Janelle Monáe is the latest artist to use her talents to entertain fans and raise money for charity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Partaking in Verizon’s Pay It Forward Live series, Monáe joins a star-studded list of performers creating included intimate, at-home performances. From Luke Bryant, Alicia Keys, Ryan Tedder, Aisha Tyler to Marshmello and Billie Eilish, the weekly series launched on March 26 is helping to raise money for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through the power of one hashtag: #PayitForwardLIVE.
“I think what Verizon has been doing for the last few weeks, supporting small businesses is very important. I have family members who have small businesses and friends who are impacted by this,” Monáe shared with BET from her home in Los Angeles.
Ahead of her show last night (April 30), BET Digital checked in with the Grammy-nominated R&B artist about her involvement with the initiative. Dubbing her set “Jane and the Quaranteenagers,” Monáe spoke on how inspiring it’s been to see the music community come together during challenging times.
BET: What pushed you to get involved with Verizon’s Pay It Forward Live series?
Janelle Monáe: I think what Verizon has been doing over the last few weeks, supporting small businesses is important. I have a business. I have family members who have small businesses and friends who are impacted by this pandemic. They’re having a difficult time and any opportunity that I can get to help support small businesses and keep them afloat, I wanted to jump on. When we come out of this pandemic, [I wanted] make sure they feel supported. It’s right in line helping the community, and I’ve been about that since I was a little girl. I grew up in a really big family and so whenever I can help, I feel like it’s just figuring out how.
BET: What are you looking forward to the most about your performance tonight?
JM: The main reason I’m doing it is to highlight small business. I’m looking forward to letting folks know about the places I eat [at], the places that I love and want to see supported. It’s called Pay It Forward, so that’s the most exciting thing is to pay it forward and amplify their voices. This is going to be a different performance. So, [it’s not ] a concert that you can go to, and claim as a Janelle Monáe show because of the social distancing rules. Most of my band members are in different states and cities. So, because of social distancing, I have had to get really innovative with this performance.
BET: What’s one word you would use to describe your show?
JM: I will say that we are being satellited into the future from the present to help save small businesses. So, this is going to be a cyber-show series.
BET: The music community has been integral to keeping our spirits raised. What inspires you during this challenging time?
JM: I think it’s always the artists and musicians who glue it together and keep us sane. Music is healing. It’s been inspiring to watch Billie Eilish and Alicia Keys, to name a few artists doing the Verizon series, uplift and use their platforms for good.
BET: How have you been keeping your creativity flowing while in quarantine?
JM: I’ve been DJing a lot. I’ve also been talking to a lot of my artist friends and listening to their music. I have been learning French on Duolingo. I have also been trying to fix my cereal different ways [laughs]. I’ve also been looking at ant communities. I’ve been trying to stay outside in nature and study ants so we’ll see how that goes.
Rewatch Janelle Monáe’s livestream here. Be sure to tune in to the series and use of the hashtag #PayitForwardLIVE during the stream to help benefit small businesses.
The interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)