Local Current Blog

Here is Janelle Monae’s third grade photo from her time at Minneapolis’s Hale Elementary School

A page from Hale Elementary School's 1991-1992 yearbook shows Janelle Monae Robinson (Courtesy Hale Elementary)

Although Janelle Monáe is most commonly associated with her birthplace of Kansas City, Kansas, and her current hometown of Atlanta, more information has come to light recently about the short time Janelle spent living in various locations in the Twin Cities — and specifically in Minneapolis, the same hometown as one of her biggest mentors and musical inspirations, Prince.

As Janelle told the Current’s Mark Wheat back in 2013, her family spent a short time living in St. Paul, Eagan, and on Pillsbury Avenue in South Minneapolis in the early 1990s, and she recalled attending Hale Elementary School in Minneapolis just before the Mall of America opened in 1992.

“That’s when I really got introduced to, just, different cultures when I moved here to Minneapolis,” she said. “You know, it was just white kids, black kids, Asian, and I didn’t…I mean, I grew up in a predominantly African-American school system, which was amazing, but it was very important for me early on to have that experience. So, I really am thankful that my parents did move here so that we could culturally be a little bit more diverse.”

After these revelations resurfaced, one of Hale’s media/technology teachers, Sheilagh Johnson, was able to locate the famous student’s third-grade photo in the 1991-1992 Hale yearbook. Back then, she was known by her birth name, Janelle Robinson (Monáe is her middle name).

Janelle Monae reflects on an elementary school encounter on her incredible new album, Dirty Computer, her most personal and vulnerable work to date. Though it’s unclear whether this particular story occurred while she was attending school in Minnesota, it helps to paint a vivid picture of the experience she had navigating the world as a young child and feeling like an outsider; as she sings on the song “I Like That,” “I’m always left of center and that’s right where I belong.”

I remember when you called me weird
We was in math class, third row, I was sitting by you
Right before Mr. Ammond’s class
‘Cause my mama couldn’t afford new Js
Polos, thrift store, thrift clothes that was all I knew
Do you remember?
Uh, I remember when you laughed when I cut my perm off
And you rated me a six
I was like, “Damn”
But even back then with the tears in my eyes
I always knew I was the sh*t