out on tour. I really do love doing intimate shows with smaller venues and then doing the big festivals also. It keeps it exciting and not boring. I get bored very fast.

ESSENCE: You have been chosen by Prince to perform during his set. I imagine that is a huge honor and by now I’m sure he’s a good friend. How does it feel to be chosen to perform with Prince?

Janelle: Prince is a mentor, a friend and a musical hero of mine and he still is. Growing up, I always admired how he handled the business and gave other artists an opportunity to shine, and when he puts his stamp on someone it’s a special thing. He’s been in the industry for a really long time, he’s smart, and he’s constantly reinventing himself. I just hope when I reach that many years in the game I can still be as passionate as he and as giving to new artists as he is.