It takes a lot for white people to hear the cries of Black people and people of color when we’re demanding fairness or representation. However, one thing that most white people understand is entertainment and Janelle Monáe just might’ve been the Trojan horse needed to carry the message of inclusivity.
Monáe opened up the 92nd Academy Awards with a sweet rendition of Mr. Roger’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” then accelerated into her original song “Come Alive”. As soon as it began, the hidden messages commenced, considering many of Monáe’s background dancers were dressed as characters from movies that were snubbed by the Oscars. Many of these movies were ones with a majority Black cast.
Men were dressed as Dolemite from the Eddie Murphy-starring Dolemite Is My Name. Dancers were dressed as the “Tethered” characters from the horror film Us. One dance couple even threw on the thrift store-ready gear of Queen and Slim.
Clearly, Monáe was showing love to films that got zero nominations.
She made it clear how she felt about the situation when she switched up her lyrics in the second chorus by singing to the audience, “It’s time to come aliiiive, cause the Oscars is so white!”
Monáe wasn’t done subtly dragging the Oscars here either. At one point, the singer came down to the audience and during a break in the song she said, “We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films.”
This was clearly a jab at the Oscars for nominating zero women in the Directing category this year when acclaimed movies like Queen & Slim, Little Women and Clemency were all directed by women.
Monáe finished by proclaiming, “I’m so proud to stand here as a Black queer artist telling stories. Happy Black History Month.”
This was the cherry on top to a politically charged message disguised as a performance. Now the only question that remains is will the Academy listen to what Monáe was actually saying, or will they only take her as their entertaining Black person who’s only good for a performance and not any award recognition.
It seems only time will tell. Until the next Oscars, you can check out Monáe’s full performance for yourself below.