Janelle Monáe performed the opening number at the 2020 Oscars, and her show was a powerful statement about the award show’s lack of diversity.
The Academy has received heavy criticism this year for only nominating one non-white actor and zero female directors. Monáe’s performance highlighted notable films that were snubbed by the Oscars. Her dancers dressed up as characters from Black- and woman-led movies like “Us,” “Queen & Slim,” “Midsommar,” and “Dolemite Is My Name.” Some nominated films were also present on-stage, including “Joker” and “Little Women.”
“Tonight, we celebrate all the amazing talent in this room,” Monáe said at the beginning of the show. “We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films.”
Later, Monáe sang: “It’s time to come alive, because the Oscars is so white!” The remixed lyric was a reference to the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, started by April Reign in 2015.
After a duet with Billy Porter, Monáe also wished the audience a happy Black History Month, saying: “I’m so proud to stand here as a Black queer artist telling stories.”
The singer and actress wasn’t the only one to call out the Oscars for snubbing women and people of color. Several presenters made jokes about the situation, including Chris Rock and Steve Martin. Some winners also highlighted the issue during their acceptance speeches. On the red carpet, Natalie Portman wore a dress inscribed with the names of notable female directors.
The only actor of color to receive a nomination was Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet.”
“Cynthia did such a great job in ‘Harriet’ hiding black people that the academy got her to hide all the black nominees,” Chris Rock joked right after Monáe’s performance. “Cynthia, is Eddie Murphy under this stage?”
The Oscars did make history for one non-white community. “Parasite” won for Best Picture, making it the first non-English language film to ever do so.