Janelle Monae
Photo: Andrew Zaeh
The offbeat R&B singer—whose upcoming album, Electric Lady, fuses funk and soul—on calming down with pudgy babies and staying up late with the Obamas.

Best Style Inspiration
Both of my parents worked in uniforms: My mom was a janitor and my dad a trashman. When I was living in Atlanta, I felt homesick and wanted to do something with my style in homage to them. So I established a uniform for myself—a black-and-white tuxedo.

Best Advice
Erykah Badu once told me, "Stay out of your mind." Whenever I'm anxious about something, I remember those words to anchor myself and not overthink the moment.

Best Mood Boost
Adorable, chunky babies—toddlers, too. One of my coworkers has a 6-month-old we call Wonder Baby; after I spend time with her, I somehow find a solution to whatever work problem I'm having. She's so cute and mushy—until she starts to cry.

Best Mistake
Moving from New York to Atlanta. I had graduated from a musical-theater conservatory, and people said it was a bad choice to leave Broadway, but Atlanta is where I found my voice. It wasn't long before I was selling my CDs for $5 on the steps of the library and college dorms.

Best Surprise
When I perform "Tightrope," there's a point during the song when someone from my team comes out and puts a cape on my back like James Brown used to do. When we opened for Prince in Denmark, he put it on me! I didn't even realize until after the show. I was so embarrassed, but I couldn't help laughing once I saw the footage.

Best Reason to Stay Up All Night
Partying at the White House. I performed at President Obama's second inauguration after-party, and I was on the dance floor with the First Family until the late hours of the night. I don't think I'll ever go to another event so incredible.

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