This post has been updated throughout with new events. Last update: 6/29/2018.
For months, there’s been growing speculation about whether musician/actress/ArchAndroid Janelle Monáe and the rising feminist Hollywood star Tessa Thompson are in a romantic relationship.
Those rumors intensified this month when Janelle accompanied Tessa on the red carpet for the premiere of her new film Annihilation and then Tessa was featured as a love interest in the trailer for Janelle’s new audio-visual album Dirty Computer. THEN ON THURSDAY Janelle dropped a new music video, the already-iconic bisexual anthem “Make Me Feel,” which is burning down the gay internet, and TESSA SHOWED UP ONCE AGAIN! This time dancing with Janelle, feeding her a lollipop, and variety of other decidedly super gay activities.
We’ve decided it’s time to really dig into the issue on the tip of all of our tongues: Are these two dating or not?
Neither woman has issued an official statement to confirm or deny the gossip buzzing around them. But there is a preponderance of evidence! In fact, when presented with this complete dossier, our Vapid Fluff Editor and body language expert Stef Schwartz gave the following very official commentary: “Even if these two are best friends who are just messing with people — they definitely boned. At least twice.”
Here is the evidence, in obsessive and well-sourced detail. Get ready! This is gonna be a deep dive.
Pre-2015: The Tessa and Janelle Story Begins
Between 2010 and 2015 Janelle Monáe is a rising pop star who pings for a lot of people as family, but chooses not to talk about her sexuality in public. Still, she’s out there in the world busy writing songs about being in “queer love” with a “robot named Mary.”
Janelle Monae 2010: i don't discuss my sexuality, only the android revolution.
Janelle Monae 2018: have you fools SEEN Tessa Thompson?
— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor) February 22, 2018
Tessa Thompson first entered the pop culture mainstream as a series regular on the second season of the short-lived but excellent, Veronica Mars and playing The Chief’s niece who’s dying from cancer in the season two finale of Grey’s Anatomy, both in 2006. Fast forward a few years and in 2014 Tessa’s career gets a big kickstart with her star turn in the indie satire Dear White People — produced by everyone’s favorite celebrity girlfriend Lena Waithe and out gay writer/director/producer Justin Simien.
2015: I Bet You Didn’t Know Janelle and Tessa Went Back This Far
We officially start our timeline in the Spring of 2015, where there was a lot of hot action bubbling and gay love in the air.
First, Janelle Monáe releases her new music video for my favorite dance around barefoot in the kitchen single, “Yoga,” on April 13th 2015. And who is that featured as a background dancer? Why, it’s NONE OTHER THAN TESSA THOMPSON!
But wait, things aren’t as simple as they appear! You see, at the same time as this video release, Janelle is rumored to be dating Rapper/DJ MC Lyte. Which we covered for you way back when. Supposedly, the two had been an intimate item since BET’s annual Black Girls Rock concert & award show earlier that same year. At the time this felt MAJOR.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m thinking that relationship was not long for this world. Because on May 30th 2015, Janelle Monáe performed at the MOCA charity gala in Los Angeles and guess who was with her — in a matching black & white outfit, no less — our girl Tessa Thompson.
November 7th 2015 rolls around, and Janelle Monáe receives the “Equality Award” at the 18th Annual Women’s Event hosted by the Center in New York (NYC’s LGBT Community Center). The award is meant to honor Monáe for her contributions to feminism and women’s equality, as well as thank her for being an LGBT “ally.” I’ll give you one guess who presented her with the award. Just kidding! You don’t need the guess. The answer is Tessa Thompson.
Later that same month, November 20th 2015, Tessa is busy with her own career. She’s at the premiere of Creed, the sequel to the Rocky franchise starring Michael B. Jordan that’s about to launch her career into a new stratosphere. That’s ok though, because
her girlfriend Janelle Monáe found time to surprise her on the red carpet! How romantic!
And there’s more! That December black celebrity gossip site The YBF reported that Janelle swept Tessa Thompson and a group of their closest friends on a gal pal “Girl’s Trip” to Mexico so they could celebrate the success of Creed. Total heterosexual behavior.
2016: In Which Janelle and Tessa Handle Business
Lovelies, the trail goes somewhat cold in 2016 as Tessa goes on location for most of the year, filming not one but TWO blockbusters — Thor: Raganok, where she plays the bisexual badass Valkyrie, and Annihilation, the sci-fi thriller co-starring Gina Rodriguez (forever known to me known as Gina Rodriguez Maybe Bisexual, and one of the reoccurring guest stars in the ongoing romantic saga of #Janessa, and yes hashtag Janessa is a thing, thanks Twitter) and Natalie Portman.
