Janelle Monáe was presented with the SeeHer Award at the 28th annual Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, which broadcast live via CW from Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, California. Monáe was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
“She’s an advocate, an ally, a warrior,” her Glass Onion costar Kate Hudson said of Monáe, highlighting their work as an advocate for the LBGTQIA+ community. Monáe received a standing ovation as she took to the podium to speak.
Monáe’s inspirational speech focused on the characters she has portrayed and how they have provided insight, from aerospace engineer Mary Jackson in Hidden Figures, who still had to fight for equal pay despite her groundbreaking work, to portrayals of the Brand twin sisters Helen (a school teacher, who has to grapple while “we still can’t get gun control together in this country,” Monáe said) and Andi (who deals with “billionaire douchebags”) in Glass Onion. To the characters and those that have lived their experiences, Monáe said: “I see you.”
“I’ve tried to make an effort in my work — whether it’s storytelling through music and film or TV and fashion, through literature — to highlight the ones who’ve been outcast or relegated to ‘the other,’” she said. Through the storytelling, she added, we are able to shed light on others, and provide more empathy in the world.
Monáe added that she herself didn’t always see her own light, but others “didn’t give up” on her, she said. “And they gave me opportunities, despite my own lack of confidence.”
“So to anyone out there like me watching right now, I just want you to know that I see you. But I challenge you to see you,” Monáe said.
Monáe was also nominated this year for Best Supporting Actress in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery; Angela Bassett took home the award for her role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Monáe previously received a nod in the same category for her role in 2016’s Hidden Figures and won Best Acting Ensemble the same year for Moonlight.
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The SeeHer Award seeks to honor women whose character portrayals are authentic, eschew stereotypes, and push boundaries, and those who advocate for gender equality.
Monáe is the third film and music star to receive the award, joining Kristen Bell, the 2020 recipient, and Zendaya, who received the award in 2021. Previous SeeHer recipeints include Viola Davis (2017), Gal Gadot (2018), Claire Foy (2019) and Halle Berry (2022).