She shouted out women filmmakers and took pride in being a “Black, queer artist telling stories.”
- Janelle Monáe opened the 2020 Academy Awards with a surprise opening number where she sang about the nominated films, was accompanied by Billy Porter, and got A-listers like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio to sing along.
- The singer also called out the lack of diversity at the ceremony, praising the women who made films this year.
- Monáe was praised with a standing ovation.
There was no host at this year’s Oscars, but singer and actress Janelle Monáe kicked off this year’s ceremony with a musical spectacle.
In a previously unannounced set, she began with a cover of the Mr. Rogers theme song “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” then transitioned into a big band melody—complete with costumed backup dancers and live instrumentalists—about the nominated films this year. The colorfully dressed Billy Porter also joined in for a cover of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” in larger-than-life sunglasses and platform heels.
Monáe, who appeared in Harriet last year, didn’t shy away from audience interactions. She sang to the A-listers in the front row, which included Tom Hanks and Cynthia Erivo, and even got a few to sing along—Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brie Larson.
On a more serious note, however, Monáe took a moment to acknowledge the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees. Mid-performance, she shouted out women directors, considering no women were nominated in this year’s race. “I’m so proud to be standing here as a Black, queer artist telling stories,” she added. “Happy Black History Month.” Viewers on Twitter pointed out that most of the dancers in her set were people of color, too.
Monáe ended her medley on a literal high note, and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
The performer is all about stunning at this year’s Oscars. Moments before taking the stage, she arrived to the Dolby Theater in a sparkly silver Ralph Lauren gown with a hood. The number required 168,000 crystals and took over 600 hours to hand-embroider.
Can Janelle Monáe just open the Oscars every year?