I’m pretty sure that Janelle was also busy filming Hidden Figures at this time, but I couldn’t find any source material to prove it?
Anyway, Tessa’s friendship with Gina Rodriguez Maybe Bisexual gave us such perfect moments as this:
2017: Tessa and Janelle, Back and Better Than Ever
The ongoing Janessa beat blazes hot again right again right at the start of the year! On February 25th 2017 black legend Alfre Woodard brought together black actresses from across Hollywood for her annual Oscars Week “Sistah’s Soiree” at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. According to InStyle the event celebrates “current [black women Oscar] contenders, past nominees, and those who, in a perfect world, should have been” as they share insights together and have a heart-to-heart bonding session about navigating the industry as black women. Tessa Thompson can be seen in the official “Class Photo” in the back row:
But do you know who was there at the same time, at the same hotel, and NOT photographed? Our favorite Android:
On September 16, 2017 Tessa and Janelle are pretty cuddled up at the annual Equality California Awards (EQCA’s), which honor those who work to help create a more equal, just, and fun world for the LGBT community. It’s hard to get a photo alone of them thanks to rock royalty and one of my earliest crushes Zoe Kravitz, who will now be known as “BFF Zoe Kravitz” for the purposes of this investigative report. Much like Gina Rodriguez Maybe Bisexual, BFF Zoe Kravitz will play a reoccurring role in the love story of our two ladybirds.
Also, Sharon Stone was there. That’s not relevant, I just thought y’all would like to know.
The next day, September 17th 2017, the two were seen cuddled up at the HBO Emmys After-Party.
Not unrelated, earlier that same night Janelle tweeted out this adorable rainbow emoji in celebration of gay classic San Junipero’s “Best Writing” Emmy win:
— Janelle Monáe, Cindi (@JanelleMonae) September 18, 2017
Recently a member of the Janessa Army on Twitter suggested that Janelle consider remaking the episode starring Tessa Thompson, which as we all know, she just did:
San Junipero, but with Tessa and Janelle pic.twitter.com/gRlJjqwKCm
— Dig Bick Energy. (@jamKartel) February 20, 2018
On October 8th 2017 Issa Rae threw a last-minute casual “Lemon Pepper Kickback” House Party for the working black actors in Atlanta. Guests included: the casts of Insecure, Atlanta, the upcoming film The Hate You Give, and musicians from Janelle’s Wondaland Studios. Guests also include: Tessa Thompson.
Here’s the thing: It’s possible that Tessa just happened to be in ATL filming her parts of Avengers: Infinity Wars. But if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s most likely she was there because she was at Janelle’s house and they were home together sharing an organic green juice when Issa’s text came through.
**SWIPE LEFT** It started with a simple text: Yvonne: Gurl, there's a rack'a black folks filming in ATL. Issa: I knooow! We should do something & bring everyone together. Yvonne: Done. And thus the #LemonPepperKickback was born. Pictures don't do it enough justice… this was a beautiful, positive, melanin-filled night. #iLoveUs #WeAllWorking #ItWasAllAdream #BLAXCELLENCE
Also, if you ever wanted see Issa Rae take a bottle of champagne straight to the head, I’ve got you covered.
2018: Zero F*cks Given
We have made it! 2018! Only two months in and we have more Tessa and Janelle material than any of the previous years! How did we get to be so lucky? Wow, what a time to be alive.
On January 28th 2018, Janelle gave a “Time’s Up” speech on The Grammys stage about sexual harassment, assault, and gender inequality in the music industry. Tessa played
the super supportive girlfriend gave her gal pal lots of love with a total Tweet storm, of which I’m presenting the best one for you here:
Queen . https://t.co/ZZUID2ZYvE
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) January 29, 2018
On January 30th 2018 Tessa and Janelle
had a date night went to the Black Panther premiere. While there are no photos of them together on the purple carpet, lots of photos inside the event show that they were as close as ever celebrating #BlackExcellence with the cast.
Then, THE CASE CRACKED WIDE OPEN!!! In the middle of the night on February 5th 2018, Janelle and Tessa had the cutest night in and live-streamed it for all of their followers! Autostraddle Staff Writer and techno-computer maven Raquel tells me that this event originally happened on Instagram Live (you guys, I’m terrible at social media things).
— jaye hunt (@hayejunt) February 5, 2018
I WAS GOING TO CUT THIS VIDEO DOWN BUT IT’S THE GAYEST TWO MINUTES OF CONTENT I’VE EVER SEEN pic.twitter.com/y44boouquD
— jaye hunt (@hayejunt) February 5, 2018
Look at all those sweet, casual, knowing, gentle touches! Look at them, I say!!! (This is a good time to shout out @hayejunt on Twitter, who has singlehandedly contributed more to the tracking of #Janessa than probably any other fan on record. Salute!)
