Everyone who witnessed Janelle Monáe‘s tribute to Prince at the 2016 BET Awards can agree that the funk-pop legend would be proud. From her hip-thrusting dance moves and mesmerizing stage presence to her all white butt-baring ensemble, Monáe brought Prince’s spirit to life one more time in Microsoft Theatre last Sunday.
“It’s hard when you lose a friend and a musical hero.” Monáe tells PEOPLE. “I was just doing everything in his name. It wasn’t about Janelle Monáe that night, it was about Prince.”
The 30-year-old CoverGirl spokeswoman performed a montage of Prince’s greatest hits like “Kiss” and “I Would Die For You,” while sprinkling in some of her own signature moves. However, Monáe says she knew that mastering Prince’s bold fashion style was one of the most important aspects of the tribute.
The “Tightrope” singer worked with her stylist Maeve Reilly and designer Sergio Hudson to recreate Prince’s most iconic looks for the tribute, including the butt cut-out pants that he wore during his MTV Video Music Awards performance in 1991.
“That moment was just about freedom and fearlessness and choosing freedom over fear. That’s what Prince represented.” Monáe says. “His style was just as incredible as his guitar playing, just incredible as his voice. He liked my style as well, so I wanted to create outfits that felt like this is Janelle Monáe and Prince.”
Monáe says she will continue to keep her hero’s spirit alive as she works with producer Pharrell Williams on the soundtrack to her big screen debut, Hidden Figures, releasing January 2017.
“I’m gonna do everything I possibly can to keep fighting for black excellence in music and film and TV, because I know that’s what he would want me to do.”