Before this year, most of us knew Janelle Monáe as an extremely talented singer. We were aware she is an amazing musician (she has six Grammy nominations and her own label, for crying out loud), but no one really saw what else she had up her sleeve.
Now, Monáe's electrifying musical talent is almost taking a backseat to a breakout acting career. Out of nowhere, she established herself as a dramatic powerhouse in 2016.
The fact that she didn't receive any nods at this year's Academy Awards has baffled most people, but here's why Monáe is definitely still this year's Oscar darling, despite being snubbed.
Monáe appears as Teresa in the beautiful Moonlight (the story of a young man struggling with his sexual identity as he grows up in a rough neighborhood in Florida) and as Mary Jackson in the smash hit Hidden Figures (which tells the true tale of the team of black female mathematicians who were a huge part of John Glenn's launch into space in the '60s).
"I thought, finally, we have a story that won’t just be highlighting our beauty as black women but our brilliance," she told the Los Angeles Times of Hidden Figures. "I was in tears reading about the amount of obstacles these women had to go through as they were trying to send our first Americans into space. I was truly proud of how they maneuvered through that matrix in the 1960s and late ’50s. They were able to achieve the extraordinary during a time when African Americans and African American women did not have the agency that I have now."
And did we mention that she already won an award for Best Acting Ensemble for Moonlight at the Critics' Choice Awards and a statue for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the SAG awards?
Monáe recently appeared on Good Morning America with Raye Montague, one of the women involved with the space launch back in the day — and it's clear by the way that Montague looks at Monáe that Montague is proud of the 2016 portrayal of her accomplishments in the '60s.
Monáe, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson gave us goose bumps when they took to the stage at the SAG awards back in January. The trio won our hearts while accepting the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The only thing that topped Henson's acceptance speech was the celebrating that took place after.
Monáe has been flawless at every award show in the 2016-2017 season. We're super-excited to see how elegant she will look at the Oscars.
Monáe is a force to be reckoned with — and she knows it — but she doesn't come off as cocky or arrogant. She just knows she's the shit because, well, she is.
"I’ve never viewed myself as ‘just’ a musician or singer," she told The Guardian. "I’m a storyteller who wants to tell untold, meaningful, universal stories in unforgettable ways. I want to do it all, study it all and find my place in it."
When it comes to social injustice, Monáe isn't just a keyboard warrior. She gets out there to get shit done.
She's led marches for Black Lives Matter, gave a speech at the Women's March, performed at a charity concert that aided the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and released a protest song, "Hell You Talmbout," about police brutality.
"Millennials will not be silenced — we’re the powerhouse now," she told The Guardian. "We’re not going to let those who want to ‘make America great again’ truly take over. Because what Trump means by ‘making America great again’ is oppressing women, oppressing minorities, creating hate. We’re not allowing him to run the world, even though he thinks he is."
Monáe may know the real women from the Hidden Figures story on a personal level now, but like many Americans, she had no idea they even existed before she was hired to be in the movie.
"First of all, I'm honored to just honor these women," Monáe said on Good Morning America. "I had no clue who Mary Jackson was, who Miss Katherine Johnson was, Dorothy Vaughan or any of the 'colored computers,' as they called us back then. I didn't know these were the women who sent our first American astronauts into space. I mean, these are American heroes."
If nothing else, the cast of Hidden Figures deserve to win an Oscar for bringing this amazing story mainstream.
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