The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards are often considered the “Oscars of fashion.” For that reason, it should come as no surprise that the acceptance speeches can become political statements. At Monday night’s annual event, it was actor and musician Janelle Monae who delivered one of the evening’s powerful speeches. She was being honored for her contributions to February’s Women’s March alongside Gloria Steinem and Cecile Richards as recipients of the Board of Directors’ Tribute, and in her moment onstage, she touched on the factors that drew her to fashion and drama, building up into a call to communal action.
“As human beings, it is going to be our responsibility to take care of one another,” she stated. “Women’s rights are human rights. LGBTQ rights are human rights… So as human beings let’s never forget that none of us are free until all of us are free.”
She then spoke directly to the assembled luminaries, who included celebrities like Nicole Kidman and Huma Abedin. “We’re all here, and we’re artists. I never wanted to be a politician because artists get to be honest,” she admitted. “We get to tell it like it is through our work… Let’s continue to speak out against the sexism, the racism, the homophobia, the Islamophobia, and all those things that are constantly trying to divide us. In these moments of turmoil… we must choose freedom over fear.”
Monae recently appeared onscreen in the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures and Oscar-winning Moonlight.