The truth about Tessa Thompson's relationship with Janelle Monae

Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe have been on Hollywood's will-they-or-won't-they list for years. These multi-talented ladies are absolutely killing it in the entertainment industry, but their close relationship makes us wonder: Is there something more between them?

After getting her start acting on Veronica Mars and Grey's Anatomy, Thompson delivered a career-changing performance as Sam White in the indie film incarnation of Dear White People in 2014. She later scored the part of the openly bisexual character Valkyrie in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, earning her a spot in the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe. Meanwhile, Monáe's unique blend of funk, hip-hop, and R&B has garnered critical acclaim since the late 2000s. The six-time Grammy nominee, whose hits include "Tightrope" and "Make Me Feel," has also made a name for herself as an actress. In 2016, she appeared in the award-winning films Hidden Figures and Moonlight.

As we wait for Thompson and Monáe to define their relationship, here are some facts you may not know about this long-rumored couple.

Music videos set the rumor mill ablaze

Thompson and Monáe have been romantically linked since the spring of 2015. After the Creed star appeared as a backup dancer in Monáe's "Yoga" music video, the pair suddenly seemed inseparable. According to Autostraddle's handy timeline of their maybe-more-than-friendship, the duo has made joint appearances at red carpet events, vacationed in Mexico, and quietly documenting time together on social media. 

These couple-y activities eventually sparked rumors of a blossoming romance, but by early 2018, increased speculation surrounding the nature of their relationship made its way into the mainstream. Just ahead of the release of Monáe's third studio album, Dirty Computer, Thompson's appearances in a number of her music videos were considered rather suggestive. In the video for the iconic bisexual anthem "Make Me Feel," the two women dance together, and in a choreographed scene in the music video for "PYNK, Thompson sticks her head out from between the legs of Monáe's pants — and those slacks just so happen to resemble a vagina. 

Their sexuality talks seemed coordinated

Monáe and Thompson continued to ignite rumors of a possible romance when they publicly addressed their respective sexual identities for the first time — within months of one another — in 2018.

Prior to the release of Dirty Computer that April, Monáe famously came out as pansexual in her Rolling Stone cover story. "Being a queer black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women, I consider myself to be a free-a** motherf**ker," she said. While she initially identified as bisexual, the singer-songwriter said when she later read about pansexuality, she "was like, 'Oh, these are things that I identify with, too.' I'm open to learning more about who I am."

Thompson came out as bisexual that June, telling Net-a-Porter, "I can take things for granted because of my family — it's so free and you can be anything that you want to be. I'm attracted to men and also to women." 

A 'tricky' tightrope between advocacy and privacy

With their levels of fame skyrocketing, Thompson and Monáe have remained understandably guarded when it comes to keeping their personal lives out of the spotlight. But as queer women of color breaking ground in the entertainment industry, balancing the responsibility of visibility and the right to their privacy may be why they haven't defined the nature of their relationship.

"It's tricky, because Janelle and I are just really private people and we're both trying to navigate how you reconcile wanting to have that privacy and space, and also wanting to use your platform and influence," Thompson told Net-a-Porter. "I want everyone else to have that freedom and support that I have from my loved ones. But so many people don't. So, do I have a responsibility to say in a public space that this is my person?" 

As for Monáe, she's seemingly mastered the art of deflection. After asking her about the alleged romance, The New York Times compared her response to "watching a mathematician working out Fermat's Last Theorem," adding, "Gears were churning; calculations were being made." In the end, the singer simply said, "I hope people feel celebrated. I hope they feel love. I hope they feel seen."

Will they or won't they?

As of July 2018, Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe have yet to confirm the nature of their relationship. However, it's worth noting that they have directly addressed the ongoing will they/won't they speculation surrounding them. "We love each other deeply. We're so close, we vibrate on the same frequency," Thompson told Net-a-Porter. "If people want to speculate about what we are, that's okay. It doesn't bother me."

Needless to say, the actress' admission dominated headlines. For those who believed the suggestive content of Monáe's Dirty Computer spoke for itself, Thompson's candid interview was perceived as proof positive that the long-rumored pair was indeed an item. However, the actress quickly backtracked on her statements. "Sometimes we cheer so loudly at someone speaking their truth, that we miss what they say," she tweeted alongside a link to the interview, adding, "I didn't say I was in a relationship. But I said lots of other things. All below. One thing I missed — Pride Has No End."

The evolution of Mary

LGBTQ+ themes have long-played a major role in Monáe's music. "If you listen to my albums, it's there," she told Rolling Stone. On her 2013 track "Dance Apocalyptic," the musician sings: "Do that dance / Smoking in the girl's room / Kissing friends." In "Q.U.E.E.N." — which was initially titled, "Q.U.E.E.R." — she rhetorically asks, "Is it weird to like the way she wear her tights?"

Perhaps most telling of all is the evolution in Monáe's discographyof a recurring female character named Mary. This character debuts as the anonymous object of affection for the singer's alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather, in 2010's "Mushrooms & Roses." On the track off of her debut album, Monáe sings about "Blueberry Mary," who has a "beautiful smile and rosy cheeks" and is "crazy about me." In her next album, she refers to the character again in "Q.U.E.E.N.," singing, "Am I a freak because I love watching Mary?"

Lyrical analyses aside, what does this have to do with Thompson and Monáe? By 2018, Mary seemed to evolve into a full-fledged character — and we'll give you two guesses as to who played her. In the "emotion picture" accompanying Dirty Computer, Thompson portrays Monáe's lover, Zen, who is also known as Mary Apple 53.

Their mysterious relationship is still relationship goals

Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe's relationship status may still be unknown, but whether or not these two consider themselves a couple, they've always exhibited total relationship goals.

These talented women are one another's biggest cheerleaders and are known to gush about their achievements in interviews and on social media. After Monáe made headlines with her passionate Time's Up speech at the 2018 Grammys, Thompson proudly tweeted, "Queen." The actress later raved about Dirty Computer, telling Net-a-Porter, "Isn't it such a good record? I am so proud to have been involved."

The "Django Jane" singer showed her public support for Thompson while presenting her with an award at Essence magazine's Black Women in Hollywood event in March 2018. At the luncheon, Monáe also crashed the movie star's red carpet interview with Hollywood Today. "This is her night!" Monáe said. Before blowing a kiss and walking away, the musician added, "I'm so proud of her. I'm so honored to be here to support her."