Singer-turned-actress Janelle Monae was brought to tears on Monday as she helped to honour a female engineering pioneer on U.S. TV.
The star, who portrays real-life NASA scientist Mary Jackson in critically-acclaimed film Hidden Figures, made a surprise appearance on breakfast show Good Morning America to pay her respects to retired U.S. Navy engineer Raye Montague.
Janelle became emotional on air as she celebrated Raye’s achievement as the first person to design a ship using a computer, recognising the 82-year-old African-American as a real-life hidden figure, whose story, like those of the ground-breaking black women featured in the space race movie, is not widely known.
“We thank you so much for your service,” Janelle told Raye. “You are an American hero. And you are hidden no more.”
Expressing her pride at helping to highlight the work of NASA mathematicians Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan in the early 1960s, she added, “It was an honour to just honour those women… I didn’t know these were the women who sent the first American astronauts into space. These were American heroes.”
“Without their brains, we would not have sent John Glenn (into space in 1962),” she continued. “I hear this is the anniversary of his orbital flight today, so this is a very special day.”
Monday marked the 55th anniversary of Glenn’s successful mission as the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.
Janelle also introduced a special video message for Raye from her Hidden Figures co-star Octavia Spencer, who is nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Vaughan.
“It is such an honour and privilege to thank you for being a pioneer and trailblazer for women all across the world,” Octavia said in the pre-recorded clip. “I wanna let you know you are no longer hidden. We see you, we salute you, and we thank you.”