The Intensely Detailed Janelle Monáe and Tessa Thompson Timeline You’ve Been Waiting For

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.”

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:

Photos courtesy of Gina Rodriguez on Snap Chat


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.

Last night with the ladies at @eqca. Standing up for #Equality.

A post shared by Sharon Stone (@sharonstone) on

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:

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:

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.

Also, if you ever wanted see Issa Rae take a bottle of champagne straight to the head, I’ve got you covered.

Get it, girl.


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:

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).

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:

Tessa— That Hand Placement. I see you.

Vapid Fluff Editor Stef: “I just want to be able to look at Janelle like that”

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:

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:

On February 20th 2018, Janelle modeled her best dapper butch babe in a Jordan Peele-directed cover spread for W Magazine.

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!)

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 2018Essence 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.


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!


Are you following us on Facebook?

Carmen is a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but has left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, MI, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow at night. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 79 articles for us.

56 Comments

  1. *prints out all of the tweets and Insta posts and tapes them to my walls with strings hanging between them*

    “IT’S CANON, I CAN PROVE IT!” -Me whenever someone questions the usefulness of my Evidence Walls

  2. I don’t know autostraddle, we might need a new title. This feels like the exact opposite of vapid fluff.

    I know it doesn’t affect my life in anyway and both tessa and Janelle have no obligation to say whether or not they are dating.

    But I feel like that entire sentence doesn’t really matter. Like wtf, Tessa was in the yoga video…..

  3. Ten bucks says that the first confirmation of this presumed relationship will be photos of their cute ass wedding, which will obviously be officiated by Zoe Kravitz and posted on instagram by Gina Rodriguez.

  4. Thank you for putting all this together, I’m so glad you’re on the beat !
    No matter what the future they are so very cute and when they are together they are so much more.
    This is smash the patriarchy journalism at its finest

  5. i was supposed to wake up this morning and feed/walk my dog and call my mom but instead i’m sitting in sweatpants unshowered on the couch next to my poor dog who probably needs to pee and my phone is who-knows-where because i had to drop everything and read this IMPORTANT MASTERPIECE.

    i regret nothing!!

  6. I mean…should we all just shut it down now because there will never be another post as perfect as this one? I mean, I cannot imagine it.

    (Also, anytime I read about Gina Rodriguez from this moment on, I’m going to read it as “Gina Rodriguez Maybe Bisexual.”)

  7. “We did the research?” Autostraddle and Carmen, I love you, but there’s not any original research here that wasn’t first lifted from Jaye Hunt (@hayejunt)’s twitter thread. This is definitely worth more than just a shoutout to her, she may as well have written this piece for you.

    • hello! I wanted to address this because I’m surprised and concerned about what’s implied here about Carmen as an AS writer, one who I admire and back fully. after Make Me Feel came out, and during a social discussion of Tessa and Janelle in the workplace, we talked about Tessa’s role in “Yoga;” as an editor I reverse-pitched the idea of a timeline piece to Carmen without personally being aware of Jaye’s thread or twitter account.

      Carmen of course used that thread — as she acknowledged here! — while doing her research, it’s great and foundational. We are also one of the only sites to cite that thread at all, and far from the only site to write about Janelle and Tesssa. Autostraddle is frequently plagrized whole-cloth (as in, we’ve had entire articles lifted and re-published without permission, or re-worded and republished without permission), and therefore we are especially sensitive to those issues.

      I’m not sure how there would not be overlapping events between that thread and this article when they are about the same topic and by definition concern the same real-life occurrences? Jaye’s thread is a great compilation of information, and also public knowledge about documented real-life events does not constitute intellectual nor creative property. A twitter user who creates a tweet about publicly available images, information or media is not a source on those publicly available elements, nor are they the author or creator of the publicly available media they are commenting on! This assertion does not make sense. Coverage of celebrities like Kristen Stewart or Sarah Paulson also generally relies upon images and media by and about those celebrities circulated through and reposted on social media; I’m not sure why one would feel this article is different intellectually or ethically?

      I wanted to address your specific point that “there’s not any original research here that wasn’t first lifted” especially because the term “lifted” is a serious thing to accuse Carmen of — I took the time to compare, and it’s immediately clear that several things itemized here, including the discussion of the red carpet for Creed, Tessa’s reaction to Janelle’s photoshoot with Jordan Peele, Gina Rodriguez as a person, the names of pictured events, etc, were not mentioned in that twitter thread. This is because they came up during Carmen’s individual research process, which included multiple sources and came from multiple angles, and began far before writing this piece. (In doing so I also came across this tweet in which Jaye specifically says “if you want to write about this please do”, which seems pertinent.) Carmen has also told me that she and Heather were joking last week about the Daily Mail calling them “gal pals” on the red carpet, unaware it was on this twitter thread. Carmen saw Tessa calling Janelle a queen live in real-time at the Grammys, because she follows Tessa, as well as Janelle and Gina. She traced back a Lainey Gossip source for the HBO After Party info. She found twitter side commentary on Remezcla. We have slack receipts for all of this.

