Musician and monochrome fashion icon Janelle Monáe has only just begun her acting career, but she has already demonstrated an impressive knack for selecting roles with profound and far-reaching cultural impact. After her powerful turn as the surrogate mother figure to protagonist Chiron in Barry Jenkins’s searing gay coming-of-age drama Moonlight, Monáe will soon be taking to the screen in Hidden Figures, a biopic about the female African-American mathematicians who helped send John Glenn into space.
Talking to Complex, Monáe — who plays trailblazing aeronautical engineer Mary Jackson — emphasizes how important it is to tell these women’s stories.
“They did all the math, all the projections to get the astronauts into space. Russia had beat us, and we were really trying to make America great again, and these women literally made America great again,” she explained (apologies to Kellyanne Conway). “And they were never given the credit.”
Going forward, Monáe says she wants to continue to make women’s voices heard onscreen. She recently launched an organization called Femme the Future, whose goal is to create more opportunities for women in film, music, media, and television. “If you’re in the position of power you need to walk in a room and make sure you’re femme-ing the future by making sure that ratio of men to women is not in favor of men,” she declared. “It should not be. I mean, come on!”