To honor Janelle Monáe, an awards ceremony degendered an award

It’s the age of Janelle Monáe and the nonbinary singer is getting all of their flowers this awards season. 

On Sunday night, the “Lipstick Lover” singer arrived at the 36th annual Soul Train Awards ready to party. The annual ceremony honors Black talent changing the game in media, entertainment, fashion, advocacy, and culture.

Hosted by Keke Palmer, the show’s’ first openly queer host, in the lavish Beverly Hills, California, the ceremony kicked off with a rousing performance of Janelle’s “Float,” followed by a celebratory rendition of “Champagne Sh*t.” Covered in a cape of flowers and a floral crown, soon after received more flowers with the presentation of the inaugural “Spirit of Soul Award” by touring mates and TikTok sensation Flyana Boss.

Typically, the “Lady of Soul Award” is given to a female artist killing the music game. But Janelle identifies as nonbinary and to honor their identity, the Wondaland Records creator received the Spirit of Soul Award instead. 

The new award is a step towards the ceremony’s inclusion of Black queer and trans people, something Janelle noted in their acceptance speech. 

“It’s nothing like being recognized by your own—by your own family—yall are family to me,” Janelle said. “Thank you for keeping the soul alive. So many people have reinvented that word, and I am just so honored to have something like this for us that continues to evolve and showcase so many different forms of what soul can be.”

Janelle continued by shouting out the icons who inspired them, ultimately quoting the song “I Would Die 4 U” by one of their major inspirations Prince.

“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand.”

Finally, they ended their speech with a call to action to make each space welcoming and inclusive one for all Black people, queer and trans folks included.  

“Let the spirit of love use you. Let the spirit of kindness use you. Let the spirit of empathy use you. Let the spirit of peace be your guide always and forever. And may our spirits guide us toward creating a safe and equitable place for our people.”

They said what they said. Check out the full speech below.

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