Interview with Genel Mooney on the ambitions of acting, fashion and direction – variety8 min read
In February, to interview Janelle Monir DiversityThe issue of women’s power, we have an escape room together. Since I was obviously terrified of the escaping rooms, the venue choice was everything – I would never suggest such an arrangement. At the West Hollywood establishment, he was greeted regularly by staff who knew what houses he had already built. It was scary, as I needed to be more intimidated before interviewing General Mone. It was the night of February 12, and a few days before that, Moni gave a great performance to open the Academy Awards. We were both feeling the weakness of the Oscars.
Because of my growing fear of coronavirus, I brought a hand sanitizer and used it liberally. But the global pandemic struck just over a month before most of the country was shut down, killing 1,100,000 Americans (and counting). And national protests over the deaths of George Floyd and Brecona Taylor a few months ago prompted a media count on racism and police brutality. Looking back, it seems as if this night happened in another universe.
In the escape room, we played private investigators in search of the killer of the zodiac, who somehow clearly messed up and got locked at the bottom of it. The house was fragile AF: Serial Killer Verit with strange music and terrifying rubber ducks. (Yeah, rubber ducks can be awesome!) I just had a good day, and it got so dark that I had to read the clues – even the owners please allow me to listen to the recording, there’s a lot about me, ” I can’t see. “
Luckily, Monáe is a teenager, small type, an intuitive solution to the puzzle and an optimistic, enthusiastic teammate.
We started by handcuffing the pipes in the room, searching for the keys that would set us free (like I inadvertently tried to ask about the Oscars). Once we figured out how to get out of the cuffs we tackled a bigger mystery. Because it was for both of us, I couldn’t walk around my normal escape room while picking for objects with objects while praying for time to pass. We’ve actually solved endless puzzles; At the same time effectively screaming at one side of the jump; And at one point, Moni had to lie down in a coffin while I ran to try to free her. “I love my family, and I love being an artist and I’ve had a great life!” He said as he lay down.
We escaped with some help from our game master Josh. And we were probably given extra time on the clock (as we were). But a victory is a victory!
After that, we sat down to discuss his politics and industry.
Do you consider yourself a political artist?
I don’t! I think people have been trying to understand me for a long time. As a human being, as an Android, as someone who makes sense in this society – I speak for myself, and people who feel like me feel like I don’t have the platform. It’s just about sharing the mic.
I want people to see me as an artist who speaks the truth based on my experience and what my core values are based on. I think having more access to rooms – and more interviews – has only widened the message.
I’m sure you think of yourself as both a singer and an actor. But how do you see the relationship as a complement to those things?
I see myself as a magician. I try to do magic with what I touch. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of focus and attention to do what I’m doing. So if I’m doing a film, I wouldn’t try to write an album at the same time. I need to have a mental headache to be fully committed to the role I agreed to take.
And I consider myself a storyteller. Music is much more personal, because I draw from the stories of who I am, and what has happened to me and where I am in the world. With the film, you’re doing what you can for that character. But most of the time you are coming up with a story that someone else has written. There is not much control. It’s good for me, but it can also be nerve-racking – because I don’t get this final cut in any movie or TV show. So that means if you guys like “Antblam” and “Back home” then just know my handiwork. But if you don’t like it, it’s not my fault!
I have respect for the directors I have worked with. And you just pray and hope that what you see is able to be edited into something you like more.
You do this for music when you work with different producers or when you collaborate with different artists. My calling seems to be doing that. Whether it’s in fashion, to tell a story through my armor – there’s a story. What it means to go into the music industry and make statements with your music and your images and your acting. And what it means to step on screen and take on a character and empathize with our complexities as human beings. I also see myself as a polymath – you know, I’m not a monotheist.
Did you pay for the gender to come out as non-binary?
When i Retweeted, It was “I’m not Binary Day,” and so I did a hashtag to show support to the community. The meme from “Steven Universe:” resonated with me, “I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I’m an experience. “And I said, ‘Yes, yes!’ That’s me. “You know, similarly when the Prince said,” I’m not a woman / I’m not a man / I’m something you’ll never understand “” “I’m going to die 4” – which resonated with me. I feel my femininity, I feel my masculinity, I feel energy that I can’t really explain.
I’m exploring, you know? I am so open to what the universe is teaching me, and what it is teaching us all about gender. I certainly don’t live my life in a binary way. I’ve always pushed, like you said from the beginning of my career, to see the things I wear in things. I have fought against gender norms and what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man. I am an Android
But I will say this: I am so happy that people are learning more about what it means to be genderless and what it means to be non-binary.
I think the last time I saw your Wikipedia page was before the photoshoot and video interview last month. I looked at it today and someone changed all your pronouns to “them”. [Note: Monae’s Wikipedia page now alternates between “they” and “she.”]
That’s not me. I think if people want to call me they can call. I know who I am. I know my journey. And I don’t have to announce anything.
Talk about expressing yourself through fashion. Have you always been a goat that dressed in a certain way, or came later?
Once I got into high school, I started making my own money, because I started working. I was working at Ponderosa Steakhouse, I was a waitress. I was a maid, I was babysitting and I worked in the foot locker. I couldn’t give a lot of stuff, but I think it came from a lot of menswear – what you would consider sports menswear: tennis shoes, baggy clothing.
Then I went shopping for wine. I was an artist too. I am an international thesis, I will compete alone. I was also into acapella singing, showing talent – it’s in high school. So I was a busy art student, expressing myself through art and I really started using fashion as a way to express it.
I think my uniform – that’s when it came. As a tribute to the working class, and the parents of my class. And honestly, I couldn’t afford it when I started singing and performing, and I went to a performing arts school in New York and I went to Atlanta and I lived in a boarding house, I didn’t have time to look for new outfits on every single show. So it was like, what is my uniform, what is my outfit going to be? What are some of the things I always feel comfortable with? It was black and white. It is an androgenic look that matches my strength.
Are you still based in Atlanta?
Half. I’m looking for a place here, but it’s so tough, because I’m looking for something where I can have a studio and keep my business separate from where I live. So I was not able to find any in the price. I plan to be bicostal. We have a film and TV company, OneDaland Pictures.
Your business in Atlanta, at least for now?
My music business is in Atlanta, our record label is in Atlanta – but our film company L.A. has Don Donna Langley in our first viewing contract with Universal. Our Wandaland will also do music for a lot of movies and then we will make movies. So we’re going to that place now.
Have you managed?
I’ve managed quite a bit, including Chuck Buzz, who was one of my creative directors in this last project Wandland. But I don’t want to do it directly – I think I wanted to be a director.
I think so too.
I tell you, I watch all my take when I do film and TV. And I’m really fast. Because I am very purposeful about my acting. That’s what makes me realize that I think I’m directed. Because I’m just acting and staying in the moment as well as watching it from a director’s lens.
This is a dumb question. Did you know when you were doing “Moonlight” that it was going to be the most beautiful and best movie ever? Is this something he was aware of at the time?
It resonates with me. I have always worked this way. If the song doesn’t touch my soul, I won’t sing it. If the lyrics don’t let me dance, I won’t record them. I cried when I read that script. Instantly. It was nothing but the spirit of that script, and I was saying, “It’s important. It’s important for culture.” I want to be a part of it regardless of how big it is or how small it stays.
This interview – which, again, took place on 12 February – has been edited and condensed.