The BET Soul Train Music Awards renamed one of their gendered prizes to honour non-binary artist Janelle Monáe. The singer was recognised in the newly titled ‘Spirit of Soul’ category at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday, November 26.
The award was previously named ‘Lady of Soul’ but was changed “to honour the diversity and inclusivity” of musicians, particularly Monáe, the 2023 recipient. The accolade recognises musicians for their excellence in hip hop, R&B and soul, with previous winners including Jill Scott, Brandy and Monica.
During their acceptance speech, Monáe said, “There’s nothing like being recognised by your own family”.
“I’m so honoured to have something like this for us that continues to evolve and showcase so many different forms of what soul can be.”
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Monáe highlighted the importance of providing authentic representation for queer and Black folk, saying: “I wanted to shine a light on our community through my storytelling, through the art that I make through music, movies, fashion.
“Bringing it back around to us, to our Blackness, to our beauty.”
They continued saying, “I cannot help but think about the spirit of so many who’ve had to whisper to me, ‘thank you,’ in my ear because they did not feel seen. They did not feel safe. And they felt unheard for far too long. I’m thankful to be able to show up for you.”
Monáe also paid tribute to some of their musical influences, including Prince who taught them: “I’m not a woman I’m not a man I am something that you’ll never understand”, and Grace Jones who encourages them to remain a “free azz mothaf*cka”.
Following the ceremony, the multi-talented artist commented that while they are the first to receive the newly-named prize, they hope they are not the last.
“I hope this inspires more inclusive language in other spaces,” they added.
“Thank you again for honoring where I am in my journey and being inclusive with your words. As a proud non binary person it really did mean a lot to me to be acknowledged in this space, by my people, for who I am now.
“The spirit is what I see first and what I hope people see first in me.”
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Award-winning artist Janelle Monáe came out as non-binary in an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, explaining, “I’m non-binary so I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely, I feel all of my energy. I feel like God is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she’. And if I am from God, I am everything. I am everything…I just see everything that I am. Beyond the binary.”
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