Also, if you look closely at the comments floating across the screen, you will see none other than BFF Zoe Kravitz make a reappearance among the masses showing their love!! “Janellllleee and Tesssssaaa for Eva.” She’s truly the greatest wingman. You can hear Janelle calls her “Zo Zo”, which is absolutely the best.
February 13th, 2018. The Annihilation premiere. Janelle is photographed WITH TESSA ON THE ACTUAL RED CARPET!! The paparazzi captioned their photos as “gal pals.” Seriously, if these photos don’t make you a Janessa True Believer, I’m not sure what will:
Also, we are once again presented with Gina Rodriguez Maybe Bisexual, who tweeted this very dreamy, super romantic photo and caption that I still think fondly about:
Her: come with me. Me: where? Her: does it matter? Me: nope. pic.twitter.com/xYIF9rgE4k
— Gina Rodriguez (@HereIsGina) February 14, 2018
A few days later, February 16th 2018, Janelle Monáe released the trailer for her first full length album in five years, Dirty Computer. The album comes out April 27th, but Tessa Thompson stole my heart starting now. There’s lots of short clips of the couple throughout, but I think this the one that made us collectively forget how to breathe:
Tessa Approves. (Though lets all be honest here, Janelle Monáe in those suspenders and that suit was worth at least THREE FIRE EMOJIS. Tessa, don’t make me doubt your tastes!)
🔥 Make a movie now, y’all. https://t.co/9Y9v4jPdIC
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) February 20, 2018
And this brings us to February 22nd 2018, when Janelle Monáe released her first two singles off of Dirty Computer. Both singles are great, and if you haven’t heard “Django Jane” you absolutely should, but it’s the Prince inspired “Make Me Feel” video that sent our gossip world ablaze!
In it Janelle dances with both Tessa Thompson and a male love interest in a nightclub that’s decorated in lights of the bi pride flag, sings between the legs of female dancers clad in rainbow colored tights, and wears see-through pants! DID I MENTION THAT TESSA IS THE STAR??? Of course I did.
It’s as close to any statement about Janelle’s sexuality that I’ve ever seen (self edit 4/26/18- That’s not true anymore!!), and it’s a marvelous work of art. We are still talking about it! We may never stop talking about it.
Oscar Week 2018 arrives with many gifts for us! On March 1st 2018, Essence magazine hosts their annual “Black Women in Hollywood” award luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. Janelle Monáe is on hand to present
love of her life Tessa Thompson’s with the magazine’s honor.
Later that week, on March 3rd 2018 Tessa attends Janelle’s “Fem the Future” Oscar brunch. The event brought together working women actors, directors, musicians, and activists to discuss Hollywood’s current political climate and gender inequality.
As the frost of winter turns to budding dew of spring, the intense twitter interactions between Tessa and Janelle become too numerous to quickly keep track of. Then on April 10th 2018 Monáe releases another single from Dirty Computer. “Pynk” is a “feminist love letter to springtime, being femme, black and brown women’s bodies, and vaginas — all divorced from the male gaze,”.
Tessa’s all over this video, too. Most notably, her face spends significant time sandwiched between Janelle’s thighs while the singer dons vagina shaped pink pants and sings “Pink is the truth you can’t hide”.
Later in the video, Tessa appears among a row of dancing butts! What I’m saying is, this video is my happy place.
On April 26th 2018, the eve of Dirty Computer‘s official release, WE ARRIVE AT A GAME CHANGING MOMENT!!!! After years of not talking publicly about her sexuality, Janelle Monáe comes out in Rolling Stone as a queer, bisexual, pansexual “free-ass motherfucker”. The interview is brave, vulnerable, and thoughtful. It’s everything we could ask for our android.
Stop the presses! Just when we thought we had reached our highest point, on June 29th 2018 Tessa Thompson came out, too!!! Not only that, she also had some pretty amazing words to share about her relationship with Janelle and our collective glee over it: “We love each other deeply. We’re so close, we vibrate on the same frequency. If people want to speculate about what we are, that’s okay. It doesn’t bother me.”
Call the ambulance! I think my heart just stopped due of this high-key level of cute.
— Autostraddle (@autostraddle) June 29, 2018
Where will our journey take us from here? Who knows! But I have sworn myself to this beat. If we haven’t seen Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe kiss on camera by the end of the year, I’m throwing myself into the sun.
Happy 20Gayteen everyone!