      Even besides that being the case, however, this claim seems to me to come from a place that’s unclear about the process of pitching, researching, writing and publishing an article. This post has ~2000 words of Carmen’s voice, takes, jokes, and speculation; she worked hard on it using a variety of sources and fact-checking them under my editorship, considering issues like tone, accreditation, narrative and audience that are simply fundamentally different from writing a twitter thread. Using a source does not then make the source the ostensible writer of the article. I fully expect other websites to have similar articles up in the coming days, just as every single other website concerned with queer celebrity gossip has published similar posts to us on Kristen Stewart, Cara Delevingne, Annie Clark, etc. They will also follow a similar timeline and contain similar points, because these are the events that have occurred. It would never occur to us to accuse them of “lifting” anything, because this is public knowledge of public interest — although it would be nice if they cited it! Which Carmen has done here.

      • First of all, I totally believe that the idea for the piece was created completely without knowledge of the twitter thread. I also 100% believe that Carmen invested significant amounts of time and effort into researching this article on her own. I appreciate that you took the time to outline what exactly happened in the decision to write this piece Rachel.

        However, I think the one thing that you didn’t address that the OP was likely referring to is that the original twitter thread by @hayejunt was posted over four months ago (10/8/2017).

        I do not claim to know anything about journalistic standards. The closest thing I do know about that I think might apply here is what happens when two scientists happen upon the same discovery completely separate from one another.

        Let’s say scientist A comes up with a theory based on a series of observations and publishes it. Scientist B comes along later with their own theory about the same series of observations and publishes it. Scientist B had absolutely no clue about the work A was doing. Who should generally get the credit for the discovery? The first one to publish.

        Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying twitter is the equivalent of an academic journal and if science was all about figuring out what fine celebrities were queer, god knows I would have stuck with it, but I believe the gist of it works for this situation.

        To me, OP is saying that this piece did not seem to clearly acknowledge that @hayejunt already posted an incredibly similar timeline in a fairly well-known thread on twitter months ago, and instead represented it as a completely new and original work. Even if it was created in a vacuum with minimal references to the twitter thread, this doesn’t change the fact that the twitter thread already existed for months prior to this article. Is Carmen’s article way more detailed? For sure! Did I enjoy reading it more? Definitely. Do I think she seems like an awesome person and talented writer all-around? Hell yes!!

        Is it novel? Nope.

        I don’t believe anyone’s intention is to slander Autostraddle or Carmen’s reputation but to simply point out that the degree of recognition in this piece for @hayejunt (three lines 75% of the way in) doesn’t seem 100% fair. It seems like this is a sentiment also shared by @hayejunt based on their recent tweets.

  8. This killed me dead autostraddle, and I’d like to thank you for my murder.

    It’s always seemed pretty clear from her songs tbh. For example:

    Queen:
    Hey brother can you save my soul from the devil?
    Say is it weird to like the way she wear her tights?
    And is it rude to wear my shades?
    Am I a freak because I love watching Mary? (Maybe)
    Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven?
    Say will your God accept me in my black and white?
    Will he approve the way I’m made?
    Or should I reprogram the programming and get down?

    Electric Lady:
    Gloss on her lips
    Glass on the ceiling
    All the girls showing love
    While the boys be catching feelings
    Once you see her face, her eyes, you’ll remember
    And she’ll have you falling harder than a Sunday in September

    But still. Thanks boo.

  9. thank you so much Carmen this has made my day

    autostraddle constantly delivering the content i don’t even know i need

    also i don’t know if i’ve ever related to any sentence more than “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.”

  10. This is one of the best articles of all time. I will bookmark it and read it every week. Damn. I wish they’d just give us a miniseries tv show with both of them as the love interests of each other. I will explode.

    Seeing all the pictures on this post is enough to cause multiple orgasms.

  11. Hello! Can you please update this now that Dirty Computer is out?? I very much need (“need”) to hear your thoughts on that extended bed monologue in the middle of Pynk!! I feel like it’s basically confirmed! Okay, thanks Carmen, love your commentary, also this isn’t vapid fluff, okay bye

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.