So there was a reason that Billy Porter and Janelle Monae arrived to the 2020 Academy Awards relatively early. Though we knew that Monae was going to be performing, who knew she was up first? And who knew that Billy Porter would make an onstage appearance with her? We didn’t, but we love to see it.
And Monae, being Monae, it wasn’t just any performance. Her set was a big statement, maybe even an eff you to the Oscars. It, in ways reckoned with the space that they all were in, encompassing dancers who were dressed in costumes from a variety of films. Monae kicked things off as Mx. Rogers, wearing Mr. Rogers drag as a nod to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
“Tonight, we celebrate the art of storytelling,” she said transitioning into her own song “Come Alive (The War of Roses).” Porter would join on this song later. It’s here where she added a few edits to her song.
“It’s time to come alive, yeah the Oscars Sunday Night,” she sang. “It’s time to come alive, because the Oscars is so white.” The statement was no doubt bringing attention to the fact that there was only one Black actor nominated in an acting category at the Oscars this year.
Porter sang “I’m Still Standing,” the Elton John song performed in Rocketman and Monae returned to sage in Midsommar drag, recognizing the snubbed film. Other snubbed films were also recognized by costumes the dancers wore.
“Tonight we celebrate all the amazing talent in this room, we celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films,” the performer said. “And I’m so proud to stand here as a black queer artist telling stories.
“Happy Black History Month.” Happy Black History Month indeed.