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Janelle Monae Says Makeup Reminds Her of Her Ancestors ‘Putting on Their War Paint’

For Janelle Monáe, makeup is a lot more than lipsticks and blushes.  The actress, 31, who stole the show last awards season with her daring yet flawless red carpets looks, recently spoke about what beauty actually means to her. 

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“[Makeup] connects me to my roots,” Monáe said in an interview with Refinery29. “I come from a very strong tribe of women. My family has roots going back to Africa. I have roots in Kansas. My grandmother lived in Mississippi. Whenever I’m putting my makeup on, it’s very therapeutic. It reminds me of my ancestors getting ready, putting on their war paint.”

Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae Presley Ann Slack/Patrick McMullan via Getty

The CoverGirl spokeswoman likes to put meaning behind her fashion and beauty choices, though she’s not always willing to share it. “I like to keep people guessing!” the Hidden Figures and Moonlight star revealed. “If I’m reading something, I might try to do some sort of symbolism to highlight what I want to bring attention to. I could be protesting something going on in the White House, but sometimes it’s just merely because I thought it was cool.”

One idea she’s not willing to budge on: Makeup brands need to create products that include people of all skin tones. “Representation is important,” Monáe insisted. “[We] aren’t all the same shade, so as many times as CoverGirl can highlight different shades and different kinds of women by making them feel like a part of of the brand, [the more everyone] can embrace their uniqueness. It’ll help [young girls] really get more comfortable in their own skin, and help them walk taller than usual.”

Related: Beyonce’s Twin Pregnancy Style: See All of Her Best Maternity Looks

Still, Monáe knows it’s important to honor natural beauty as well: “I feel empowered even when I’m not wearing makeup.”

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