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Janelle Monáe Delivers Inspiring Critics’ Choice Speech: “I See You, but I Challenge You to See You”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains nudity.) Janelle Monáe accepts the #SeeHer Award onstage during the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards  at Fairmont Century Plaza on January 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

Janelle Monáe was the guest of honor at the 2023 Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday night. The 37-year-old actor and singer received the SeeHer Award, which honors “a woman who advocates for gender equality, portrays characters with authenticity, defies stereotypes, and pushes boundaries,” per the Critics’ Choice Association. Past recipients include Viola Davis (2017), Gal Gadot (2018), Claire Foy (2019), Kristen Bell (2020), Zendaya (2021), and Halle Berry (2022).

Monáe began her acceptance speech by introducing themself, saying, “I’m Janelle Monáe and my pronouns are she/her/they/them and free-ass motherf*cker.” The actor then dished out some words of wisdom to the audience, saying, “There were so many times in my life 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, and be here tonight. I wasn’t. 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.”

The actor continued, “They didn’t give up on me. They gave me opportunities, despite my own lack of confidence. I was faking it till I made it. 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.”

In addition to the SeeHer honor, Monáe scored a nomination for best supporting actress for her role as Helen in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” Also nominated in the category were Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), Jessie Buckley (“Women Talking”), Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Jamie Lee Curtis (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), and Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”).

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