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Janae is quite guarded, having spent most of her years feeling like an outsider because of her race, intelligence and exceptional athletic ability. She doesn't appear to have had a great deal of experience with men. She is initially very angry and confrontational, but calms down as her friendship with Yoga Jones develops. Watson has felt racial inequality deeply throughout her life which has moulded her personality, leaving angry scars and a passionate need to speak up for and defend her race and heritage against systemic racism. This has led to her often making racist remarks against other races.
Janae is a black woman with brown eyes and black curly hair. She has muscular legs and a trim athletic build due to her training as a track star.
For a list of episodes featuring Janae's flashbacks, see here.
Growing up, Janae was extremely intelligent with her teachers at Van Buren High School, an all-black establishment, believing she would go far in life. Janae was happy with her life until the day she visited an elite prep school on a field trip and was exposed to students who had all the financial, technological and educational support they needed. She was later shocked to watch a production of Dreamgirls being rehearsed with a white girl playing Effie, complete with a fake afro. Janae began to realize just how much she was being denied as a black woman due to systemic oppression, aka racism. As a result, Janae began to rebel and fell for a criminal.
Janae was also a gifted track star whose talent for running started when she was young. Unfortunately, she was ostracized by boys who often told her to "quit showing off". In her high school years, although Janae attracted much attention from college scouts and her coach, she was not noticed by boys. Her parents, her father in particular, are conservative Muslims. Being raised in a strict Muslim household, she was forbidden from dating boys, and her father initially forbade her from running track, since the track uniforms are not Islamically modest. She often looked longingly at the other girls on her team who had boyfriends.
In college, she attended a party hosted by Haley Ricci. The gang leader, Three-D, urged Janae to focus on school, telling her that she had a chance to better her life. However, Janae ignored his advice when a member of the gang, Donte, expressed romantic interest in her. She became involved with his criminal activities and helped him rob a check-cashing establishment
During their escape, Janae was a faster runner which caused Donte to yell for her to "stop showing off" as he fell behind. This momentarily distracted her and allowed a police officer to corner Janae. Donte ran off and let her take the fall for him. It is unknown if he was eventually arrested as well.
She arrives at Litchfield the same day as Piper and Dayanara. She is initially very rude and standoffish toward Piper and has problems with authority, mouthing off to Miss Claudette and the prison guards. Watson is assigned to the tool crib in the electrical shop and loses a screwdriver on her first day. After refusing to be searched by a male prison guard, Watson is sent to the Security Housing Unit (SHU) by Caputo. She blames Piper for this since Piper lost the screwdriver that started the whole confrontation. Piper is able to make it up to her later by convincing Susan Fischer to reopen the running track so that Watson can run again.
After getting out of SHU, Watson continues to pick fights with other inmates. Yoga Jones attempts to calm her down but Janae mocks her pacifist nature and accuses her of killing a child. Yoga Jones slaps her and later, Janae apologizes to her and learns about Yoga Jones's past. The two strike up a friendship.
Janae joins Vee's gang to get a cut of the cigarette money. She is sent down to SHU again after being caught with the cigarettes in her bunk. She is visibly affected by her second time in the SHU, and once again her relationship with Yoga Jones becomes strained when she rejects Yoga Jones' compassion. Vee coldly tells Janae that it was her own fault for getting caught. Later, she is convinced by Vee to pin Red's beating on Crazy Eyes, but has a change of heart and attempts to recant her testimony along with Black Cindy.
When Taystee helps Judy King prepare a statement to tell the press about the riot and the death of Poussey Washington, Janae expressed frustration with allowing a white woman to speak about problems that she had not faced, rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.
When the negotiations began, she was one of the girls standing right outside the room, cheering Taystee on.
She was one of the few that believed Taystee when she told them Figueroa would come back, and waiting with Alison by the door for her. Because they were near the door, they were among the first to be captured by riot officers. Everyone screamed and ran when they busted the doors down, but Janae was quickly caught and tased.
Afterwards all the inmates were brought onto the front lawn while two prison buses pulled in. Janae expressed concern that Cindy, Taystee, and Suzanne were never brought outside.
- Donte (likely ex after Janae's incarceration)
- Yoga Jones
- Cindy Hayes
- Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson
- Poussey Washington
- Suzanne Warren
- Brook Soso
- Alison Abdullah
- Baxter Bayley
- Yvonne "Vee" Parker
- Kasey Sankey
- Helen Van Maele
- Brandy Epps
- Jennifer Digori
- Joel Luschek
- Claudette Pelage
- "You ain't got shit."
- — Janae Watson
- "You're just like the Wizard of Oz. Just a bunch of show, and nothing behind the curtain."
- — Janae Watson
- "Yeah, keep that up. Gonna throw some shit at you, cracker."
- — Janae Watson
- "Jibber, jibber, jabber, jabber; lay hands, bitch!"
- — Janae Watson to Pennsatucky in "Bora Bora Bora"