While it was a mystery as to what exactly Janelle Monáe had prepared for her Oscars performance this year, the Grammy-nominated singer and Harriet costar kicked off the show Sunday night changing into a red cardigan (and seamlessly fixing a shirt button snafu) à la Mister Rogers, and welcoming the Dolby Theatre to her neighborhood.
Shortly after taking her performance into the audience to serenade A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood nominee Tom Hanks and place her Derby hat on his head, Monáe then urged the crowd “come alive” as dancers took the stage wearing costumes inspired by films including Midsommar, Joker, Dolemite Is My Name, Us, Queen and Slim, Little Women, and 1917.
As Monáe worked on quick costume change that evoked Florence Pugh as the Midsommar May Queen, Billy Porter came onto the stage dressed like Elton John, singing the British performer and 2020 Oscar nominee’s classic “I’m Still Standing.”
Once Monáe returned, she took a moment to note the gravity of her opening the Oscars as a black female queer artist, and then got the crowd to “la la la” with her, including Cynthia Erivo, Brad Pitt, Brie Larson, Kathy Bates, even Leonardo DiCaprio.
Watch the full opening performance above.