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The SeeHer Award recognizes people who advocate for gender equality, defy stereotypes, portray characters with authenticity and push boundaries in the industry. During their speech, Monáe reflected on their own journey with identity, saying: “There were so many times in my life where 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 outta Kansas City, Kansas and be here tonight. I wasn’t. I didn’t see the vision clearly for myself,” they continued. “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 opportunity despite my own lack of confidence. So anyone out there like me watching right now, I just want you to know that I’ve seen you, but I challenge you to see you.”
Monáe also spoke about some her trailblazing roles, including NASA aerospace engineer Mary Jackson in Hidden Figures and feminist icon and activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes in The Glorias, who they described as “just a few of the characters I’ve had the honor of playing.”
“I’ve tried to make an effort in my work — whether it’s storytelling through music and film, through TV and fashion, through literature — highlight the ones who have been pushed to the margins of society, who’ve been outcasted or relegated,” they said, describing it as a “deeply personal choice” due to their own life experiences, from growing up with working class parents to coming out as non-binary.
“We are able to shed light on a human experience, an experience that most people around this world won’t get an opportunity to see,” she said. “I keep this glimpse of hope in my heart that when someone meets a character like the ones I’ve had an opportunity to play, you be more empathetic to their experience.”
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