Alex Witt   |  July 06, 2013

Janelle Monae: 'Biggest blessing' was growing up in poor family in Kansas

President Obama called her "incredibly talented" after she performed at one of his re-election rallies. MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews Essence Festival performer and Grammy-winning singer Janelle Monae. She discusses her success and how her upbringing motivated and shaped her today. Hall also talks about her favorite song, Monae’s “Queen.” Monae reveals her inspiration for the song and talks more about her excitement for the Essence Festival.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> one superstar attending the essence festival is janelle minay. president obama called her incredibly talented after she performed at one of his reelection rallies. she will close out with a performance at the superdome.

>> janelle , you talked much about your background in kansas city . when i think about your music now and i see this reaction that the fans have for you, it all goes back to your family.

>> yes, it does. i'm so thankful. i always told myself the biggest blessing was growing up in kansas. and not in a middleclass or rich family but a poor family. we didn't know that we were poor because i was always surrounded around love. my parents were hard working class people. my mom was a janitor. my father, stepfather treated me just like his own, post office workers and trash man. my family worked for the community. so i wore my black and white to honor them and remind them that this is work for me. i have to continue to help serve the community.

>> we often say that nothing is new. there are so few originals. you are an original in a sea of sameness. in a sea of people who read way too many us weeklies. here you emerge like this phoenix.

>> oh, wow. well, thank you. i think that as a woman, as an african- american woman in today's music industry my goal has been to promote diversity and to show the world we're not all monolithic and the same. i remember growing up being in middle school and high school , there were not a lot of people that looked like me, had the same morals, values. i think it's important to give young girls options in a world where they're trying to figure something out.

>> is that part of the inspiration behind my song that stays on my iphone. you know what it is.

>> what?

>> queen. i wake up to it, go to sleep to it. before i do any show, i listen to it. what was the inspiration?

>> just wanting to do something that empowered women, that empowered those who feel marginalized as well. i did the song with erykah badu , a great friend of mine. it's a private discussion between us . i documented it and we put it into words in a song. it's about, again, sanding up for those people who feel marginalized, whether you're gay, ex commuted because you standing up.

>> the underdogs.

>> absolutely. and i felt like it was so important. and doing the song with another female, i want people to know the music industry is not about fighting or being jealous. it's about rivalry, lifting each other up and two stars can shine at the same time.

>> that's part of the camaraderie we hope is from essence festival. looking at progression. the cover girl ad.

>> thank you.

>> is the most beautiful thing.

>> thank you so much. i feel -- again, i would have never thought i would be a cover girl. i think they're doing something very important by the roster of women that they have. queen latifah , who is incredible, ellen. and me. having myself is just -- helps other people really embrace those things and make it unique. even if it makes others uncomfortable. i'm trying to do all i can with such a big platform to be of some inspiration for young girls growing up.

>> you are certainly an inspiration. i appreciate your time.

>>> well, janelle with erykah badu comes out this fall. our