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San Diego’s Andra Day makes history at the Golden Globes: first Black actress drama winner in 35 years

Andra Day as Billie Holiday
Andra Day, who stars in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” on Sunday took home the best actress in a drama Golden Globe trophy.
(Courtesy Hulu)

The singer, who attended San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, wins in a category that included Viola Davis, Vanessa Kirby, Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan

Andra Day, who began singing as a young girl at First United Methodist Church in Chula Vista, made history at Sunday night’s Golden Globes, becoming the first Black actress to win in the motion picture-drama category since Whoopi Goldberg won for “The Color Purple” in 1986.

Day took home the trophy for her performance in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” a role she admitted was “the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life.”

After being named the winner, Day, a first-time Golden Globe contender, acknowledged her fellow nominees, saying she was “in the presence of giants.” She was nominated alongside Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”).

She was also nominated for best original song with Raphael Saadiq for “Tigress & Tweed” from the film. The trophy went to Diane Warren and Laura Pausini for “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead.”

With Oscar buzz growing, the three-time Grammy-nominated singer discusses her breakout film role — in ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ — after finding her destiny as a San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts student

In a Union-Tribune interview a few weeks ago, Day said she had many moments of self-doubt regarding her acting ability and taking on what she called a “transformative” role as Billie Holiday in the Lee Daniels-directed film, which is streaming on Hulu.

“I give a lot of the credit to Lee and my acting coach and dialect coach. They really gave me a space to manifest being Billie,” Day said.

But she admitted: “I was terrified. I thought: ‘I’m not an actress, and I’m going destroy Billie’s legacy!’ That’s the last thing I wanted to do.”

On Sunday, a visibly stunned Day paid homage to the late jazz singer, thanking the “dynamic Billie Holiday, who just transformed me with this role and with her presence and with her spirit.”

Day grew up singing locally in the choral ensemble and in stage musicals at San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, where she attended high school and junior high.

“After doing this film,” Day told the Union-Tribune, “I definitely see music and acting as equals. Music got me into this; Billie got me into this. I love her — a lot. And I now have a desire to tell Black stories. ... I have a real desire to tell stories that have been suppressed, or failed to be told, or lied about, that limit the scope of our struggle and contributions.”

Day’s win was part of an unconventional night hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with the Globes besieged by controversy over its lack of diversity as well as the usual star-studded affair in Los Angeles becoming a virtual affair because of the pandemic.

The trophy for the actor in a motion picture-drama category went to the late Chadwick Boseman, who died on August 18, 2020, of cancer at the age of 43. He won for his role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The actor’s wife, Simone Ledward Boseman, tearfully accepted his posthumous Golden Globe.

The 2021 Golden Globe Awards winners, which include Chloe Zhao, “Ted Lasso” and Anya Taylor-Joy, were awarded in a bicoastal ceremony.

Andra Day on the set of "The United States vs. Billie Holiday"
Andra Day, shown here on the set of “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” was 12 when she became an ardent admirer of the fabled singer.
(Photo by Takashi Seida / Courtesy of Hulu)


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