Artists from all genres — country, jazz, pop, hip hop, etc. — have made the leap from the recording studio to the silver screen, and stars from many of those genres have done so seamlessly, welcomed into the film awards history book. With standout notices as part of the ensemble of Barry Jenkins’s “Moonlight” and early buzz for her supporting turn in the upcoming “ ,” Janelle Monae is positioned to join a long history of acclaimed music artists who have broken into the world of award-winning cinema.
Monae first came into the public eye in 2007 with the release of her first EP, “Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase),” the first part of what would become a critically acclaimed series of concept albums about an android rebelling against systems of oppression in the fictional future city of Metropolis. That’s a direct reference to the setting of Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film “Metropolis,” a film Monae herself has called “the godfather of science-fiction movies.” In that regard, it’s no surprise that Monae has expanded her career to include feature film — she has, from the very start of her career, shown a deep-rooted interest in both music and film, and more broadly in the art of storytelling.
Perhaps it’s this profound interest in storytelling that has allowed Monae to transition so effortlessly into film. In “Moonlight,” she breathes life and warmth into a character with relatively few lines: Teresa, who acts as a surrogate mother of sorts to a young man from a neglectful home. In “Hidden Figures,” early buzz has called her performance a standout; in that film she co-stars as a NASA engineer opposite Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, and in that company alone Monae has already made herself a peer of awards caliber actors.
And heading into the film awards circuit for the first time, Monae is set to make an even bigger name for herself, possibly by scoring an Oscar nomination of her own. As of this writing she ranks in the top 10 of our Experts’ Oscar predictions for Best Supporting Actress for “Hidden Figures,” even before the film has been screened in its entirety, so she’s already on the cusp of joining the ranks of musician-turned-actor awards legends from Bing Crosby to Jennifer Hudson.
Above, take a look through our photo gallery of the highest profile singers who turned their successful music careers into Oscar worthy film performances. And let us know in the comments who we left off and who you think has what it takes to make that leap in the future.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How will Janelle Monae, “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” fare this awards season? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how each film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.