Janelle Monáe's Mandy in UGLYDOLLS
Janelle Monáe's Mandy in UGLYDOLLS

Unconventionality rules in UGLYDOLLS, the new animated family adventure based on the beloved toy brand. In the adorably different town of Uglyville, the free-spirited Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) and her UglyDolls friends confront what it means to be different, struggle with their desire to be loved, and ultimately discover that you don’t have to be perfect to be amazing because who you truly are is what matters most.

Here, star of the film Janelle Monáe discusses her role, as well as singing in the flick and more...

What can you tell us about the character you play, Mandy?

Mandy is my hero, she’s an empath, she empathises with the UglyDolls and she sees something very special in them, even when they don’t see it in themselves. She’s a nurturer, she’s strong, she’s confident, she’s also insecure, but I think she goes on this journey with them and she comes out a better person.

Tell us a little bit about where Mandy lives...

Mandy lives at the Institute of Perfection. There are other dolls who live there who are ‘perfect’, you know, and their whole lives are dedicated to being perfect and dedicated to impressing Lou, who is the leader of the Institute of Perfection, he runs it.

So Lou runs the Institute of Perfection; what can you tell us about him?

Lou [voiced by musician and actor Nick Jonas] is the leader (laughs) of the Institute of Perfection, he’s like the President there, he’s a God to them, they worship him, they love him, they live their whole lives to like impress him and they think he is going to be in control of their destiny and he will be the one that gets them to their proper home and their ‘child’ where everything will be perfect. So they think Lou has the key to making their lives perfect. Mandy sees right through him, you know, I think that she is a little brain washed by Lou a few times, but she sees through him and she doesn’t like how he treats the UglyDolls, she thinks he is a bully and he’s pretty obnoxious.

Why does Mandy help the UglyDolls?

Mandy helps the UglyDolls because she sees herself in them, she never really fits in at the Institute of Perfection, she’s not perfect, she knows that, I don’t think she wants to be, but I think because of the culture there at the Institute of Perfection she feels like she has to be. But when she meets the UglyDolls they awaken something in her. She’s like this is my tribe, this is my group of people that I can just be weird with, you know, I don’t have to be perfect, I can let my wall down.

What can you tell us about the film's positive themes?

When I signed on to do this, I knew it was going to be fun and I loved the message, multiple messages that weird is beautiful, different is to be celebrated. There’s something I live by that’s in line with this movie about embracing the things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. I think that shines through.

Tell us about your excitement for being involved in the film...

Yeah, I was very excited to be aligned with something that I live. You know I really make it a choice to make music and to take on projects that celebrate the marginalized voices and those who are considered weird and different and dirty and outcast. I see myself in that, I grew up feeling like that at times, and I think that if I would have had more movies like UglyDolls I think it would have been a lot more easy for me to walk in my uniqueness. 

What do you think viewers will take away from the film?

I think that the families that come and watch the film, whether you’re a child or a grandparent or an aunt or an uncle, or a mum or a dad, sister or brother, I think that it’s a movie for everyone to get inspired by because I do think that we go through awkward stages in our lives, hell I’m going through one right now! (laughs) You know, as you’re trying to grow and you’re trying to make decisions on what type of person you wanna be and you know if you’re gonna trust your gut versus what everyone else says you should be doing, and I think that we are all faced with these questions. Also, are we gonna protect the misfits and the outcasts and those who can’t stand up for themselves? I think that these are just fundamental questions but it’s such a fun and musical experience that you don’t think about those things but they’re in there, it takes you on this, just this fun journey of what it means to celebrate your weirdness and celebrate being different and being unique.

Tell us about the song Unbreakable that you sing in the movie...

Unbreakable is a duet that I have with Kelly Clarkson and I love her so much she killed it, it’s a reminder that we are going to fall, we are going to get knocked down, we are going to have people say mean things about us, there are times when we may not believe in ourselves. But that song, when you listen to it, I hope that you feel like you can stand taller, that you can get right back up and you can press forward and keep moving on. You’re only down for so long, it’s about how you get up and how quickly you can get up and remember that you are unbreakable. 

UGLYDOLLS is released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on August 16th, 2019.