Janelle Monáe is calling on everyone to love their authentic selves.
The singer and Glass Onion actress, 37, received the seventh annual SeeHer Award at the Critics Choice Awards Sunday night, starting her speech by clarifying that her pronouns are "she/her, they/them and free-ass m-----f----r."
"I try to make an effort in my work ... to highlight the ones who have been pushed to the margins of society, who've been outcast or relegated to 'the other,' " said Monáe. "This is a deeply personal choice for me because I grew up to working-class parents: My mother was a janitor, my father was a trash man, and my grandmother was a sharecropper in Aberdeen, Mississippi."
"And it's personal because I am non-binary, I am queer, and my identity influences my decisions and my work," they added.
Monáe said she hopes the characters she plays inspires audiences to be more empathetic and kind. She went on to add that even when she couldn't see her full potential, she's grateful those around her did.
"There were so many times in my life, y'all, where I did not see me. I couldn't see my light. I couldn't see past my circumstances. If you know my story, I wasn't supposed to make it out of Kansas City, Kansas, to be here tonight. I wasn't," said Monáe. "I didn't see the vision clearly for myself. I couldn't see my gift. I couldn't see what my purpose was supposed to be at that time. But thank you, God, so many other people did. They didn't give up on me, and they gave me opportunities despite my own lack of confidence. I was fakin' it till I made it."
"So to anyone out there like me watching right now," they continued, "I just want you to know that I see you — but I challenge you to see you."
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Previous recipients of the SeeHer Award include Viola Davis, Gal Gadot, Claire Foy, Kristen Bell, Zendaya and Halle Berry. The award "honors a woman who advocates for gender equality, portrays characters with authenticity, defies stereotypes and pushes boundaries," according to a press release.
Monáe currently stars in the Knives Out sequel Glass Onion alongside Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr. and more.
Monáe recently told the AV Club that she "can see the spirit in anything that I'm doing," whether it's acting or in music.
"I think of myself as more of a storyteller than just a musician or an actor," she said. "I think you tell stories through fashion when you have something to say. You tell stories obviously through TV and through film and through music. I've been very fortunate to be able to say something and also realize that maybe singing it will allow you to touch that spirit better than speaking it, or doing a film about it."
The star is also known for her roles in films like Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Antebellum.
"A lot of the movies that I've been able to make, I've been able to kind of forecast — in the most humble way. I've been able to forecast what I feel like is needed culturally," she explained. "When I took on the role of Teresa in Moonlight, I feel like my culture, my community specifically needed that. They needed to see that representation. The world needed to see this Black woman showing up and taking in this queer young boy who was discovering his identity, and listening to him, and being a good ally."
"When I did Hidden Figures and I was Mary Jackson, I didn't know about Mary Jackson growing up. I didn't know about Katherine Johnson or any of the human computers, as they called them at NASA. Who else didn't know about them?" she continued. "So it was important for me to represent the first Black woman engineer at NASA, and to show the world as Black folks, we're not monolithic. We can be in the ghettos all the way to the engineering rooms in NASA."
"And hopefully that would help change people's perception of what we can do, and what spaces we can be. We can be in fantasy, we can be in drama, we can be in horror," said Monáe. "We can be in whodunnit genres. There are so many possibilities and so many opportunities to get to see a specific representation on screen. And so I think for myself, as long as I can continue to read those roles that stretch me as a performer and as an artist and as a thinker, I'll say yes to them. And the ones that don't, I'll have to say no."
The 28th annual Critics Choice Awards are airing live on The CW.