Janelle Monáe named ‘Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year’

Story at a glance

  • The nonbinary musician, actor and author Janelle Monáe has been awarded The Trevor Project’s annual Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year award.

  • Monáe has demonstrated their “unwavering commitment” to spreading LGBTQ+ mental health awareness, the group said Tuesday.

  • Monáe has been open about their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as their struggles with depression and anxiety.

Grammy-nominated musician, actor and author Janelle Monáe has been named The Trevor Project’s annual “Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year” for their “unwavering commitment” to championing LGBTQ+ mental health awareness, the group announced on Tuesday.

Monáe, who uses both gender-neutral and female pronouns, is the second person to be honored by The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention organization. The rapper Lil Nas X, who is openly gay, won the group’s inaugural award last year.

The honor is given annually to influential public figures that lift up the LGBTQ+ community, spread mental health awareness and remind queer youth that “they are not alone,” The Trevor Project said Tuesday in a news release announcing Monáe’s win.

“Queer representation in the media can have a life-saving impact on LGBTQ young people, and Janelle Monáe is the embodiment of unapologetic self-expression,” Josh Weaver, vice president of marketing at The Trevor Project, said Tuesday.

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“Throughout their career, Janelle has been a trailblazer who constantly challenges the status quo – from their depictions of queer love in their music videos, to their iconic, gender nonconforming style, they continue to redefine the rules around how LGBTQ and BIPOC people can navigate through life,” Weaver said.

In a May interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Monáe said their “natural instinct” has always been to stand up to bullies and to protect people that are trying to live as their authentic selves.

“I always want to protect marginalized and working class folks,” Monáe said.

Last year, the multi-hyphenate artist released a 17-minute version of their 2015 protest song “Say Her Name (Hell You Talmbout)” that featured the names of 61 Black women and girls killed by law enforcement.

Monáe came out publicly as pansexual in a 2018 Rolling Stone cover story, telling the outlet they are “open to learning more about who I am.” In April, they confirmed during an appearance on Facebook Watch’s “Red Table Talk” that they identify as nonbinary.

“I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely,” Monáe told hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris. “I feel all of my energy.”

Monáe has also been open about their struggles with depression and anxiety and revealed in a 2020 interview with NPR that they had suffered several panic attacks while recording their album “Dirty Computer” after former President Trump was elected, worrying that white supremacists and extremists may feel “emboldened” to attack them for speaking out against things like rampant racism, sexism and xenophobia.

“As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety, prioritizing and protecting your mental health is everything,” Monáe said Tuesday in a statement released by The Trevor Project. “No matter what you’re going through, your life matters so much — don’t let anyone try to dim your light.”

“Growing up queer and Black in a religious household, I faced a lot of challenges trying to understand my identity and where I fit in as someone who always felt beyond the binary,” Monáe, who was raised in Kansas City, Kan., said. “We, as LGBTQ folks, as people of color, are a powerful and unstoppable community. I want every young queer person out there to know that I see you, you are beautiful in all of your forms, and you are never, ever alone in this world.”

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