The pop star and rap queen — who’s the first hip-hop artist to receive this honor from Berklee — enjoyed a celebratory weekend with Berklee’s staff and students, which culminated at commencement when they were handed their honorary doctorates in music.
Timberlake cracked a few jokes during his speech and riffed on his newly minted doctor status (“I was saying earlier, I don’t do surgeries, but I could probably work out some prescriptions!”). He also doled out some advice, as CBS Boston reports: “You’re defined by what you define failure as. It’s not a thing if it leads you to your success. It’s all part of the journey.”
Elliott broke down in tears before offering words of wisdom to Berklee’s graduating class upon receiving her degree.
“I don’t even know how I’m standing here, but I thank y’all, I thank God,” she said. “I just want y’all to know, there will be ups and downs. Prepare for that, but don’t give up. I know you may hear that all the time, but if I had given up long ago, I wouldn’t be standing here today. You have come too far to quit.”
She went on to talk about the various trials and tribulations she’s weathered throughout her career, from dealing with archaic beauty standards on the come-up to losing out on awards and coping with Graves disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2011.
“I became ill where I couldn’t even write,” she said. “My nervous system shut down on me. I thought, ‘This was it’ — is no need for me to keep going. But something in my spirit, the drive, and the patience, as long as you are breathing, it is never too late. People will tell you you’re too old. People will tell you it would never work. Don’t believe that, because I’m standing here today.”
In closing, she joked around that she’ll be wearing her cap and gown again, and frequently: “in the shower, in all my next videos, everywhere I go!”
Watch Elliott’s celebratory post-doc video below.