Andra Day 1st Black woman to win Best Actress Golden Globe in 35 years

The singer dazzled critics and audiences alike in the Lee Daniels-directed 'The United States vs. Billie Holiday,' her first major film role.

Andra Day became the first Black woman to win the Best Actress Golden Globe in 35 years for her triumphant portrayal of Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

Day dazzled critics and audiences alike in her first major film role and clinched the award Sunday night. In her acceptance speech via video link, she said she was “in the presence of giants” when referring to her fellow nominees, including veteran actress Viola Davis, who was nominated for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Singer-actress Andra Day is seen prior to the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday night. (Photo by Myriam Santos via Getty Images)

Also nominated were Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman, Frances McDormand for Nomadland and Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman.

In her acceptance speech, Day tearfully thanked “the amazing, transformative, dynamic Billie Holiday, who just transformed me with this role and with her presence and with her spirit.” The singer was surrounded by family and friends, who were all visibly moved.

Davis’ co-star, the late Chadwick Boseman, won the Best Actor trophy for his final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His and Day’s wins mark the first time in Golden Globes history that both the Best Actor and Best Actress winners were African American.

Fans took to Twitter to celebrate Day’s victory, including Leslie Odom, Jr., who simply tweeted her name followed by six exclamation points.

The last Black woman to win the Best Actress award at the Golden Globes was Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple in 1986. Halle Berry was nominated for in 2002 for Monster’s Ball and lost, but then went on to win the Academy Award.

Diana Ross was nominated in 1972 for her portrayal of Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, which was also her film debut.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, whose members select winners for the Golden Globes, was recently outed as having no Black members. In fact, the organization hasn’t had a Black member since 2002. Earlier this month, the HFPA announced it was “fully committed” to diversifying its membership.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday — which was directed by Lee Daniels and written by Suzan-Lori Parks — dramatizes the final years of Holiday’s life when she was persecuted by the federal government for refusing to stop singing “Strange Fruit.” That 1939 recording, with its haunting lyrical descriptions of Black American lynching victims, has been called the clarion call that launched the modern civil rights movement.

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