Janelle Monae earned a standing ovation at the start of the 2020 Oscars after launching into a spectacular song and dance performance to open Hollywood’s big night.
The singer-turned-actress kicked off the festivities by stepping out dressed in a white shirt, black pants, and a red cardigan in a nod to beloved children’s TV presenter Fred Rogers, as she belted out a rendition of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
She took the show into the audience by serenading the stars seated in the front row, before pausing in front of Best Supporting Actor nominee Tom Hanks, who portrayed the late Rogers in the film, and placing her bowler hat on the actor’s head.
Monae then transitioned into an original number dedicated to this year’s nominees, during which she was joined onstage by Pose star Billy Porter, who shared a cover of Elton John classic I’m Still Standing from Rocketman.
Monae went on to give a pointed speech about diversity at the Academy Awards, where the majority of acting nominees are white, while the Best Director category is all male.
“Tonight, we celebrate all the amazing talent in this room,” she shared. “We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films, and I’m so proud to stand here as a black, queer artist telling stories. Happy Black History Month.”
The first guest presenters of the night, Steve Martin and Chris Rock, hailed Monae’s “incredible” opening, and also called out the lack of “vaginas” nominated this year.
Pointing out Cynthia Erivo, the sole person of color up for an acting accolade for her role as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Harriet, Rock quipped, “Cynthia did such a good job in Harriet hiding black people, that the Academy got her to hide all the black nominees!”
The 92nd Academy Awards, which is without a main host for the second consecutive year, are taking place at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.