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Janelle Monáe says her queer nonbinary identity influenced her career early on. The 37-year-old singer, actress recalled her humble beginnings as she accepted her SeeHer award at the Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.

“This is a deeply personal choice for me because I grew up to working-class parents. My mother was a janitor, my father was a trash man, and my grandmother was a sharecropper in Aberdeen, Mississippi,” she said.

“It’s personal because I am nonbinary,” she said in reference to her undefined sexuality. “I am queer and my identity influences my decisions and my work. I have always believed that through storytelling, we are able to shed light on the human experience, and experience that most people around this world won’t get an opportunity to see.”

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The “Glass Onion” star continued: “I kind of keep this glimmer of hope in my heart that when someone meets a character like the ones that I’ve had an opportunity to play, you be more empathetic to their experience, more empathy. You want to be more like them. You want to be more kind, less judgmental, more eager to advocate for them.”

Janelle said she thought she would never make it out of her native Kansas City because she was unable to see her “gift.”

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“If you know my story, I wasn’t supposed to make it out of Kansas City 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. They didn’t give up on me and they gave me opportunities despite my own lack of confidence. I was faking it until I made it. To anyone out there like me watching right now, I just want you to know that I see you. Challenge you to see you.”

“Thank you to SeeHer and thank you to the Critics Choice Association for recognizing me. I stand in the biggest puddle of gratitude and for making me the recipient of the 2023 SeeHer award. Thank you.”