Singer Janelle Monae was a young playwright moving home to Kansas from New York City when she made a fateful decision.
"I decided that I had more to say as an artist," she tells CNN at the Renaissance Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. Monae performed there as part of their RLife Live series, which brings artists to the Renaissance.
As her fans know, Monae’s desire to share has resulted in a music career that has landed her on lots of best new artist lists.
Monae recalled that she “started to fall in love with artists like Stevie Wonder and David Bowie,” and dreamed of ways she could break the mold.
"I loved knowing that I didn’t have to just be an actor, I didn’t have to just sing," she said. "I could create this concept album that could possibly one day be a Broadway musical and I could be in control versus being someone’s typecast character for a role that’s been played for thousands of years."
The singer - who says her black and white attire is a tribute to her humble beginnings and her parents, who were janitors - envisions a day when we’ll all be united, and hopes that her music will play a role.
"I think music is that common denominator," she said.