Singer Janelle Monáe and Black-ish star Marsai Martin are powerhouses in their own rite, but fans are finding out these über-talented ladies are also cousins!
The “cousins on cousins on cousins,” as Monáe affectionately refers to them, were happy to share with InStyle the story of how they discovered they were related, and what their first face-to-face encounter was like.
“My family members would always tell me how we were related, so I was excited when we finally got to meet and say hello in person,” Martin recalls about that initial encounter at a Golden Globes afterparty, where she and mother Andrea finally linked up with the singer turned actress.
“You were with your mom, and she was naming members of my family, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ I don’t meet many people who know about my small community in Kansas City, Kan.,” said Monáe. “It was the best news because I’m such a fan of you and your role on Black-ish.”
In addition to the professional admiration they had for each other prior to finding out they were kin, Martin also admits she’s always seen Monáe as “a big inspiration” when it comes to fashion, because “[s]he’s so true to herself with everything that she puts on.”
But Monáe was quick to tell her baby cousin, that she wasn’t always so confident and that it was an uphill battle in the beginning.
“When I was starting out, I didn’t have a lot of designers that wanted to dress me. And I couldn’t afford to buy all the things I saw in magazines,” confessed the 33-year-old. “My fashion sense was born out of turning nothing into something. I’ve always leaned into what makes me unique. Sometimes I got bullied for it.”
Marsai Martin and Janelle Monae finding out they cousins like that is the blackest thing ever lol
— Imani (@youdoingtoomuch) August 15, 2019
“I look back to when I was wearing black and white tuxedos every day and people were saying that I dressed like a man and that I should look more feminine if I want to get ahead,” she continued. “But ultimately, I chose to express myself in what made me most comfortable.”
When Martin inquired about what Monáe wore at her age, she shares, “I used to wear Jordans with a Jaguars Starter jacket. I didn’t have the money, so I had to get creative in high school. I was on the cusp of finding my identity at 14.”
In her own way, Martin is already inspiring other young people, the same way her cousin inspired her.
“People come up to me all the time and say, ‘My daughter wouldn’t wear her glasses until she saw you in Little or on Black-ish,’ explained the teen who is lightyears ahead of her time. “Now I have my own production company, and my logo literally has my glasses on it because that’s who I am.”
— InStyle (@InStyle) August 14, 2019