Andra Day discusses transformation into Billie Holiday on ‘Super Soul’: ‘She freed a lot of things in me’

The Golden Globe winner applauded Billie Holiday for always showing up despite personal struggles

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Andra Day’s tour de force performance as Billie Holiday won her rave reviews and the Golden Globe for Best Actress. She now also has a captive audience in media titan Oprah Winfrey.

OWN and discovery+ announced the lineup for the all-new Super Soul in-depth conversations conducted by Winfrey set to begin Saturday, March 6. It will kick off with OWN Spotlight: Andra Day that will air this Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN and discovery+. The “Super Soul” podcast date is March 10.

Andra Day OWN thegrio.com
(Courtesy of OWN/Photographer: Huy Doan)

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

According to a press release, Day’s Super Soul will discuss how “Andra transformed her voice, her body, and her entire essence to play the legendary singer.”

Her starring turn as the jazz/blues legend in the Hulu flick The United States Vs. Billie Holiday by Lee Daniels has turned Day into the awards season’s sensation. It is a feat even more remarkable because it is Day’s first acting role. In clips shared with theGrio, Winfrey asks Day how she transformed while playing the beloved icon.

“Do you feel like your life has already changed with the portrayal that you offered to the world of Billie Holiday? Or is it about to change?” Winfrey asks.

“I will say that the portrayal of Billie Holiday was paradigm-shifting, life-altering, so I’m changed so drastically even with the role alone. Even if not had all of this had not happened on the heels of all of it,” Day answers.

She continues, “I don’t think anyone, right, would be the same that they would be three years ago. We’re constantly growing but she pushed me a lot further and a lot faster than I think I would have gone. And then on the heels of all of this, I’m definitely busier. I didn’t sleep much before but I sleep less now.”

Day also shares that her connection to her family remains the same despite reaching a new apex of stardom.

Read More: Andra Day on ‘trauma’ of portraying Billie Holiday: “I hated myself in that moment”

“My family is incredibly grounding all the time,” she says.

In another clip, Day explains just what this role has meant to her.

“To answer your question as to why I believe this role came for me was really to heal me and shake me of this idea of sort of self-sabotaging of feeling constantly unworthy, constantly inadequate, because I didn’t have the right education or I didn’t feel I was smart enough. She freed a lot of things in me.”

Winfrey asks if its because Day thoroughly immersed herself into Holiday’s life which was marked by her soulful voice and a more than her fair share of tragedy.

“Is it knowing the life she lived and what she went through?” Winfrey wonders.

Andra Day thegrio.com
Andra Day as Billie Holiday (Hulu)


Day answered: “It’s because she showed up. I think that’s a huge part because Billie had these feelings. I’m sure she had fears. This woman’s life was threatened every time she got on stage to sing ‘Strange Fruit.’ She was targeted. She was harassed. She lost her father to Jim Crow. She was raped at a young age. She was sent to a brothel by her mother and then she was constantly abused by men,” Day recounts.

“She knew what it was like to get on a stage and be scared and terrified that the audience would not love you and you would not have that beautiful exchange. But she showed up. She showed up for us. She sang ‘Strange Fruit.’ She sang for integrated audiences. She fought against the government. She showed up every time.”

Day applauds Holiday for persevering despite the turmoil.  

“I’m scared but I’m here and I’m present and I think being her, I was forced to show up. I had to show up for this role. I had to show up for me, my cast, for what God was bringing me there to do, for Billie’s spirit, and just so her ability to almost throw caution to the wind and just show up was transformative for me.”

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