Janelle Monáe recognized the fact that she didn’t graduate from college during her commencement speech at Dillard University, but that didn’t stop her from leaving the Class of 2017 with a few words of wisdom and picking up an honorary degree.


Monáe, who played NASA physicist Mary Jackson in the movie Hidden Figures, spoke about her upbringing and how she looked to her parents for motivation. Monáe’s father was a garbage man, and her mother was a postal worker.

“They would go into work, and they would give it their absolute best,” she said.

Monáe spoke about the physicist she played in her blockbuster movie, and told graduates to use Jackson’s life as motivation.


“She stood before that white judge with so much courage and determination to challenge the system. She saw freedom and she went for it. She grabbed it by the neck and she just wouldn’t let up,” Monáe said. “That’s how we—me and you—can escape the gravity of fear, making us free to soar wherever our hearts and minds so desire.”

Monáe shared with the graduates of the HBCU her three secrets to life, which included something everyone could learn from.

“No. 1, the importance of being gracious. No. 2, the importance of being proud. No. 3, the importance of choosing freedom over fear,” she said.

Bye, Kinja! It's been fun (occasionally).

Share This Story

Get our newsletter