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Janelle Monae: Getting laid off was a 'blessing in disguise' for my music career

Janelle Monae  
Johnny Nunez | WireImage | Getty Images
Janelle Monae  

Today, Janelle Monae is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she making waves as a singer-songwriter, she's also making a name for herself in Hollywood and in business.

Being dubbed by Fast Company as one of the most productive individuals out there in its latest issue, Monae revealed to the media outlet that she went through a "devastating" career experience, which went onto inspire the release of one of her very first singles.

"When I got fired from Office Depot, the thing that I did — which seemed like the best thing to do — was go straight to the studio and write a f---ing song about it," Monae said in a recent video interview with Fast Company.

At the same time as working at Office Depot, Monae was working on her ambition to become a successful singer-songwriter, saying that she'd be up until 6 a.m. recording music, before she'd head to work four hours later. "It was challenging and I loved it."

Janelle Monae attends the Warner Music Group Pre-Grammy Party in association with V Magazine on January 25, 2018 in New York City.
Jared Siskin | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Janelle Monae attends the Warner Music Group Pre-Grammy Party in association with V Magazine on January 25, 2018 in New York City.

For the then-aspiring singer, money was tight; explaining to Fast Company that promoting her work to fans online was tricky — especially as she didn't own a computer. So, she had to find other means of keeping her ambition alive.

"I couldn't afford a computer, so I used the company's computer – the display computers that were out there. And they (the fans) were writing me on my site, like 'Hey, when are you performing? What time are you going to be there? I loved your songs'," she said.

As she was responding to let her fans know when she'd be available, Monae heard her Office Depot superiors over the intercom, requesting her to come to the back-office.

"I went back, and my supervisor, manager just said: 'Look, we know you don't want to be here. We see you using the company's computer for your personal business. We know that you want to be an artist — we're going to let you go. You're fired.' And it was devastating," she recalled, explaining how she loved selling the office supply products at her job.

As many incredible artists do, however, Monae took this difficult experience and turned it into art.

"So, after I was fired from Office Depot, I wrote this song called 'Lettin' Go' and it was my first single that I put out. And Big Boi from Outkast, who's a mentor, like a brother to me, heard it and he put it on this compilation CD."

"And that was like the first song that I had that was available around the world. It was a big deal." The song 'Lettin' Go' featured on Big Boi's compilation album "Got Purp? Vol. 2," which also featured her track "Time will reveal."

Fast forward and Monae is a music sensation, having released three studio albums and received six Grammy nominations. In 2017, two movies that the artist had starred in — "Hidden Figures" and "Moonlight" — were nominated for Oscars, of which the latter won Best Picture.

Monae also heads up Wondaland, a multimedia group that includes a record label, brand consultancy, and TV and film production firm.

Looking back, Monae sees the situation as a "blessing in disguise" as it led to the release of her track 'Lettin′ Go', which mentioned her experience of losing her job.

Watch Fast Company's interview with Janelle Monáe on the topic here; and to read their full interview, click here.

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